To chop is to impress

There are very few things, if any, that I can do remotely well, so forget being the best. However, I will say that I am better than most when it comes to making little houses out of saltine crackers and snowboarding*. I can also do the moonwalk better than most of my female counterparts thanks to my religious watching of Showtime at the Apollo as a child. Lastly, I have mad knife skills. I can slice, chop, dice, and mince. Okay, I’m not really that good, but I do know how to handle a knife on a moderate skill level. Fortunately, people are naturally impressed with any level of skill when it comes to wielding a big, sharp knife. Onlookers’ mouths will fall open in amazement at the sight of a blade rolling seamlessly and evenly across the surface of some defenseless fruit or vegetable. So fellas, if you want to increase your odds of impressing a lady friend or man friend (I don’t judge), then learn to chop. Luckily for you, it’s not nearly as hard as you think. In fact, it is quite easy and only requires a good, well-sharpened knife as well as a little know-how and lots-o-practice.

My knife: Shun 7-inch Santoku

As a young lady, asking for a big machete-like chef’s knife for your birthday is somewhere akin to receiving a miniature version of the Miami Dolphins football uniform for Christmas as a nine-year-old girl. Oh, wait, did that one too. It’s just not an ordinary gift for a gal, but I’m not trying to fit into any kind of mold. Well, unless we are talking about a Jell-O mold. Sign me up for that! However, I’ve had several of my girl friends call me up in the recent years and ask me advice about what kind of knife to purchase for their newfound culinary endeavors, which just so happen to coincide with them becoming newlyweds. I recommend purchasing one good multipurpose knife, either an 8-inch chef’s knife or a 7-inch santoku knife. The Japanese word santoku is translated as “three benefits,” a reference to the knife’s fine mincing, slicing and dicing capabilities. Some good brands are Shun, Wüsthof, and Global. Try out several different brands and types of knives to see what kind of handle and weight feels most comfortable. Also, be prepared to spend between $100 and $200. A good knife is worth the money and a great investment because it’s one that will literally put food on the table.

Once you’ve garnered ninja-like skills in the cutlery department, you should try this recipe. Actually, this recipe is good practice for developing cutting mastery since there is a lot of chopping involved. This particular salsa recipe is a triple threat of taste, texture, and appearance. The first time I prepared it, I immediately knew it was a winner based purely on its appearance—an aesthetic array of reds, yellows, greens, purples, and black. Yes, I did judge the book by its exceptionally vibrant cover; however, when it comes to food, presentation can be a prerequisite. Also, a general rule of thumb when it comes to healthy eating is that the more color a dish has, the better it is for you. In fact, the pigment in many colorful fruits and vegetables comes from phytonutrients, which contain a potent display of antioxidants. In other words, you should eat your colors. The colors in this recipe emerge from the glorious combination of crisp bell peppers, protein-packed beans, sweet corn kernels, and diced red onion.

Of course, it’s not just about appearance when it comes to a standout recipe. It always boils down to taste, and this one rises to the occasion. It is my standby dish that I prepare for special gatherings as a snack or appetizer. People go crazy over this bean salsa, and I always return with an empty bowl, regardless if I’m feeding a small or large group. For even more depth in color and additional zing in the taste department, feel free to throw in some cilantro. However, some people I know, (i.e. Matt, my roommate, and Ina, the ever fabulous Barefoot Contessa) despise cilantro. The word on the street is that a number of  scientists believe this adverse reaction to cilantro may be caused by a certain gene, which I like to refer to as the I-Hate-Cilantro-Because-It-Tastes-Like-Soap gene. Cilantro or not, this recipe is delightful, delicious, and de-lovely. Happy Chopping!

SIDENOTE: The heat (spiciness) of this recipe can be adjusted to fit your personal preference. I like heat, not the kind that makes you sweat while you’re eating, but the kind that gives you a little rose in your checks. This recipe is probably at a medium level of heat depending on the heat of the jalapeño you chose and whether or not you use all the seeds and membrane. If you don’t like spicy-hot then make sure to discard the seeds and white membrane from the jalapeño, which is where the heat lies. I tend to use a little of both. Also, and of the utmost importance, be careful when chopping hot peppers like jalapeños. You may even want to invest in some plastic disposable gloves. I shall not go into details of my many experiences of making this dish and hours later touching something and causing a burning sensation. Before your mind drifts off to unexplored nooks and crannies, I’ll go ahead and say, “No, it was not there.” I’m just saying, be careful, very very careful, ladies and gents.

*I have actually never snowboarded in my life, but I thought it sounded cool.

Chopped Bean Salsa

1 (16-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (16-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14-ounce) can sweet yellow corn

1 each green, orange and red bell pepper, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, diced

½ red onion, diced

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Tortilla chips (the Tostitos scoops are best for this dip)

1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and serve with chips.

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