As I've mentioned before, I feel like I struggle with sides when it comes to Mexican food. Oftentimes all I really want is chips and salsa, but since I try to serve well-rounded meals, I usually incorporate some veggies into the side dish. Not to mention that Mexican food can tend to be calorie and cheese-laden, so I feel better eating a big enchilada or burrito if I'm eating a salad on the side. :-)
This recipe is a riff on a cherry tomato salad that I've been making for quite some time. It is originally from Cook's Illustrated, and the base recipe gives variations for both Greek and Italian inspired flavors. The key to this salad is draining the excess liquid from the tomatoes, and then using that liquid in the dressing. It is boiled down so as to concentrate the tomato flavor, then mixed with seasonings and flavorings to form the vinaigrette.
I had the idea to turn this into a Mexican-inspired salad, and kind of made it up as I went along. I knew I wanted to include black beans and corn, and while I thought cojita or queso fresco would have been great choices for the cheese, I ended up going with Pepperjack because I had it on hand. It was a great choice because it gave the salad just a little kick. I just added herbs and spices that would complement Mexican flavors, and it turned out wonderfully!
I knew I would love this salad, but I didn't expect Joey to enjoy it as much as I did. It turns out, he actually preferred it to our main course! Between this and the Mexican Corn Salad, I will never have to fret about sides for Mexican food again!
Mexican Cherry Tomato Salad
inspired by Cook's Illustrated
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes, rinsed and quartered
- kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 1 Tbs cider vinegar
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- juice of 1/2 lime
- black pepper
- 1 can (about 2 cups) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn (frozen or canned, drained and rinsed)
- 2 scallions, sliced thinly
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded Pepperjack cheese
Return tomatoes to the bowl and set aside. Strain the tomato liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing down to extract as much liquid as possible from the solids. You should have 1/2 cup liquid. Discard any excess.
Add the liquid to a small saucepan with the garlic, red pepper flakes, shallot, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced to 3 Tablespoons, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer mixture to a small bowl, and allow to cool about 5 minutes. Whisk in the oil and lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.
To the bowl with the tomatoes, add the black beans, corn, scallions, cilantro, and pepperjack. Toss with the dressing and serve.