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~Creamy, Cheesy & E-Z Chile-Lime Refried Bean Dip~

IMG_7906I love a starry night.  Sitting outside in the warm Summer air, watching the sun set and listening to my next-door neighbors, the dairy cows, lowing in the pasture -- it's peaceful.  That said, on some Summer nights, Thursdays during June, July and August, a band plays "up on the mountain" (the ski slope to the other side of the cow pasture).  Weather permitting, on those toe-tapping evenings, if you stop by, you'll find a snack or three on the table next to the cooler of Corona.

My neighbors, music on the mountain, &, bean dip.

IMG_0279This easy bean dip is one of my favorite Summer appetizers and it's also one of the easiest to make -- a handful of ingredients that I always have on-hand.  Served alongside some homemade or high-quality spicy pico de gallo, citrusy guacamole and crispy tortilla chips, these four small-bowl Texican snacks, in place of one big dinner, are just fine by me.  There's more.  Bean dip is filling.  A little goes a long way.  That's why I make it in two smaller two-cup-size crocks rather than one bigger casserole -- one for tonight and a spare (to bake and serve over the weekend).

Summer nights are right for a simple snack like bean dip.

IMG_78261  16-ounce can refried beans

1  4 1/2-ounce can diced green chiles (undrained)

2  tablespoons salsa verde (green salsa), hot or mild

2  teaspoons lime juice

4  tablespoons Mexican crema (or sour cream)

1-1 1/2  teaspoons ground cumin

1/2-3/4  teaspoon each: garlic powder and onion powder

8  ounces shredded pepper Jack cheese, about 2 cups (Note:  Monterey Jack cheese is a great melting cheese.  If hot peppers in your cheese is not your thing, substitute plain Jack, but, refrain from block cheddars as they won't melt to the creamy consistency that Jack does.)

Mexican-style hot sauce, your favorite brand, for accompaniment

lime wedges, for garnish

Basic refried beans or frijoles refritos = well-fried beans.

Refried beans, or frijoles refritos, are a traditional Mexican side-dish made with twice-cooked beans.  The beans (pinto or kidney) are boiled, thoroughly drained, mashed or smashed while they're still warm, then cooked a second time.  Much like making mashed potatoes, basic spices are added, to taste, while mashing or smashing to the desired smooth to slightly-lumpy state. Once blended, the mixture is placed in a skillet containing melted lard, shortening or vegetable oil. The amount of fat added controls their thick-and-creamy to slightly-soupy texture.  Store-bought refried beans are mashed and ready-to-eat, use as directed in any recipe, or, reheat in a skillet to serve as a side-dish.  A common misconception is that refried beans are vegetarian -- not so, unless the can is clearly labeled "vegetarian".  Why?  Many store-bought brands do contain lard.

IMG_7828IMG_7828IMG_7828~ Step 1.  In a medium bowl, place and stir together the beans, chiles, salsa, lime juice, crema and spices.  There will be 3 cups bean dip.  Divide the mixture between two 2-cup crocks or place into a shallow 1-quart shallow casserole.  Set aside about 15-30 minutes, to give the flavors a bit of  time to marry.

IMG_7840IMG_7840IMG_7840IMG_7840~Step 2.  Use a hand-held box grater to grate the Jack cheese and preheat oven or toaster oven to 325°.  If you are baking one crock of bean dip, top it with 3/4 cup of cheese, meaning: don't top the second crock with the shredded cheese until just prior to baking it.*  If baking the 1-quart casserole, distribute all the cheese, the full two cups evenly over the top of it.

*Note:  Store remaining crock and bowl of cheese, covered, in refrigerator for 1-3 days.  Return dip to room temperature, 30-45 minutes prior to topping with cheese and baking as directed.

IMG_7871~ Step 3. Place both crocks on center rack of 325º oven or toaster oven and bake until cheese is melted and crock/casserole is bubbling and browning around the edges and heated through, 16-18 minutes. Remove from oven, top with a splash of hot sauce and a few squirts of fresh lime juice.  Serve immediately, accompanied by lots of tortilla chips.  Gently reheat any leftovers in the microwave. 

A handful of ingredients, mixed in one bowl, come together to make this scrumptious Mexican-restaurant-style bean dip.

IMG_7876Creamy, Cheesy & E-Z Chile-Lime Refried Bean Dip:  Recipe yields 4 cups.

Special Equipment List:  hand-held box grater; large spoon; 2, 2-cup size crocks or ramekins or a shallow 1-quart casserole

IMG_7394Cook's Note:  In its earliest form, Monterey Jack was made by the Mexican Fanciscan friars of Monterey, Alta California during the 18th century.  California businessman David Jack sold their cheese locally, and, before long, this semi-hard, 1-2-month aged, mild, white, creamy cow's milk cheese came to be known as "Jack's cheese".  Eventually other ranchers began mass-producing "Monterey Jack".  A common misspelling is Monterrey Jack, in confusion with the Mexican city of  Monterrey.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018


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