Thursday, January 10, 2013

Addictive, Smoky-Sweet and Spicy Black Bean & Corn Salsa with Easy Cheesy Quesadillas

Every time my husband makes a business trip to San Diego, he comes home raving about the delicious salsas and tacos he has eaten there. I don't blame him. California Mexican is so fresh and flavorful. 

Believe it or not, just outside of Boston sits a great little taco joint too. Taqueria El Amigo is the size of a large walk-in closet. It has about 6 tables, tops. It's always crowded. We go there every so often to get our taco-fix and ice-cold agua de Jamaicas (refreshing, jewel-toned hibiscus drinks).
Californians who have eaten there say the food reminds them of home.

In the spirit of fresh Mexican cuisine, I'm sharing this light but satisfying meal with you today. Bold flavors and contrasting textures are in every bite. The salsa is smoky and spicy, thanks to a charred jalapeno pepper, smoked paprika, a pinch of ground cumin and a wee little bit of liquid smoke. They sell it on Amazon. Here's the link:  It lends a nice smoky flavor to meatless vegetarian chili too. Only use a tiny drop! This stuff is strong! If you over do it, it'll ruin the taste of this salsa. You can leave it out with good results too.

The heat in the salsa is balanced by creamy black beans, sweet corn and a snappy red bell pepper. It's finished with tangy lime juice and fresh cilantro or parsley. Simple cheese quesadillas, lite sour cream and sliced avocado lend welcome creaminess and round out this vegetarian, gluten-free meal.

Black Bean Salsa Recipe 

Some Notes: You could also toss the salsa into cooked rice for a complete protein. This meal is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Method for charring the jalapeno included in The Rundown.
Serves 4 with quesadillas

You'll Need:
  1. 2 15-16 oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained. I used lower sodium 
  2. 6 scallions, diced
  3. 1 cup of frozen or fresh corn. I use frozen corn and defrost it a bit in the microwave.
  4. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  5. 1 jalapeno pepper, charred and diced. Remove the seeds and veins if you don't want it too spicy.  
  6. handful of chopped cilantro or parsley 
  7. 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  8. teeny drop of liquid smoke, see blog post for explanation. (optional)  
  9. 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin 
  10. drizzle of honey
  11. sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  12. drizzle of olive oil  
  13. couple shakes of Green Tabasco sauce (optional, but I love it!)
  14. 2-3 limes, zest one and reserve the zest. I use a microplane zester.
  15. serve with lite sour cream, cheese quesadillas (recipe below) lime wedges and/or sliced avocado.    
The Rundown:
Char the jalapeno pepper on gas flame or under the broiler, adding some black blistering to the outside of the jalapeno.  Dice it up. This step is optional, but does produce mild, pleasant, smoky notes in the salsa. If you don't want to char it, then just mince it finely.

Combine the first 9 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add the lime zest, a couple of  good squeezes of lime juice a drizzle of olive oil and salt. Stir in a drizzle of honey to balance the acid in the lime juice. Add a little bit of green Tabasco sauce if you'd like.  Toss to combine. Taste. Adjust salt. Serve with cheese quesadillas, lite sour cream, lime wedges and/or avocado slices. Enjoy!

Simple Cheese Quesadillas Recipe:

You'll Need:
  • Cheese of your choice. I used an aged cheddar.   
  • Corn tortillas. I am usually able to find these in the refrigerated section of my grocery store.
  • Cooking spray   
The Rundown:
Spray tortillas with a little cooking spray. Put 1-2 slices of cheese of your choice between to two corn tortillas. Don't over do it with the cheese. I tried this with light cheddar and it didn't work too well. It made a mess in my panini press. The cheese oozed everywhere. So I suggest using full-fat cheese. I like aged cheddar or jack cheese or a Mexican shredded blend. Cook the tortillas in a panini press until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are somewhat crisp and browned. Alternatively, you can make them in a cast iron skillet. Cut into wedges and serve with the black bean salsa, lite sour cream, avocado slices and limes.
Love black beans? Try my vegetarian fritters, gluten free or not, your choice.

Love Salsa? Try My Thai Mango-Strawberry Salsa:

Want a light ending to your meal? Try my Coconut Milk Whipped Cream and Pair it with Fresh Mango:

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