Thursday, July 17, 2014

Josefina's Black Bean Corn Salad

A tasty cold salad with the flavors of the American Southwest!

Bean salads are a relatively recent invention compared to some of the other dishes we've featured on A Peek Into the Pantry. They apparently were an invention first really published and talked about before the turn of the 20th century, and have remained a popular side dish and starter to picnics and dinners ever since. While this isn't an especially historical or cultural dish from the perspective of Josefina, its main ingredient is an important staple of Latin American cuisine, and has so for thousands of years! After trying it at my cousin's graduation party, I knew I had to give it a shot myself and share it with the rest of you!

It's a pretty quick side dish or starter to throw together for a party or dinner, or even just to eat on its own if you're looking for a meat free protein dish with a lot of tasty vegetables in it. I know I've been trying to be a little more health conscious in terms of what goes into my mouth - not that you'd know it from looking at what food I've been making for the blog for the last couple weeks - and often have a hard time finding things I actually like eating, but this fit the bill pretty nicely.

Black beans have been eaten for at least 7,000 years, and have pretty much always been a staple food in Central and South America. They were first introduced to Europe in the 15th century by explorers returning from the New World, and have been adopted by many other cultures as a tasty, versatile and healthy ingredient in a variety of recipes. The beans you're buying at the store are actually pretty much identical to the beans that were first brought over to Europe six hundred years ago, which I think is pretty cool!

Black beans also played an interesting role in a skirmish between Mexico and Texas, about twenty years after Josefina's stories are set. After Mexico had been forced to cede control of Texas to the Texans, the Mexican government continued to raid the newly established country in hopes of getting territory and property back. As these things often go, the Texans decided the best solution was to raid them right back, and in 1842, the Mier Expedition kind of ran into some problems. It wasn't technically officially sanctioned by the Texas government, and after being ordered to go back, about 300 soldiers ignored the orders and continued on. They were forced to surrender to the Mexicans after a lengthy battle, and while 181 of them eventually escaped, they were recaptured and were at first sentenced to death. The local governor was reluctant to carry out the order, and between that and negotiations with the Texan government, it was decided that most of the men would be spared.

But most doesn't mean all: the new negotiation meant that one in ten of the men would be executed, and to decide who the doomed men would be, the Colonel in charge of the prisoners arranged a pot with 159 white beans and 17 black beans in it, blindfolded the men, and had them each pick a bean. Anyone who drew a white bean was spared, while the unlucky ones who drew the black would be executed. This came to be known as the Black Bean Incident, or the Bean Lottery. Most of the survivors would be kept in prison in Mexico until September of 1844, when Santa Anna finally had them released.

Pretty crazy, right?

This recipe comes from a Food Network magazine, and starts off with the dressing. You need the juice from three limes, two teaspoons of honey, and quarter a cup of oil, which all gets whisked together. I just kept it in the bowl I was going to make the salad in, but you could probably put it aside if you'd rather.

Next, chop up one red bell pepper (or a bunch of tiny ones), a half cup of cilantro and a bunch of shallots. Rinse out two fifteen ounce cans of black beans, and thaw about a cup of frozen corn. This all gets mixed together with the dressing in the bowl, and it looks super pretty. Unfortunately, I apparently forgot to take a picture of that part, but I think my later pictures give the visual pretty well.

The final touch is chopping up an entire avocado and sprinkle the chunks over the top. It shouldn't really be mixed in with the other ingredients at first just to make sure they don't get all mushed together and paste like, but it happens anyway when you go to scoop out individual portions, so everyone should still get plenty of avocado in their servings.

Your end result will look something like this:

And be absolutely delicious. Unlike a lot of salads, this has some really good substance to it and contains a lot of really yummy, healthy ingredients. This is pretty much the ideal salad for me, and would be a good addition to any party, especially if you've got friends who are vegetarians! I know my friends are always bummed when the only salad they've got to eat at a party is out of a bad from the grocery store, and this is definitely something your meat eating friends will enjoy as well.

It's also pretty quick to throw together, and can easily be made well in advance. I really can't say enough good things about it!

So this might not be a super historical dish, but I can promise it'll be a welcome addition to your rotation if you're a fan of salads with a little more substance.

I'm a huge brat about eating my vegetables sometimes, so all this praise is kind of a big deal, for me!


  1. This salad looks DELICIOUS! There is a nice collection of some of my favorite foods. Your pictures of Josephina with the flowers are so pretty.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

    1. You're welcome! Hope you enjoy. :D