The bean is a marvelous food; tasty, economical, highly nutritious; nearly a perfect food. Although the noble bean is often associated with peasant food, to be eaten when meat was not available, it is a staple in many cuisines.
Reverse immigrants, beans were growing in Central and South America long before explorers came to the New World. They traveled to Europe, only to return to the Western Hemisphere in delicious and intoxicating dishes like the cassoulet of France, the dal of India, and the hummus of the Middle East.
Technically a legume, the bean plants absorb nitrogen from the air and are extremely useful in maintaining soil fertility. One of my favorites, the black bean, a.k.a. Turtle Bean or Frijoles Negros, is a native of South America. Black beans are cultivated here in Maine and are available in bulk at your local coop or health food store. Or if going for convenience, you can find canned black beans in the supermarket.
The recipe for Black Bean Layered Dip is from my archives. Heart-healthy black beans are mixed with chopped scallions, pickled jalapenos, salsa and spices. Once combined, mashing or pureeing half of the mixture and then adding it back to the whole beans makes the texture easier to dip with a veggie stick or chip. The seasonings are a matter of personal preference, and you can easily turn up the heat by adding more cumin or chili powder, or even using more jalapenos or a spicier salsa.
Drained yogurt or sour cream is a nice contrast to the heat of the spicy beans, and chopped romaine lettuce or greens and avocado provide lots of contrasting bright green color and plenty of crunch. Traditionally this dip is served with tortilla chips, but carrot sticks, even turnip and rutabaga pieces are delicious also.
This would also be an easy dish to contribute to a potluck gathering. Prepare the baking dish with the beans and cheese, and bring the remaining ingredients chopped and in containers. Heat the beans, top with layers, and serve. Pop open and beer and enjoy.
Black Bean Layered Dip
- 2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed (about 3 cups)
- 4 scallions or 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup salsa
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup drained yogurt * (or may use Greek yoguart or sour cream)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 1 cup salsa
- 1 avocado chopped and coated with lime juice (to prevent darkening) or 1/2 cup guacamole
- 1/4 cup sliced black olives
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a 2-quart shallow baking dish or ovenproof platter.
- In a large bowl, mix together the black beans, scallions, salsa, cumin, chili powder, and chopped jalapeno peppers. Remove about ½ the mixture and mash with a fork or in the food processor. Return to the bowl, and stir into the whole beans. Taste and correct seasonings.
- Spread the combined beans over the bottom of the dish.
- Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top.
- Slip into the oven until the cheese melts. (This may also be done in the microwave)
- When the cheese has melted, spread the drained yogurt over the top.
- Then sprinkle the lettuce.
- Spoon the salsa over the lettuc.
- Sprinkle the chopped avocado and chopped black olives over. Serve with tortilla chips and fresh veggie sticks. Makes about 12, ½ cup servings.
*To prepare drained yogurt:
- Spoon yogurt into a strainer set over a bowl and lined with a paper towel. For maximum thickness, allow yogurt to drain 4 – 6 hours in the refrigerator. One-cup yogurt yields about ½ cup drained. Store in a jar.