In 2020, our ubiquitous all-American cookouts — which roar on ad infinitum Mother’s Day through Labor Day — were often a tad sad little affairs if we had them at all. Instead of the jumbo party packs of burgers and brats, unending veggie or cheese trays, boxes of big cupcakes, and the super-sized bag of red, white, and blue paper napkins to last all summer long, we were buying a single pound of ground beef, 4 buns, a pint of vanilla, and left the colored napkins on the shelf. Fireworks, if available on the 4th, were viewed from apartment building balconies or hillside decks. We were masked and our celebrations felt the same.Jump to Recipe
This year, I’ve no doubt we’re making up for lost time. Yards, patios, decks, balconies, and houses have been spruced up in the intervening months. Many of us are vaccinated. We’re taking the cue from the CDC to come together and I’m predicting we’ll come back big or go home. Backyard parties complete with balloons, lanterns, pushed together decorated picnic tables, coolers full of beer, big red geraniums in planters, and a still fairly small circle of everyone-bring-their-own chairs will begin again. Will we start right where we left off — — or will there be a new sense of close gratefulness and a more thoughtful hugging at the beginnings and endings? Who knows, we might have improved and homemade food since we all cooked our little(?) butts off for the last year and are definitely a little more accomplished in the kitchen? (YAY!!!)
However you’re welcoming in the summer, you won’t miss out if you make what all good cookouts and picnics start with. My Russian cousin Nona would call them, “Nik-Naks!” Most of us would say, “Chips and Dips.” Ok, veggies and dips if you’re feeling healthy. And instead of grabbing a container off the shelf at the grocery (SODIUM!! UNHEALTHY FATS!! UNPRONOUNCEABLE INGREDIENTS!! 5-YEAR SHELF LIVES!!), you can make my healthful (hello, fiber and protein) and inexpensive —can’t beat that combination —Colorado Bean Dip. It’s as easy as throwing the beans, some spices, a little salsa and yogurt or cottage cheese into the food processor (or banging it out with the potato masher to increase your kitchen biceps) and pressing “pulse” a few times. Really no cooking skills needed. And there’s no cheese, no sour cream, no hot oven, no waiting. Just you and your dip ready before you can say, “Pass the chips.” And since it cost almost nothing, you can buy the good kind of tortilla chips. Keep the ingredients in your cabinet and be ready to make it all summer long because you and your guests will be happy when you try this:
Colorado Bean Dip
- 2 (15 oz) cans pinto beans, drained (or about 3 cups of cooked beans)
- 4 plump cloves of garlic, minced
- Juice of one lime
- ¼ teaspoon Tabasco — or to taste
- 3 tablespoons salsa
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt — can sub cottage cheese
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Very generous pinch each kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper — or to taste
- Thinly sliced green onions for garnish
- Place all ingredients except green onion garnish into a food processor bowl and pulse until thick and smooth. You could also use a potato masher or even a fork (and get in a little workout), though it’ll be easier if you warm the beans first before mashing by hand. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you’d like a thinner dip, add more lime juice, salsa, or yogurt. Spoon into a serving bowl and garnish with the green onions. Serve with tortilla chips and/or fresh vegetables.MAKE AHEAD/STORAGE: Can be made a day ahead and stored well-covered in the fridge. If cold, let the dip sit out 15 minutes or so before serving so it warms a bit. Do not freeze. Will keep up to 3 days in the fridge if you have any left.
DID YOU KNOW? Beans are a top plant source of iron, with 1/2 cup nearly matching the amount in a 3oz sirloin steak. Pinto Beans have 6 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup serving. (courtesy Kuner’s Foods)
CHANGE IT UP:
- Add (or swap in) fresh cilantro to the green onions.
- Spread the dip onto a flat plate and top with diced ripe tomatoes, chopped white onions, and Cotija cheese.
- Offer half fresh veggies and half chips on the chip and dip platter.
- Leave the Tabasco bottle near the dip for those who like heat.
- Use sour cream in place of the yogurt
REDUCING FOOD WASTE WITH THIS RECIPE:
- Buy an individual-size container of yogurt or borrow some from a neighbor if you don’t typically eat yogurt or sour cream
- Use the rest of the green onions in your salad next week. Store them like this for a longer fridge life, but don’t cut off quite so much of the root!
- Don’t eat a lot of salsa? Freeze it in small containers. It also keeps at least a month in the fridge.
- Zest the lime before juicing. Freeze zest until needed.
- Buy tiny sizes of spices so you can use them up before they become dull and lifeless. Or split a larger size with a neighbor.
- Bottom of the tortilla chip bag full of tiny pieces and crumbs? Save them to top your salad or to sprinkle on soup.
- Leftover dip? Probably not, but… Spread it onto a tortilla, fill with scrambled eggs, and top with salsa for breakfast.
If you liked this, you might like another one of my “Nik-Naks” …
More Info Than You Wanted
Taps Across America: “It would be fitting to remember those who died in service to our country as well as those who have died of the COVID-19 virus and also to honor those who are on the front lines by sounding Taps on Memorial Day, May 31st at 3 pm (local). You can sound the call from wherever you feel appropriate.” Click the link to read all about it and to register.
LIFE GOES ON:
A backroads drive to Denver last Thursday to meet a nephew for lunch led us past many an oddly-green pasture. We’ve had enough rain that Colorado is looking a bit like Ireland these days. We’re grateful as fire danger is a real and omnipresent companion here in the west. Keep coming, rain and thank you very much.
Enjoy the holiday. Be well and love these late spring days.
Dream of summer cookouts,
below: Dave worked all last summer on his grilled pizza. We’ll reap the rewards of that effort this year!