And next time I am innocuously asked to “just bring an appetizer” to a dinner party, I will whip up this Three-Alarm Texas Black Bean Caviar without thinking twice. Despite knowing that its perfectly acceptable to pick up an assortment of cheeses or dips and call it a day, I feel compelled to create a dish from scratch—it’s in my kitchen-kvelling bones. Over the years, this mandate has led to multiple instances of biting off more than I can chew, and/or, totally disproportionate amounts of effort to reward. Certain entertaining parameters limit the types of appetizers I can make (i.e., sticking to room-temperature fare should the host need the oven for the main meal; assembling hors d'oeuvres that travel easily and require minimal serving prep) which forces me to get creative—often at my own expense. I’ve seen the shrimp summer rolls I so painstakingly put together unravel right before my eyes; watched in horror as a guest asked if my made-from-scratch, soaked-overnight white bean dip was Sabra brand hummus.
Good riddance, futile appetizer exertion! Instead, let’s roll effortlessly into 2019 with this ballyhoo-deserving “caviar”— a delightfully robust black bean dip with all the flavor complexities and luxuriant richness of its highbrow delicacy moniker. Have you ever had Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar, the irresistible black bean and corn salsa I always end up eating out of the jar by the spoonful? This is that, but homemade. The TJ version is a bit too sweet for my taste, but this recipe is more reserved with the sugar (it is from the American Medical Association Family Health Cookbook, after all) relying on the natural pickling of the vinegar-doused diced peppers and onions to create that lip-smacking saccharine tang. Boisterous in both spice and heat, the dip's texture and flavors are reminiscent of a slow-cooked chili; tortilla chips temper the picante factor just so.
I highly suggest doubling the recipe—the caviar will go fast, and, you can always save some for yourself to use as a salsa for grilled chicken or fish. The longer it sits, the better it tastes, so do try to make it a day ahead if possible.
Three-Alarm Texas Black Bean Caviar (From AMA Family Health Cookbook)
Makes 2 ½ cups (about 8 servings)
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 pickled jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finally chopped
¼ c red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp dried savory (optional)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp white pepper
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Tortilla chips, for serving
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beans, onion, red pepper, jalapeno, and garlic.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, chili powder, savory, cumin, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and white pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the bean mixture, return the mixture to a boil, and simmer for 1 minute*. Using the back of a spoon (or immersion blender) mash about a quarter of the beans against the side of the saucepan. (This will help thicken the mixture.) Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl, cool to room temp, and refrigerate for at least 1 hr (up to 5 days).
3. Return to room temperature before serving. Serve in a bowl, accompanied by chips for scooping.
*I simmered for closer to 5-7 minutes, to ensure the onions lost their sharp bite.