Saturday, 21 July 2012

Smoky Corn Black Bean Salad

We're just back from a few days at a cottage with family.  For the last twelve years, we have gathered as a family of grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins and children.  My kids have attended this tradition every year of their life, including both as newborns.  There were a few years there when we had 6 children under the age of five where we started to question our sanity, but overall it's been great.  One of the perks is that this group of women and children are always keen to let me play chef for the week.  In exchange, I'm excused from washing dishes --THIS is the ultimate payment for me.

This year was no exception and when I wasn't lounging at the beach, or snuggled in a chair reading, I was most often found in the kitchen.  I made this salad one night as a side with barbecued steak.  At home we will often have it as a lunch that is easily packed and taken to work.  Full of protein, vegetables and flavour it can also stand up as a main dish on it's own.  I've used dried black beans here, but you could substitute canned ones if you're short on time.  I prefer the dried beans because cooking them in water with garlic and hot peppers adds a depth of flavour.  It also allows me to control the doneness of the bean (not mushy) and it's more economical.   As for the corn, you can substitute frozen if fresh is out of season or unattainable.  Should you be able to get some fresh cobs, I highly recommend you do. I picked up all of the produce for this recipe at my favourite market, surprised that so much of it was already available here in Ontario.
The recipe is a large one, but you can scale back if you're serving a smaller crowd.  The recipe as written serves eight to ten people.  I add the avocado, cilantro and cheese just before eating, but the rest of the veggies will stand up for a few days refrigerated.  Marinating the red onion in lime juice is a must.  The acidity of the lime really mellows the harshness of the onion.  Add more cayenne if you prefer things with a little more heat.

 Smoky Corn Black Bean Salad

6 cobs of corn (about 4 cups corn)
2 orange peppers chopped
2 red onions chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 limes juiced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cups dried black beans (about 4 cups cooked)- see note below
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp cilantro (optional)
1 avocado (optional)
feta (optional)

Note: If you using dried beans, place 2cups of dried beans in a slow cooker.  Add 1 clove garlic, 2 dried hot peppers and cover with water.  Cook on high for 4 hours, until beans tender.  Drain and reserve.

Heat a cast iron pan on high for about 2 minutes.  Add corn and saute for about 7 minutes.  Stir occasionally, but allow the corn to stick and brown.  This will impart the smokey, charred flavour. 
In a separate bowl combine red onions with lime juice and salt.  Allow to sit 1 hour or up to one day.  Add cumin, paprika, cayenne and olive oil to create dressing.
In a large bowl toss beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes and red onion dressing.  Top with cilantro, feta and/or avocado.  Enjoy!

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