Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad
Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

If you're a regular reader or know me outside the blogging world, you are probably well aware that I am a devoted shopper of

Trader Joe's

.  I can tell you what's good, what's ok, and very rarely what isn't worth buying.  In fact, I can't think of anything I haven't liked at all. I have tried almost every product imaginable there. It is a weekly stop for me.  And, my favorite section is their "new products" display, where there is always something fun to try.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

My newest find is their "Exotic Spice Tower".  It consists of four different spice blends from North Africa, the Middle East,and Latin America, including sumac, which I've been on the hunt to find for a while.  Seeing as though it is the time of year for spices and rubs, I had to pick up a stack of these flavorful blends.

The first thing I did when I brought home my lovely blends was to open each one to see how they spoke to me.  The nose is a wonderful tool.  Close your eyes, take a sniff, and ask yourself what food you think of when smelling these intoxicating scents.  If you open your senses up without knowing which spices you are smelling, chances are some sort of food will come to mind.  When you allow yourself to open up to the possibilities your aroma memory will often spawn creative food ideas that you won't even need a recipe for.  Trust your senses.  And, truth be told, it is your nose and its memory of food and food smells that needs to be tapped into most often rather than your taste buds.  Smell first, taste later.

The first spice blend I tried was the

Pilpelchuma, which is a blend often found in Lybian cuisine.

 This blend is full of chili powder mixed with cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and caraway.  

Love my George Foreman grill

One sniff and I knew I had to have it as a spicy rub for a grilled pork tenderloin I had in the refrigerator.  Brushing my tenderloin with a tablespoon of grapeseed oil, I spread the rub on and coated it using my hands on both sides.  I heated my George Foreman grill to high (yes, don't laugh because it works!), and I heated it for 7 minutes on each side.  And, it turned out fantastic.  

Pipelchuma Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

The initial bite carries a lot of heat in the front part of your mouth, not the kind of heat that makes your head sweat, but spicy enough that it makes you say "Wow".  Let it sit though because the after-taste is a heavenly smoky taste that lingers in the back of your mouth and leaves you wanting that next bite of heat.  It's a vicious cycle meant for those who can't say no to just one more bite.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad

Beautiful Colors

Having my pork set I set about to make a salad that would go perfectly with my chili flavored pork.  I had tons of corn that I'd bought in bulk last week and it needed to be used before the week was out.  I also had a can of black beans, an avocado, a red pepper, basil, and parsley from my garden.  Perfect blend!  All I needed now was a dressing that would bring all of the flavors together.  

The latest craze in cooking seems to be miso.  

The Wall Street Journal

recently featured this fun ingredient as a secret weapon in desserts, and

David Lebovitz

recently featured it in his blog while making miso ice cream.  I am finding it all over the place in many different recipes, but my favorite use so far is in salad dressings.  It kicks up the flavor very subtly and gives a nice depth of buttery saltiness in otherwise bland foods.  A little goes a long way, so you do have to be careful.  In this case, a simple blend of grapeseed oil (which is a very mild oil and won't clash with the miso fighting for the flavor trophy), white wine vinegar, and half a teaspoon of white miso. Mmmm...perfect and not overpowering.  

Check out the Pipelchuma sprinkled over top

I sprinkled it over my salad, stood back and admired all of the pretty colors.  And, then, I mixed it all up and took a bite. Perfect, except it was missing something.  I went back for my Pilpelchuma and sprinkled a bit over the top of my salad, added some lime peel, and now it was ready for consumption.

Note: I had trouble finding miso initially, thinking it would only be in specialty sections in Wegman's.  I actually found it in the international food section in our very own Harris Teeter.  And, then, I found it again in, but where else, Trader Joe's near their pre-made salads and sushi. Trader Joe's does it again!

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2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the ear

2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter or vegan butter

1 teaspoon of lime peel

1 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 Red Pepper, diced

1 Avocado, peeled and cubed

1 Tablespoon, fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 Tablespoon, fresh basil, chopped

2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon white miso


In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the corn kernels and saute until they are a nice yellow, no more than five minutes.  They will be slightly tender but maintain their crispy, juiciness.  Sprinkle lime peel and mix in, removing pan from heat.

Corn is nice and shiny with lime peel adding a sprinkle of green

In a medium bowl, add the black beans, red pepper, avocado, parsley and basil.  Stir to mix the ingredients together.  Add the corn and mix it in.

In a small bowl, combine the grapeseed oil, vinegar, and miso. Whisk until all of the ingredients are combined and it has a smooth and creamy appearance.  Pour your vinaigrette over the salad ingredients and stir to mix it all in together.

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad, Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin, and Fried Grit Fingers

Black Bean, Corn, and Avocado Salad