Saddle up: Cowboy Caviar boasts bounty of veggies, legumes

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FARGO — Sweet corn is coming into season locally and when it's this fresh, we love to incorporate it into our meals and snacks whenever possible.

In the past, we've shared a variety of recipes featuring sweet corn, including Corn Fritters, Corn Hummus and Savory Sweet Corn Pancakes.This week, I hope to dazzle you with one of my personal favorites: Sarah's Cowboy Caviar.

In addition to sweet corn, my Cowboy Caviar also boasts a bounty of vegetables and legumes, including black beans, black-eyed peas, bell peppers, red onion and tomatoes. To appease my two Italians at home, I also throw in a handful of pitted Kalamata olives, which bring a great salty punch to the mix.

These ingredients are tossed with a slightly spicy Chili-Lime Dressing to create a wonderful blend of ingredients versatile enough to serve as a dip with chips, in a salad or as a salsa atop grilled chicken or salmon.

There is so much I love about this dish. Not only is it filled with savory flavor, it also packs a wallop on the nutritional front. Corn, black beans, bell peppers and black-eyed peas are all great sources of fiber, as well as essential vitamins and minerals that aid in digestion and prevent inflammation. While this is a low-calorie and light snack or topping, the protein from the beans will keep you feeling full, so feel free to indulge and leave the guilt behind.

When making Cowboy Caviar (also called Texas caviar), it's important to keep the overall presentation in mind. Often, we eat with our eyes first, and this dish is bursting with color. The recipe calls for 1½ cups of bell peppers, and, while you could use all one color, I prefer a variety. The prettier a dish is, the more likely we are to try, and enjoy, it.

Be consistent when chopping your vegetables. Making sure they are the same size will enhance the presentation and help ensure that every chip or forkful is packed with a variety of ingredients. I use the corn kernels as my guide and chop the bell peppers, onions, tomatoes and olives to match their size. I prefer to use a firmer tomato, like a Roma or grape tomato, as they tend to hold up better over time.

For the dressing, I use lime juice as my acid, combined with extra-virgin olive oil, a finely chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper, chili powder, cumin, granulated garlic and fresh cilantro. You could put the hot chili pepper straight into the caviar with the rest of the vegetables, but I've found that adding it to the dressing tempers the heat just a bit and infuses the vinaigrette with flavor.

This Cowboy Caviar keeps well, which means you can prepare it at least 24 hours in advance of serving, and the Chili-Lime Dressing can be refrigerated for at least a week. We've enjoyed it in a variety of ways, but our favorite is with scoop-style tortilla chips.

Savory and refreshing, Cowboy Caviar is easy to prepare, beautiful to look at and even better to eat. Yee-haw!

Sarah's Cowboy Caviar

Serves: Many (makes about 3 ½ cups)

Ingredients

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

1 ear of sweet corn, kernels removed, raw (grilled or cooked also fine)

½ cup red onion, minced

½ cup yellow bell pepper, small-diced

½ cup red bell pepper, small-diced

½ cup orange bell pepper, small-diced

1 Roma tomato, small-diced (about ½ cup; grape tomatoes would also work)

¼ cup Kalamata olives, chopped

Chili-Lime Dressing

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

1 teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 tablespoons (1 large handful) fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients until well combined. Taste and adjust spices and seasoning as desired. Refrigerate or let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using. Dressing may be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

In a large bowl, add the Cowboy Caviar ingredients and pour all the dressing over the mix. Use a rubber spatula or large spoon to gently toss the ingredients until evenly coated. Taste and add more seasoning as desired. For best results, refrigerate 2 to 3 hours before serving. Leftovers may be refrigerated for several days.

Sarah's Tips

• To ensure that every chip is loaded with ingredients, keep the size of the red onion, bell peppers, tomatoes and olives consistent, using the corn kernels as your sizing guide.

• Mixing the hot pepper with the dressing will slightly temper its heat; for more spice, add the hot pepper directly to the Cowboy Caviar ingredients.

• All bell peppers will work, but a variety of colors gives the best presentation.

Recipe time capsule

This week in ...

• 2017: Black Bean Pasta Salad

• 2016: Warm Cauliflower Salad and Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

• 2015: Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Steak Florentine)

• 2014: Cream of Cauliflower Soup

• 2013: Gazpacho: A Classic Chilled Soup

Recipes may be found with the article at www.inforum.com.