Sunday Spring Cleaning: Smoky Black Bean Dip

blackbeanIn the grand tradition of Spring, I’ve been doing some spring cleaning of late. Since the weather has not been optimal for cleaning windows, and it hasn’t yet been warm enough to transition to the summer wardrobe, I’ve been concentrating on cleaning out the larder: using up canned goods that are approaching one year old, making room in the freezer for a new season’s bounty, and digging way back into the recesses of the food cabinet for those long-forgotten items; whole chesnuts from a stuffing recipe that never happened, a jar of coriander chutney that someone brought as a hostess gift, a Ziplock of dried black beans that I can’t even remember buying.

Just like the more traditional variety of spring cleaning, it feels good to use these neglected food items – they’ve been hanging around for so long they are, at this point, “free food” (and in this economy, who can’t use a little free food?); it makes room in the cabinets, fridge and freezer for fresh ingredients, and you might just discover a new favorite recipe, resulting in the once-neglected ingredient becoming a staple in your larder.

This black bean dip is perfect for dried beans that have been sitting around a bit too long – the beans slow cook with a ham hock, garlic and cilantro, and the longer they cook, the better they will taste.  You can toss all the ingredients in a pot and let them bubble away while you are doing something else – like cleaning windows – or better yet, counting daffodils from the back yard swing.

Check back next Sunday for another installment of Spring Cleaning Sunday – the mystery ingredient?  Only the back corners of my cabinets know!

For more Sunday Spring Cleaning recipes, click here.

Adapted from Black Bean Pesto in The New Basics by J. Rosso and S. Lukins.


Smoky Black Bean Dip


  • 8 oz dried black beans
  • 8 cups filtered or spring water
  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • stems from one bunch cilantro
  • 5 small garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 green habanero peppers, seeded, or other chile’ pepper (fresh or frozen)
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste (I used about 1/4 tsp each)
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • few dashes Tabasco
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • fresh cilantro leaves (for garnish)


  1. Rinse and drain the dried beans.  Pick out any that float, or that are misshapen or scarred.  If you have time, soak the beans overnight in fresh, filtered water.  If not, skip to step 2.
  2. Put beans, water, ham hock, cilantro stems, bay leaf and garlic into a medium stock pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Lower heat to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, for 1.5 – 3 hours, or until beans are tender.  Add more water if necessary (keep ham hock at least half covered by liquid).
  3. When beans are tender, discard ham hock and bay leaf.  With a slotted spoon, transfer beans to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse, adding some cooking liquid, until beans reach the desired consistency.  Taste, and add seasonings to taste, pulsing a few times to combine. 
  4. Serve garnished with fresh cilantro leaves and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. 

Yields about 2 cups of bean dip.


  1. Fresher dried beans than my back-of-the-cabinet lost souls may not need a ham hock; they will likely be flavorful enough.  If you are lucky enough to get fresher dried black beans, from Cayuga Pure Organics or perhaps Rancho Gordo, try a vegetarian version of this dish with no ham hock and vegetable stock replacing water.
  2. This dish can be completely local if you eliminate the spices and lime juice; in that case I would increase the chile peppers and salt. 


About 1 week in the refrigerator.


Year round.


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