Sal – ad
Sal – sa
Sal – on
Sal – t
Ok, salt still does apply, but as an ingredient. Yes, today’s post is about the first two “Sal”s. How do you decide which one to make – salad or salsa? What’s the defining line between the two? I’m sure Dictionary.com and those other websites will come up with all kinds of definitions that explain the difference. But when you’re throwing things together, when is it a salsa and does it become a salad? And lets ignore the other S word that I keep typing accidentally – Slaw. Another favorite of mine.
Yes, I know that the word salsa means sauce. Yes, you use a sauce to accompany something. It’s an accessory. But then there are the salsas (is that the correct plural?). A bunch of them include ‘color names,’ letting you know more about their ingredients, such as salsa roja, salsa verde, salsa negra and so on. I guess the kind of salsa I’m thinking about goes more in the direction of a salsa fresco, or also known as pico de gallo. (Btw, there are versions of salsa throughout many cultures, not just the Mexican version that most of us know).
Salsa or salad, I was planning to make something fresh, to match this lovely warm weather. We had fresh mangos so I thought I’d go with a classic: mango black bean salsa. And I had feta, and I’d seen recipes for mango black bean feta salsa, so that was the plan. I also came across a quinoa black bean mango salad which sounded delicious. It included a red bell pepper which a) I couldn’t quite figure out how it would fit in there and b) I didn’t have anyway, so the point was moot. By now I’m all set on my menu.
But then. Then I realized I had a pomegranate that really needed to be used up. So hey, I could just toss in a pomegranate too – pomegranate and mango should go well together, right? Some quick googling showed more pomegranate mango body soaps and lotions rather than salads and slaws, but I’m always up for an experiment. So first I added the black beans, the pomegranate, and then I started prepping my mango. Darn. My mango was too soft. It would get all mushy when tossing.
Ok, alternate plan. I’d seen a recipe for a zucchini, mint and pomegranate salad. This one used feta, which I did have, and zucchini which I didn’t have. Another salad recipe combined pomegranate and feta, plus spinach, red onion and walnuts. By now I was grumbling at myself for not planning out my menu more carefully. Then there was this quinoa herb & pomegranate salad. This one also used mint, so mint was the way to go.
Back to my black bean and pomegranate mixture. The pomegranate arils added crunch which contrasted nicely with the creaminess of the black beans. The color contrast was ok – the dark red and the dark brown weren’t that visually interesting. Time to add the mint, and then the feta. Now it looked better, but I still wasn’t satisfied. I still wanted to add something interesting. And then, then I found two pomegranate salad recipes that used (mandarin) oranges – a cauliflower pomegranate orange salad, and this really awesome arugula, fennel, apple, mandarin orange and pomegranate salad from Bon Appétit. My orange was meant to go into this Cannoli Crepe Cake (oooh, alliteration!), so that was a no go. Instead I used a small can of mandarin oranges.
And now I had the perfect salad – crunchy because of the pomegranate, creamy because of the black beans, slightly salty from the feta, minty because of the mint and orangey and slightly sweet from the mandarin oranges. The accompanying dressing totally rocked it. Btw, I make my dressing in a glass jar – I just have to shake it to create a great emulsion. Just make sure that your lid fits on tight. Plus it’s easy to save any extra dressing since your dressing is already in a jar.
Now, this was a spur of the moment salad/salsa, so I used what ingredients had. If you want to cook your own black beans instead of resorting to the can, go for it! Same with the mandarin oranges – you can easily use fresh mandarins or oranges. Grapefruit or blood oranges would be great as well. I would use orange juice, fresh preferable as a substitute for the mandarin syrup. Make sure to use plenty of mint – it really really makes the salad. Also, I used a light canola oil (organic) since I didn’t have any good quality olive oil handy. Here’s the recipe for my pomegranate black bean feta mandarin mint salad:
15 oz low sodium black beans (one can)
11 oz mandarin oranges in light syrup (one small can)
a handful of mint
2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tbsp of lemon juice
1 tsp of honey
1/4 cup mint
syrup from the mandarin can
pinch of salt
Remove the arils from the pomegranate and clean properly. Remove the black beans from the can and drain properly. Cut the mint into a chiffonade. Remove the mandarin oranges from the can and halve. Mix the black beans and the pomegranate. Crumble the feta into the salad. Add the mint, and add the mandarin oranges at the end so they don’t fall apart.
Cut your mint into a chiffonade. Mix the salad dressing ingredients except for the mandarin syrup. Taste and add the mandarin syrup in small batches so the dressing doesn’t end up too sweet. The syrup is a nice balance to the acidity in the dressing. I like my dressing on the tangy side. I did make a really big batch of dressing, so I scaled the ingredients up in order to have leftovers. Toss your salad with part of the dressing, and slowly add more dressing so your salad is evenly coated without becoming too soggy. Don’t forget that the mandarin oranges fall apart easily.