We’ve been doing some collaborative cooking in our home lately.
Last week our youngest made this dish ~ a fairly detailed and somewhat laborious recipe for a young cook and I was happy to partake in both the result and the journey. He managed it with quiet confidence and persistence working through each of the steps and even made a second trip back to the store on his bike when he realized we didn’t have sour cream (I suggested Greek yogurt but was overruled – he made the right call). I have to admit I enjoyed the mom break ~ so nice to have someone else prepping food for a change but more than that, it was one of those satisfying moments when you see your child’s culinary prowess expand beyond spreading peanut butter (although we all know peanut butter sandwiches are tough to beat).
Our fourteen-year-old wasn’t the only one donning a chef’s hat last week though. My husband, who is one of the most hands-on people I know (fixer, builder, forest tamer) rarely shows his talent in the kitchen (he’s an outdoorsy kind of guy) but when we recently returned home from holidays to a bazillion (maybe more) ripe tomatoes waiting for us in our garden, we decided on the spot that a salsa making party for two would ensue.
So with music playing and cervezas flowing, we went about cutting, chopping, squeezing and mixing with great gusto and had the best time. I had forgotten how much fun it is to cook together! And the result was delicious.
(yes, those are squash growing beside our tomatoes – squee!)
Chunky, satisfying and packed with a range of lip-smacking flavors, this is a delicious and hearty salsa that harmonizes beautifully with a range of proteins. While you can certainly serve it as a traditional dip, our preference was to enjoy it heaped into our tacos (so good!). A perfect complement to our gently spiced al dente beans. Leaving the veggies in whole form (chopped vs pulverized in a blender) makes this salsa work particularly well as a taco filling. I served the tacos with a generous bowl of guacamole, a side of garden fresh green beans and some fluffy quinoa.
Corn tortilla shells (gluten free) have a different texture and taste than wheat tortillas and they also grill differently (they take longer to char) but with a little persistence, you can get them to crisp up nicely. I often grill tortillas right on our gas cooktop in the kitchen – keeping a careful eye and using tongs to flip. It works like a charm.
Alternatively, you can heat the shells in the oven covered in foil (as they appear in the main photo – warm/steamed but not charred/crisp).
I decided to give this salsa a bit of a Mediterranean twist adding green olive, lemon and fresh parsley but you can play around with ingredient choices that work best for you. Similarly, you can substitute any desired protein in place of the beans ~ we have made this recipe a few times now and switched up the protein each time. The grill is wonderful this time of year so take full advantage.
Experiment, have fun and consider making this recipe with others – it’s a ton of fun!
As always, be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for helpful information and best results.
- For the Tacos:
- 12 small (5" x 5") soft corn tortillas
- 4 cups cooked black beans
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp ground garlic powder
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- For the Salsa:
- 2 lbs (about 6 large tomatoes), seeded and cut into ¼" or so pieces
- 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers depending on heat tolerance (seeded for less heat), finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed, salted and finely chopped
- ½ field cucumber (skin on), chopped (about ½ cup)
- ¼ red onion, chopped (about ⅓ cup)
- 8 large Italian gourmet green olives in oil, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- Place cooked and cooled black beans in a mixing bowl. Spritz with a touch of olive oil and season with cumin, paprika, garlic and coriander. Hand mix or gently mix with spoon taking care not to mash the beans.
- In a large bowl, combine jalapenos, garlic, onion, cucumber and olives. The olives should be oiled. If they are on the dry side, add a touch of olive oil to the mixture.
- Add the tomatoes and lemon juice to the bowl and carefully mix to combine.
- Fold in the fresh cilantro and parsley.
- Allow the flavors to permeate in the fridge for 30 minutes or so. Remove from fridge, taste and make any flavor adjustments desired.
- Place in a serving bowl and enjoy with tacos or as desired. Store any remaining salsa in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
1) Home prep allows you to soak your beans before cooking which can ease common digestive distress associated with eating beans ~ simply soak beans overnight in a pot of covered water and then drain and rinse the next day. You can also use a quick soaking method which is to boil the beans in water for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for an hour.
2) Home cooked beans have a superior taste and texture. Canned beans tend to be overcooked and mushy - preparing your own beans allows you to cook them just to the point of being al dente so they retain their spring and resilience.
3) Most canned beans continue to be made with Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a known toxin that is used in the lining of many food and beverage cans. Studies have shown that this industrial plastic is absorbed by canned foods and when ingested can give rise to significant spikes in urinary levels of BPA.
Why Seed the Tomatoes: don't be tempted to leave the seeds in the tomatoes when prepping this salsa. The seeds contain most of the water and if included, you will end up with salsa soup :)
How to Seed the Tomatoes: my preference is to simply cut the tomato in half and then quarters and use a spoon to scoop out the seed sac in each segment - if you squeeze the tomato to extract the seeds, you will bruise the skin of the tomato which stars in the salsa.
Jalapenos: Jalapenos vary in heat. The ones I used in this recipe are from our garden and very hot. We started with two but quickly realized one was ample. You can always add more if you feel it is too mild but removing the heat is difficult. You can also experiment with other peppers (serrano, poblano, aleppo) as desired or skip the heat element all together.
Olives: I love Kalamata olives but they are so robust in flavor, I chose not to use them here because I didn't want them dominating the other more subtle and delicious flavors going in the salsa. Green olives are better team players that way ;-).