Dalai Mama Dishes

by Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

Dalai Mama Dishes

Catherine Newman cooks for the family

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Black Bean Dip

Posted February 02, 2009
Find more about dip , school lunch , beans , dalai mama
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Ben coordinates his pajamas with whatever he's snacking on. (Mom, those are the pajamas you sent. Aren't they cute?)

What is the term for this? Mise en scene? Anyways, here are my assembled ingredients, complete with Cuisinart circa 1990; my food processor has been with me as long as Michael has. (That font seems so dated, doesn't it? It reminds me of my old Mac Classic.)

Come midwinter, all the garlic is sprouting. You want to cut open each clove and then pull out and discard that little green shoot - especially if you're using the garlic raw-or else it makes your food kind of blechily garlicky and strong-tasting.

I heart wax-paper bags. They're inexpensive and biodegradable, and they don't off-gas or on-gas or do any other weird fume-y thing. Plus, they're so delightfully old-fashioned. We also use Pyrex glass food containers with rubber lids. It seems crazy, I know, to send glass to school, but they're shockingly sturdy, and not a single one has ever broken.

Lunch, assembled and ready to pack. We send the kids with a drink called “peppermint water“ which is water that sits in a jug in the fridge with a single peppermint teabag in it. The minty-ness is refreshing and helps mitigate the water's terrible crime of “plainness.“ Those are Trader Joe's blue corn chips in there, though what we usually have is Green Mountain Gringo chips, which I love.

Okay, so I'm not about to get hired as a lunchbox stylist, but you get the idea. Complete with the same “We love you” note that stays in there all year long. Because we are lame that way.

Coffee table dinner. Okay, this is actually from a couple of weeks ago, and that's hummus not black bean dip, but you get the idea.

Ah, the musical fruit. We can't get enough. Even while we're actually eating the beans, Birdy likes to make pleasant conversation about them: "Sometimes when I fart--like just now--it feels like the fart is actually coming out of my yoni instead of my butt." Which leads Ben to speculating: "Do you think you could do that thing with a fart--like those people do with dummies? Where you're the one farting, but you make it sound like it's coming out of someone else's butt?" Throwing farts--now there's a marketable skill. I'll have to work on it.

Meanwhile, here's an easy dip to try. For these small and nearly-instant recipes, I use canned beans, and find them perfectly thrifty, happily quick, and acceptably tasty. However, if I'm using a lot of beans--in a soup, say--then I use dried, because they taste better and are cheaper. Don't be intimidated by the cooking of dried beans. Simple rinse them, pick out any little stones or shriveled-up beans that look like they got dusted off from a Jurassic fossil; now cover them with water, bring to a boil over high heat, turn off the heat, and let them soak for an hour (this is called "quick soaking," and it works just as well as "slow soaking" which you can do overnight in cold water). Then simply drain the beans, cover them again with cold water, and bring them back to a boil; turn down the heat, cover the pot, and cook them at a slow boil (I often add flavorings depending on what I'm making: bay leaves or celery leaves, garlic and onions, etc.) until they're tender. Then salt them well, add whatever else you're going to add, and cook them some more. Rumor has it that salting them too early in the cooking makes the skins toughen, and I actually find this to be true. And the one time I tried making dried beans in the slow cooker? Oh my God. "Slow" does not begin to describe it. Lentils are fine in there, but black beans? I cooked them from the time the Rolling Stones played their very first concert until yesterday, and they were still tough.

I'm counting this bean dip as a "school lunch" entry, because a little container of dip, along with a little bag of tortilla or pita chips and some carrot sticks makes a nice change of pace from a sandwich. Or from leftovers--especially if it's, say, lentil soup instead of, say, pizza. I think the kids respond well to active meals--where they get to dip and munch and mix it up a little. Plus, it's easier to get those carrot sticks eaten if there's somewhere yummy to stick them first. Hummus is another obvious choice, since, like the bean dip, it provides the protein component. We also eat bean dip as one of our classic "coffee table dinners." The kind where there's a board game out, and wine for the grown-ups, and nobody feels like eating a big meal at the tbig able. This may be my favorite kind of dinner in the world.

Black Bean Dip
total time: 5 minutes

This dip is really good made with white beans too--although then I usually add a little chopped rosemary and grated lemon peel, and I swap lemon juice in for the vinegar. Sometimes, when making either version, I briefly warm the garlic in the olive oil in a small pan over low heat; it mellows it a bit, which is nice. And sometimes I add a little chipotle puree or smoked paprika--but you probably already figured that out. Cilantro would be a yummy addition to the black bean dip, wouldn't it? I should try that.

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained well
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more or less--depending on the saltiness of your beans (or half as much table salt)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (lime juice is good too in here)
1 small clove garlic, pressed (remove the green shoot first, if there is one)

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until very smooth, adding a tablespoon or two of hot water if the beans seem disinclined to become creamy. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips or whole-grain crackers, and raw veggies.

Get a printable version of this recipe.

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Black Bean Dip

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About Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman is the author of the memoir, Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family, available online and in bookstores nationwide.

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