I’ve never been good at making anything visually pleasing. Given step-by-step drawing instructions, I will draw a person looking like a hideous monster or a cat looking like a mongoose. I have difficulty painting or even coloring inside lines. Heck, even my handwriting is illegible. I could be all gender-normative and blame it on my general dudeness, but let’s not go that route. This is a (totally made up) problem for me, because sometimes I like to cook things (ed. note: Always I like to eat things). See, look at these mini pies I made for Thanksgiving, they’re all misshapen and deformed, and that’s the best example using the most flattering Instagram filter.
And so, rather than solving my problem, I’ve decided to work around it, making foods I KNOW I can’t make look bad.
First things first, I promise not to become a food blog, plenty of people cook and eat better than I. In the interest, however, of blogging more, and becoming a more well-rounded blogger (and because the only recipe I found online called for pre-made guacamole! The nerve!), I present to you a food post.
Quick backstory: I’m an omnivore (I’d say “a proud omnivore,” but that sounds a little too Rick Perry, no?) but plenty of my friends are vegan. They don’t make me feel bad for eating meat and I don’t cook bacon in their homes*, so we get along famously. Because they love me and because I love themes (but mostly because they love me) I’ve been adopted into a monthly potluck known only as vegan dinner club. I made this 7-layer dip for the latest, the theme of which was presents (food stuffed in other foods).
Layer 1: Refried black beans Really, I wouldn’t fault anyone for using pre-refried black beans, or just mashing up and frying canned black beans. But I did this the hard way, because I can buy a pound of dry black beans for $1.29.
I arrived at my apartment full of holiday cheer (booze) from two holiday parties at 3 am on a Saturday night and somehow remembered to measure out and soak two cups of black beans overnight in water an inch higher than the beans. When the cat woke me up at 9:30 the next morning, I found the water absorbed and the beans still pretty dry, so I separated them into two bowls and soaked for another 3 hours in water 2 inches higher than the beans for another 3 hours while I tried to go back to sleep.
The next step was a labor of love. And by that I mean I had to spend two hours watching Piranha 3D and checking on the beans only sporadically while they boiled. Drain the beans and put them in a large pan, covering them 2-3 inches in water. Bring the beans to a boil then simmer for the aforementioned two hours. Every 20-30 minutes stir the beans and make sure the water level is staying constant (I added about a cup of water each trip).
I tell you all this because Piranha 3D is a pretty good movie even if you’re watching it in 2D, and because I recommend soaking beans overnight in water covering the beans a full 2 inches.
Once the beans are soft/edible, it’s time for the mashing. I’d suggest doing this with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. I didn’t have either of those things, so I improvised with a mason jar. Once the means are mashed (go to town for like 3-5 minutes), dice 1/3 of an onion and one jalapeno, combine with the beans and 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and fry in a pan for about 10 minutes until the onion is cooked, things have combined, all that. Mix in some salt and hot sauce of your choice. Layer the bottom of whatever you keep the dip in with the black beans.
Layer 2: Vegan cheese sauce I modified this recipe from Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Food, a birthday present from my sister. Mix 1 and a half cups of plain soy milk with half a cup of nutritional yeast, 2 tablespoons of tahini, and quarter-to-half teaspoons of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, chili powder, and paprika (I used smoked paprika). I’d also put in a little bit of lemon juice here, because why not? Stir until it’s all combined, but you’ll probably still have chunks of pesky tahini. Empty the mix into a saucepan and heat on medium, stirring constantly, for 5-7 minutes, whisking away those tahini chunks with a fork the whole time. Layer the cheese on the beans.
Layer 3: Vegan sour cream dip This is seriously my favorite part of any 7-layer dip. It’s also the most simple, so why mess with something that already works? Take a 12-oz package of vegan sour cream and add about half a package of whatever cheating taco mix you can find. I had some left over from taco night at the lake. Mix thoroughly until the whole thing turns orange and you have to stop yourself from tasting it. Layer on top the cheese.
Layer 5: Fresh salsa You’re reading that right, layer 5. Just bear with me, it’s not a typo, you’ll see in a minute. Cut 4 roma tomatoes and half an onion. Squeeze a whole lime into the mix and add a finely cut jalapeno and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Put in a little salt and picante sauce and stir well. Set this aside.
Layers 6 and 7: Black Olives and Green onions Cut these, or buy the black olives pre-cut like a poseur (me). Again, set them aside
Layer 4: Guacamole Smash up two ripe avocados with a fork. Add any of that onion you have left, the juice of half a lemon or lime, 3 cloves of garlic, and a hint of salt and picante sauce. My usual guacamole has chunks of tomato and pepper, but I omitted them because they’re in the salsa. Layer the guacamole on top of the sour cream mix as close to serving time as possible, because I have bad luck with guacamole that begins to turn brown after an hour or two. In this case, the guac was still good 3 hours later, so maybe this isn’t as much of a concern.
Layer the salsa after the guac, then the green onions. Put on the black olives last. Fight off heartburn all night after eating with chips.
In the end, this turned out to be quite the hit, and it even looked ok! So if you want to bring something delicious, but cholesterol/cruelty free the next time you go watch a football game with your bros, pack the dip! If you want to make sure awful people don’t eat it, hammer in that it’s vegan. Horrible people can’t stand the thought of vegan food.