I first created this recipe with a pretty presentation – layering each individual ingredient in a glass that you would serve as a first course at a cocktail party. That now seems kind of fussy to me, and half the time when I’d make this, I’d wind up jumbling all the ingredients together in one bowl anyway. So feel free to just toss everything together willy-nilly. Or you can go half way like I did for the photo here and arrange the (dressed) ingredients on individual rimmed plates. This would be very nice for a lovely vegetarian supper for two. (Or you could toss in a few grilled shrimp).

However you do it, all the time is in the chopping here – there’s no cooking involved. The dressing here is lemony, spiked with a bit of crystallized ginger, but if you want to use lime or any vinegar instead, it would work fine. Taste and be sure it is bright tasting. I like to use a combination of cilantro, mint, and basil or thai basil for the herbs, but again, use what you like.

Feel free to double the amounts here to serve more people.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish or 2 as a vegetarian main course

For the dressing:

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar (more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger (or two teaspoons fresh ginger plus 1 teaspoon sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon minced fresh (seeded) Serrano or jalapeno pepper or several dashes of green hot sauce
  • Kosher salt

For the salad:

  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups halved or quartered red and yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh raw corn kernels (from 3 medium or 2 large ears)
  • 1 to 1 ¼ cups (about 4 to 5 ounces) diced zucchini  (I like to use small zucchini )  
  • 1 medium-large ripe but firm avocado, cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup), optional
  • 1/3 cup sliced scallions (light and dark green parts)
  • Kosher salt and/or sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped (or whole small leaves) fresh herbs (any combination cilantro, mint, basil, thai basil, parsley) 
  • 1/3 cup toasted sliced almonds, toasted pepitas, or toasted pine nuts
  • Herb sprigs or edible flowers for garnish (optional) 


1. Make the dressing: Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, crystallized ginger, garlic, honey, lemon zest, hot pepper or hot pepper sauce, and a big pinch of salt in a small bowl. Whisk well. Taste and season with a bit more lemon juice or vinegar if desired.

2. Have ready two individual dinner-size serving plates or bowls or one large shallow bowl or platter.

3. Put the black beans, the cherry tomatoes, the corn, the zucchini, the avocado (if using) and the scallions in separate small bowls. Season each with a pinch of salt and a little fresh pepper if desired. Spoon one generous tablespoon of dressing onto each of the beans, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, and avocado (if using) and a teaspoon or two onto the scallions. Add a good pinch of the fresh herbs to each of the ingredient bowls, reserving some of the herbs for garnish. Stir each gently.

4. Spoon the ingredients onto your serving plates or platter in a pleasing manner (a wheel-spoke is a good pattern to follow), arranging each one in a mound next to the other. Add the nuts to the design (a ribbon or two between ingredients) and sprinkle the whole plate or platter with a good pinch of kosher salt or sea salt, a drizzle of the remaining dressing, and the remaining fresh herbs. Garnish with any herb sprigs or edible flowers you like. Serve at room temperature, as soon as you assemble.

Alternatively, you can stir everything together in one bowl (reserving the nuts and half of the herbs for garnish) and serve as part of a buffet.