Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar Salsa is, hands down, the grossest product name in the store. I’m no marketing expert, but if you want to sell someone your strange, globular salsa you might be thanked not to name it after fish eggs pulled from the ugliest fish in the Caspian. That aside, this corn-filled, black bean-based salsa is a bold, tasty alternative to your standard yellow-cap Pace and worth a look for anyone.
I should say that the blame for the name is not strictly TJ’s fault in this case. Cowboy caviar was first crafted into existence in the 1950’s by Helen Corbitt, famed chef, fresh food advocate, innovator of bold new cuisine and, ultimately, head chef at the flagship Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas – famed at the time (and known still) for its fine eating. The South, as every good southerner knows, has a hankering for black-eyed peas – a hankering that includes, but is not limited to, mandatory black-eyed pea consumption on New Years Day. Thus the decree that Neiman Marcus was to roll out an “all-Texas” menu, prominently featuring the beans was no surprise. No, the surprise was that Helen Corbitt, herself a Yankee girl from New York, detested black-eyed peas, and couldn’t bring herself to serve them in a traditional way. Instead, she pickled them in onions and served them as a chill dip – and lo history was made.
Trader Joe’s differs from its primogeniture by introducing the aforementioned corn, plus onions, red bell pepper and , perhaps hereticaly, swapping black beans for black-eyed peas. The chunky veggies are mortared by a mix of chipotle peppers, adobe sauce and lime juice – and the result is a dang good, medium salsa that give you plenty to chew on chip by chip. In addition to the touch of fire, you’ll pick up a citrus tang and even a hint of sweetness, which makes this an interesting salsa all around.
I myself am a die hard salsa fan, willing to take it any way I can get it, and to me this is one astounding find. Even with the sudden coming into vogue of non-traditional salsas (mango & papaya salsa, for example) there’s still a paucity of tomato-free varieties. Why not get the tomatoes the hell out of there? It’s the 3rd millennium A.D. isn’t it? “Nothing is sacred” is all but the mantra of our epoch – I don’t see why we should stop at tomatoes as salsa.
If you’ve ever been to a Trader Joe’s you know that they have a host of intriguing chips to go along with this salsas and dips. Why not try a bag of Super Seeded Tortilla chips when you pick up your southwester, rough-ridden, saddle-packed jar of cowboy caviar.
Would I Recommend It: Surely I do.
Would I Buy it Again: It’s a good change of pace salsa, if not an everyday kind of salsa.
Final Synopsis: Pickled corn and beans? As a salsa? Yessir, and damn good one.