It’s officially the month of November. While some people are putting away their Halloween decorations and beginning preparations for Thanksgiving, us Southerners are preparing for a different kind of holiday. College Football is in full swing with just 4 weeks remaining in the regular season. But these aren’t just normal football games. These are the games that decide the destiny for each SEC team. We have our rivalries in the Iron Bowl and the Egg Bowl. Don’t forget that battle between the hedges when Auburn goes to take on Georgia or the battle in the trenches when LSU hopes to knock off the Crimson Tide in Death Valley. The month of November is like Christmas to a lot of us Southerners…well, at least for those of us who love our College Football.
For those people who don’t actually enjoy watching the sport, there are the tailgating games and, perhaps most important of all, the tailgating food. There are wings, BBQ, dips and spreads. Never is there a shortage of food when your favorite team takes the field. I’m particular fond of dips for game days because they are the perfect food for grazing throughout the day. Just grab a chip every time you walk past the table and you’ll have eaten plenty by the end of the evening. My favorite dish to make for a tailgate is black bean salsa. It’s refreshing and bright. Also, the saltiness of the tortilla chips pairs perfectly well with an ice cold beer, which is a must have every Saturday.
So roll up your sleeves and get out those utensils, it’s time for you to learn how to make this tailgate classic! Let’s get started…
THE INGREDIENTS. Now, salsa is defined as a sauce made from chopped, uncooked vegetables and fruits. They are most commonly used as condiments or for dips. Because salsa is uncooked, the freshest ingredients need to be used.
- 7 Roma Tomatoes, de-seeded, diced*
- 1 Red Onion, quarter-inch dice
- 2 cans of Corn, preferably White, drained and rinsed**
- 2 cans of Black Beans, drained and rinsed (I suppose you could use dried, but I don’t know who would want to do that).
- 2 Poblano Peppers, roasted, peeled, de-seeded, and finely diced
- 2 tablespoons Cilantro
- Lime juice
- Cumin, ground
- Salt and Pepper
THE METHOD. This is a super easy dish to put together. You simply prepare and dice all of the ingredients and place in a large bowl.
For the poblano peppers, we need to roast them in order to get a nice charred flavor as well as to remove the waxy skin. Usually, I would have done this on the grill, but our gas line was being worked on so I turned to the broiler. Just turn it to high, rub the peppers with a little bit of oil (not too much or you will have a kitchen full of smoke), and place them on a pan covered with aluminum foil (just to prevent the pan from being ruined). Roast them until they are nicely charred on all sides. Place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. This will create steam as the peppers cool off and will make peeling the skin off easier.
Once cooled, peel the skin off and finely chop the peppers. Place them in a large bowl.
For the tomatoes, quarter them, remove the seeds and do a quarter-inch dice. Place in a bowl with your onion, corn, and black beans. Give it a nice stir.
Now is the time that we add the flavors and really create the salsa. Sprinkle with quite a bit of salt (to taste). The salt is going bring out all of the flavors in the vegetables. Don’t be afraid to be a little overzealous with the salt because these ingredients can take it. You don’t want a bland salsa, do you? But don’t go too cray cray at the beginning. Add it a little bit at a time while tasting as you go. You can’t take any of the salt out, but you can always add more. I’ve always found that if a dish just doesn’t taste right, a little sprinkle of salt brings it all together.
Add your ground cumin. I went with a 1/2 teaspoon, but it’s really up to you. It’s a pungent spice, so add it a little at a time until you have it where you want it. Cooking is always about your taste buds.
Cut a lime in half and squeeze all of the juice out into the bowl. Citrus has a way of brightening the foods it touches. It also acts similarly to salt, in that it brings out the natural flavors of the ingredients. If you don’t want to add more salt to something, try adding a little bit of acid. It might just bring everything together.
Now, add your chopped cilantro and give everything a good mix. Fresh cilantro is the only way to go here. Herbs add brightness and freshness to foods.
Tasting is imperative for a good salsa. So taste all throughout the process. If it needs more salt, add it. Lime juice? Add it. Cumin? You guessed it…add it.
You might be thinking that this seems like a really dry salsa…and you’d be right. At the current moment, it is rather dry. The magic happens when you let the salsa sit and allow all the ingredients to mellow. The salt and the lime juice draw some of the moisture out of the vegetables, which creates the liquid portion. Because of this, it is best to make the salsa the day before you plan to serve it. After all, most dishes are better the next day, right?
ENJOY IT. Serve up the salsa at your next tailgate. Perhaps do a shot of it every time your favorite team scores. A nice shot of Evan Williams Apple Orchard doesn’t hurt either. Basically, just take a shot of something. It is the holiday season after all.
* I know, I know. It’s November and tomatoes are a Summer vegetable (fruit). I am very aware of this fact, but you’re just going to have to do your best to find a good tomato because canned simply will not do for this salsa.
** Okay, so canned is perfectly fine for the corn, but not the tomatoes. Who wants to shuck corn and cut it off the cobb? No one. Ain’t no one got time for that. So just be a hypocrite like me and use fresh tomatoes and canned corn.