America’s Test Kitchen would be proud. I’ve been tinkering and puttering around with this idea for months, evaluating ingredients and proportions, adjusting ingredients and sequence. And scaling it up. I made a mini version for two as a trial as soon as corn was in season, re-proportioned it to 6-8 for the immediate family, then to 20 for a larger family gathering over 4th of July weekend, and finally to 75-100 for a big picnic in August. As summer is winding down, I’ll make it a few more times before fresh corn is back next year.
What I like about this recipe is that it can – and should – be made a day or so ahead. I figured this out because the leftovers from my first batch were better the next day after lime infused the salad. This is basically the same dressing as the lemon-paprika dressing that I use for lentil salad, though there I mince the peel instead of grating it. When you scale up the recipe, you probably don’t need to double or triple the dressing, especially not the lime zest.
With the addition of lime and use of fresh-cooked ingredients, this salad is so much better than the ubiquitous corn and black bean salsa that you see everywhere. It’s familiar though, and that’s important for a big picnic.
Corn and Black Bean Salad with Lime Dressing
2½ c cooked black beans (from ½ lb dried black beans or 2 15-oz cans, drained and rinsed)
3 ears corn (yielding about 2½ c kernels)
1/3 c red pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
1/3 c orange pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
2 scallions, thinly sliced or minced
Salt to taste
1 tsp lime zest (grated lime peel)
1/3 c lime juice (from 2 limes)
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp paprika
If you are using dried beans, soak them in water to cover by a few inches for a few hours, add abundant salt and cook them at a slow simmer until crisp-tender. This could take 45-90 minutes depending on the age of the beans.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, paprika, cayenne and a large pinch of salt.
When the beans are tender, drain them (reserving the liquid for another use, like soup or rice cooking liquid). Add some of the dressing to the warm beans and let them cool.
If you are using canned beans, drain and rinse them and coat with a little dressing. They won’t have the opportunity to absorb as much of the dressing but they’ll still be good. Diminish the salt if using canned beans since they’re typically pretty salty.
Cut the kernels from the corn. (The easiest way to do this is to stand the cob, stem end down, on a small upturned bowl or cup in the middle of a large bowl and slice the kernels off the cob with a knife from top to bottom. The kernels will fall into the large bowl and not spatter all over your kitchen. Be careful not to bang the knife blade on the supporting cup or bowl since you might dull it.)
In a large wide sauté pan, bring about 3 tbsp – ¼ cup of water to a boil and add the corn kernels. Cook for 1-2 minutes, drain and cool.
When ready to assemble, combine the dressed beans, corn, diced peppers and scallions in a large bowl and coat with the remaining dressing. Chill for a few hours or overnight before serving. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Serves 6-8 as a side dish.