Friday, December 18, 2009

Grilled salsa turns up the heat

By Helen Klein

To a grilling aficionado, pretty much everything tastes better when it’s been kissed by an open flame.

I am certainly one of those, perhaps because I grew up in an apartment, and barbecued food was only an occasional treat when I was young.

No matter. Now that I have my own house, you can find me in the backyard several evenings a week, as long as it’s not actively precipitating, even if all I’m doing is just flipping burgers.

Nonetheless, when I have the grill roaring, I usually try to utilize the golden flames to the max, throwing on a couple of peppers or a couple of ears of corn (silks removed, then wrapped back up in their own husks), where ever there is some open space on the grate. Those vegetables then find their way into side dishes and main courses over the next few days, if they aren’t eaten more quickly.

This grilled salsa, which also functions as a sophisticated salad, nestling up cozily to a piece of grilled steak or chicken, evolved when I had a crisper full of veggies, a couple of containers of beans open in the fridge, and a meltingly ripe avocado just begging to be used.

While I’ve dubbed it a “grilled salsa,” not every ingredient is cooked. Rather, the peppers, onion, garlic and corn all benefit from the flavor-enhancing properties of direct heat, while the beans go straight into the salad from the refrigerator and the cilantro, cucumber and avocado are raw.

This is the kind of dish I make expecting leftovers. However, with four of us chowing down, that didn’t happen.

Memo to self, next time, double the recipe.

Grilled Salsa


1 red pepper, seeded, cored and slit open to lie flat on the grill
1 yellow pepper, seeded, cored and slit open to lie flat on the grill
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Maui, cut in thick (½-inch) slices
2 ears corn, husks peeled back and silks removed, then rewrapped in husks
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and stacked on a metal skewer
1 Hass avocado, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 kirby cucumbers, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup canned navy beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 medium lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
Extra virgin olive oil to equal the amount of citrus juice from lime and lemon
1 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Lightly coat the peppers, onion, corn and garlic with oil.

Cook peppers, onion, corn and garlic over medium flame on open grill, flipping onion after 3-4 minutes, turning garlic every minute or two, and turning corn every 3 minutes, removing vegetables as they are done. The onion should be golden at the edges and translucent. The corn husks should be charred. The peppers are done when the skins have blackened, and the flesh is tender. The garlic is done when the outside has browned slightly and the flesh has become tender.

When cool enough to handle, cut the peppers into ½-inch squares, dice the onions, remove the corn kernels from the cobs and chop the garlic.Combine peppers, onion, corn kernels, avocado, cucumber, beans and cilantro in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate small bowl or measuring cup, combine the garlic, the citrus juice, the olive oil, the cumin and the salt and pepper till thoroughly blended. Add to vegetables and mix till the vegetables are thoroughly coated. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill till serving time.

Serves 4-6.


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