Here on Feasts for All Seasons we’ve talked before about the transformational nature of food, how it can take you places, and how sometimes all it takes are the colours on a plate, the smell of a forgotten memory or the taste of something to send your mind and senses reeling. Sometimes that ability to move you is sought purely for comfort. A re-creation of a family recipe can take you back to childhood, to happiness, or innocence. If the first time you ate chocolate mousse it was spoon fed to you by the love of your life over whispered conversation and candlelight, it is unlikely that you will ever taste it again without recalling those memories. What a gift that is! Consider for a moment that not only do the things we eat nourish our bodies, they nourish our hearts. They take on meaning and resonance, they serve as markers in time that we can chart our lives and loves and memories by. But smells and tastes don’t always just take us to what we know. Sometimes they can take us to where we have never been.
I have never been south of Wyoming, well, except for Hawai’i. I’m not really a traveler at heart, I prefer the comfort and consistency of home and I have not ventured all that far afield. The beauty of living in a city like Vancouver is that so much of the world is available here, especially in culinary form. Despite my homebody nature, I have a bit of a longing to see Central and South America, meet the people and experience their cultures. Without a doubt, and I think you will agree, cultures are so often defined not just by their borders and languages, but by what their people eat. If we agree on that, and we extrapolate out from that idea, then how could cultures that make something as delicious, simple and fresh as salsa be anything but wonderful? I know, I know, salsa is a generic term that encompasses so many variations and permutations and the Latin world is not the only part of the globe that quickly tosses together ingredients and serves them with multiple dishes. The combinations are endless! But when you combine the sweet acidity of tomatoes with the heat of onion, the fresh floral herbaceous note of cilantro and the zing of a lime you just can’t go wrong. Maybe it’s the colours, or the bright freshness, maybe it’s both the familiarity and exoticness that is exciting, but whether it’s scooped up on a crisp chip or spooned over grilled fish, a good, fresh salsa can take me places. Perhaps one day I’ll take that flight and arrive somewhere warm and far, far away where the people are friendly, the food is bright and fresh and the beer is cold. Until that jet sets down and I step out into that balmy, distant fantasy, I’ll have to settle for what is within arm’s length and make the most of it.
Corn and Black Bean Salsa
8 small or 4 large very ripe tomatoes, chopped finely
1/2 a white onion, minced
3/4 cup corn kernels (fresh is ideal, but frozen will do)
3/4 cup cooked black beans (if using them from a can, rinse them well)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño or other hot fresh pepper, minced
juice of 1 lime
zest of 1/2 a lime
pinch of salt
Just combine ingredients and serve!