I did not see many chips of any kind during my eight summers in México. On a rare occasion, our cook would make a few fresh ones to accompany beans but then left them out to “stale up.” So the night we gathered to play poker and I spied the mixed bowl of potato and tortilla chips, I thought I saw a treat coming. Then the cuñada (sister-in-law) drowned them all in lime juice fresh from the backyard tree, saying that crisp chips were as unhealthy as the night air. I always think of her when I make this salad. Or sleep with windows open, inviting the serena.

Ensalada Zapatista (Zapatista Salad)
Serves 4

For the Salsa
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 plump garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (or ½ minced chipotle in adobo for more heat)
Stingy pinch each ground cumin, ground cilantro, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad
1½ pounds ripe skin-on tomatoes, diced
3 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 small cucumber, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
Generous handful tortilla chips, lightly crushed
2 limes, quartered

  1. Place the lime juice, onion, garlic, jalapeño, and spices in a bowl to marinate. Set them aside while you prepare the tomatoes.
  2. Put the tomatoes and fresh cilantro in a food processor and pulse a few times.
  3. Add the salsa mixture and pulse a few times.
  4. Compose the salad in bowls: Layer the cucumber, avocado, black beans, and salsa. Repeat. Top with the crushed chips and garnish with lime juice and several whole lime wedges.

Cook’s tips and tricks: If there is fresh corn off the cob at hand, add it without so much as blanching. The salad ingredients can rest for up to an hour in the fridge before assembling at the last minute. Freezing the salad bowls and forks for an hour lets you carry the composed dishes outdoors and not have them “wilt” in the summer heat so quickly.

— From Barn Bits: Picked at the Peak, by Deborah DeBord, Ph.D.


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