I love salads that are packed with colorful fresh fruit or vegetables, but easy to make ahead and keep in the fridge. They’re handy for events or just when you want to make them to eat for several days.
These salads, Tropical Fruit with Honey-Mint Dressing and Black Bean Corn Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing, were both instant favorites – I love the way the citrus and fresh herbs in the dressings combine to bring out the flavors and colors of the other ingredients. They’re colorful, healthy, easy to make and really tasty. So what more could you want?
I found the Tropical Fruit with Honey-Mint Dressing recipe in a Puerto Rican cookbook when I was making a huge menu for Mother’s Day a few years ago. I don’t know if I actually managed to serve it at that meal, but I’ve definitely made it regularly after that time. It calls for a few special tropical ingredients – if you don’t have them you can use any fruit with this dressing. I’ve used it on a watermelon salad for our most recent Mother’s Day picnic, for instance.
If you can get the called for ingredients, though, you should give it a try. I normally am not a big fan of papaya, but somehow the balance of the honey and lime and mint in the dressing makes it really great and I love the chunks of fresh cheese (though it’s not required if you don’t have the right kind easily accessible – other cheeses wouldn’t work as well).
This Black Bean Corn Salad is a “recipe” I’ve come up with after trying a few similar things and deciding they weren’t quite right. We’ve been making it year round for a while and have served it for pretty much any major meal I can think of – Thanksgiving, Birthdays, BBQs, etc. Also for regular meals just because we’re craving it.
Some people have taken it to be a salsa. If you like it that way, feel free to eat it with chips or on grilled meats. I can eat it as a meal on it’s own or a snack anytime, personally.
This is a recipe I usually make by eye and tongue and not with measuring spoons- a few of these, a dash of that, chop/stir/taste/repeat. I’m putting the minimum amounts down, feel free to continue adding or adjusting to your own taste – leave me a comment with your version if you like. 🙂
Black Bean Corn Salad with Cilantro Dressing
- 1 large (30 oz.) or 2 regular (15 oz.) cans black beans
- 1 bag (16 oz.) frozen corn (or 3-4 cups fresh or grilled corn kernels cut off the cobs)
- 1 medium red onion
- 3-4 green onions
- Note: if you can’t get one kind of onion, just increase the other kind to taste – or sometimes I use a cup or so of chopped fresh garlic chives
- 1 red or orange bell pepper
- 2-3 jalapeno peppers (optional)
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro (to make at least 1/3 cup chopped)
- 3-4 limes (to make at least 1/4 cup juice)
- 2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. coarse salt (or 1/2 tsp. regular salt, mixed into the dressing)
- 1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Drain and rinse the black beans thoroughly – be gentle with them or they will start to get mushed as you stir the salad together. Mix in the corn – you don’t have to defrost or cook it, I actually think it’s a bit sweeter if you don’t. And it’s a chilled salad anyway.
Chop the remaining ingredients and mix together gently, so you don’t mush the beans. I will sometimes add extra onion or pepper if I want more color, but you want to be careful of overpowering the other flavors with too much onion.
Chop the cilantro coarsely – it needs to be chopped some to get out the flavor, but a few larger leaves aren’t a problem. Squeeze the limes and mix together the dressing – if you’re using coarse salt, you can sprinkle that directly into the salad. Stir everything together gently but thoroughly and taste. The onion and vinegar flavors may intensify in the fridge if you’re making it ahead, so keep that in mind.
Serves 6-8 (I often double it, which makes for the very large quantities in some the photos)
Tropical Fruit Salad with Queso Blanco and Honey-Mint Dressing
- 1 medium ripe papaya
- 2 medium ripe mangoes
- 1 small ripe pineapple
- (or any other fruit you like)
- 1 lb. Queso Blanco white cheese (Queso Fresco can also be ok, don’t use Mozzarella or anything like that)
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 fresh lemons)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 small bunch fresh mint, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
I like papayas that are really rosy and softer – unripe yellower ones have a dry, mildly bitter aftertaste that I really don’t like. Obviously the juicier the mango the better, though it might be harder to chop for a salad. Feel free to mix in other fruits – bananas even do fine in a dressing like this that will keep them from turning brown. Peel and chop the fruit.
If you’re serving it right away, go ahead and chop the cheese and mix in. Otherwise chop it and keep it separate until you’re closer to serving, since it’s nicer without the dressing making it a bit soggy.
Mix together the lemon juice and honey until the honey is fully dissolved, then mix into the fruit and cheese with the chopped mint.