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Black Bean, Tropical Fruit, and Queso Blanco Salsa

Updated February 23, 2016
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This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

My talented friend chef Douglas Rodriguez gave me the inspiration for this salsa one night at a fantastic party he threw. Queso blanco, a staple of Latin cuisine, is uniquely textured, simply yet assertively flavored, and quite pleasant to nibble. In this recipe, the cheese balances the acidity of the orange and mango. A no-brainer with chips, queso blanco salsa is a great accompaniment to grilled chicken breasts as well. You can prepare the dressing up to a day before you assemble the salsa. And the salsa is also a good day-after leftover—assuming there is any left over.

Recommended wine: A rich tropical fruit Chardonnay with good acidity.

Toasting and Grinding Spices, Nuts, and Seeds When Columbus went looking for Asia and bumped into the Americas, he was on a voyage financed by Spain with the understanding that he would find a better route to the spice markets of India—an illustration of how central spices have always been to cuisine. But spices, like other comestibles, are subject to loss of flavor if not properly prepared. Toasting whole spices, and, usually, grinding them, is the way to get maximum flavor from them. This is extremely easy to do: Gently warm the seeds or other whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat. Once they become aromatic, they are toasted. When they have cooled a bit, grind them in a spice mill (or a clean coffee grinder) or with a mortar and pestle. Toasting and grinding awakens the oils and aromatics within them. With spices like pepper and cumin, for example, which are staples of my cooking, you can prepare a batch of the toasted ground spice and keep it around for up to 2 weeks.

The same principles apply to toasting nuts: the heat maximizes their flavor. Grinding makes them the proper consistency for cooking in soups and stews.

Makes4 cups

CostModerate

Easy

Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, game day

Recipe Coursecold appetizer

Dietary Considerationvegetarian

Taste and Texturecheesy, fruity, hot & spicy, savory

Type of Dishsalsa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked black beans or well-rinsed canned beans
  • 1/3 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped scallions, white and light green parts only
  • 1 Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • ¾ cup crumbled queso blanco
  • ¾ cup diced mango
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped orange sections
  • 1½ teaspoons Spanish sherry vinegar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup diced ripe avocado
  • 1½ teaspoons minced shallot
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • ½ teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seeds 
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

For the salsa

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the avocado in the order listed. Very gently fold in the avocado, to avoid smashing the delicate ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

For the dressing

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and whisk them well. Cover and refrigerate.To serve, gently fold the dressing into the salsa. Season to taste and serve.

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