When I get tired of salsa out of a jar, I like to make my own.
Actually, I like to make my dad’s salsa.
If you love chips and salsa, especially when it’s homemade, then you gotta try this: Make black bean salsa.
It’s a chunky salsa with black beans, corn, bell peppers, hot peppers, red onion, cilantro, lime juice and cumin. The combination is as colorful as it is delicious. Notice that the salsa doesn’t have tomatoes in it. You won’t miss the tomatoes. Trust me.
Whenever I make black bean salsa, my mind turns to my dad.
There’s a backstory: My dad loves hot peppers. They became a hobby of his around 1994. He bought celebrity chef Mark Miller’s poster (“The Great Chile Poster”) and book (“The Great Chile Book”) about the great variety of hot peppers out there. Then he started trying them.
Although they no longer hold the title, back then habeneros were the hottest peppers in the world. Dad didn’t believe the hype about the heat. It’s a mistake we laugh about now.
“My first time buying habeneros, I bought three of them,” he told me. “The sign said ‘World’s Hottest’ and I thought, ‘Yeah, right. They’re just saying that.’ I brought them home and ate one whole habenero. I started on the second one and had to quit because I felt like I was going to pass out. I was having an out-of-body experience.”
Around that time, my mom clipped a salsa recipe out of our hometown newspaper in Nebraska for him because it called for a pepper that is just as hot as an habenero. She glued the clipping onto a recipe card and typed “JOEL’S BLACK BEAN SALSA!!” onto it — with an actual typewriter. It has been Joel Bruestle’s salsa ever since.
The card and newspaper clipping are yellowed and stained after 23 years. Yes, my parents still have the recipe, but they don’t follow it much anymore. Dad has tweaked the recipe here and there to truly make it his.
If habeneros are too hot for you, that’s OK. They’re too hot for me, too.
The recipe can be easily tailored depending on how spicy you like your salsa. If you like mild, go with a poblano and leave it at that. If you prefer medium, add 2 or 3 jalapenos. If you like it hot, instead of jalapenos, try a serrano pepper. If you want it even hotter, instead of a serrano, add half of an habanero.
I like medium salsa, so I make mine with one poblano and three jalepeno peppers. When my dad makes it, he puts in one poblano and half an habenero for a salsa that’s very hot.
I’ll admit that I don’t make black bean salsa as often as I would like because there’s a lot of chopping involved. More than half of the ingredients need to be diced or minced — and finely, at that. (Sometimes I even skip the poblano so there’s one less pepper to chop.) I’m not the fastest with a knife and cutting board.
Here’s a tip: Wear disposable gloves (or plastic sandwich bags) when you’re coring, seeding and dicing the hot peppers. Wash your hands with soap and water if you touch the cut peppers. The oil-like component in peppers that gives them their heat — capsaicin — can burn your eyes if you absentmindedly rub them. So be careful.
Note: If you can’t find a poblano pepper at the store, that’s probably because it’s been mislabeled. In the United States, the peppers are often sold incorrectly under the name “pasilla.”
I like to serve black bean salsa with white over yellow tortilla chips. With its black, yellow, red, green and purple ingredients, the salsa looks even more colorful in contrast with a white chip.
It’s also great when served with a grilled chicken breast or in a taco salad. Or in a grilled chicken salad.
Here’s another tip: If your dad loves hot peppers as much as mine, then consider making him black bean salsa for Father’s Day.
Black bean salsa
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1 large avocado, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
½ cup red onion, finely diced
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 poblano, finely diced (mild option)
2-3 jalepenos, minced (medium option)
1 serrano, minced (hot option)
½ habenero, minced (very hot option)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
3-4 tablespoons lime juice
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the beans, corn, bell peppers, hot pepper(s), onion and cilantro in a large bowl.
Add the olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Toss well.
Add the avocado last and toss carefully so as not to mush it.
Cover and chill overnight for best flavor.
Taste and add salt, pepper, cumin, cilantro and/or more lime juice as desired. The salsa should be highly seasoned.
Serve chilled with tortilla chips. Makes 6-8 servings.
Nutrition per serving (½ cup): 178 calories, 10 grams total fat (1 grams saturated fat), 0 milligrams cholesterol, 21 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 295 milligrams sodium, 3 grams sugar.
You Gotta Try This is a column by Features editor Sara Bruestle that runs periodically in The Herald. Contact her at 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @sarabruestle.