Dorothy Cannell: Last Saturday evening my husband, Julian, and I attended our neighborhood’s monthly pot luck. The host provides the entrée and everyone else brings a side dish. Usually I feel morally obliged to put my best foot forward with a salad (Julian always votes for Waldorf), vegie casserole, or fancy dessert. But this time I was spending the day with my granddaughter, Hope – a few hours of cleaning the house followed by an outing to Dairy Queen, and so decided to half-inch that foot forward. A few moments of reflection brought to mind a recipe, if you can elevate it that high, given to me at another potluck several years ago. Its virtue is that even given my hopscotch memory I didn’t have to write it down.
Take one jar of salsa, combine with one can drained and rinsed black beans, add chopped herbs – basil, cilantro, parsley, chives, or whatever strikes your fancy in whatever amounts appeal. Chill if you have time. Serve in a dish surrounded by corn chips and pat yourself on the back. At potlucks few people know what you brought anyway, but this turned out to be a hit as it had been when I first tasted it.
Julian, my personal grocery shopper, said he had bought one of the better brands of salsa; from the hesitancy of his manner I think he risked being slapped on the hand for extravagance. I was however, moved to give the nod of approval. For those who have not read Peg Bracken’s I Hate to Cook Book and its Appendix you have missed a treat. Her premise is that whatever you cook or prepare should look and taste as though you have tried harder than you really have. That more expensive Salsa gave me a virtuous feeling that set me up for the whole evening, as if spending four hours on a seventeen-layer French torte from one of the footstool-sized cook books would have done.