Posts Tagged ‘bacon’

Although we have had a lot of sadness in 2019, we also have some recent and upcoming blessings. A few days after our dog died, we wound up adopting another little hound who has been living with us now for about a month. We named our little Redtick Coonhound Julep, and she has been a funny and busy distraction. Aside from chasing the cat, she has really been quite a good puppy so far. She is only about eight months old, so she has much more energy than we do! We figure this puppy is excellent practice for our baby who is due to arrive in October. Yowza! I think I can safely say that 2019 has already been the greatest year of transition I will likely ever have. Now, onto the cooking.

Wild Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

My mom was the person who first introduced me to risotto after she had ordered it in a restaurant years ago. She said she instantly thought of me when she ate it, as she was sure it would be something I would love. I have made many risottos over the years, trying various methods and recipes, including a pressure cooker risotto and an almost no-stir recipe. Alton’s risotto is a pretty classical version that requires only about 10 ingredients. You will need some steamed asparagus that is cut into one-inch pieces and some wild mushrooms that you have browned in butter and Kosher salt (you want approximately seven ounces of asparagus and five ounces of mushrooms). You can easily prep the veggies a day in advance, or you can sub any leftover veggies you have on hand. When ready to make the risotto, bring 6 C of chicken broth to a simmer, along with 1 C white wine; Alton likes to use an electric kettle for this, but I just used a saucepan.

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Simmering broth/wine.

You want to keep this liquid at a low simmer for the duration of making the risotto. Next, heat a heavy 3 to 4 quart pan over medium heat and add 2 T butter, 1 C chopped onion, and a pinch of Kosher salt. Sweat the onion until it is soft and add 2 C Arborio rice, which is a short-grain rice.

Stir the rice for 3-5 minutes or until the grains become translucent around their edges.

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Rice stirred until clear at the edges.

Once translucent, add enough of the hot broth to the pan to just cover the rice and shake/stir the rice. Alton’s shaking method was new to me, as the other risotto recipes I have made have called for stirring. Continue to cook the rice, shaking the pan occasionally, at a bare simmer until no liquid remains in the pan when you move the rice with a spatula. At this point, add hot broth/wine again just to cover the rice.

Continue cooking the rice and adding more liquid as needed. When 3/4 of the liquid has been added to the rice, give the risotto a taste; if the rice is tender and creamy, you may not need to add any more liquid. When I tasted my risotto at this point, the rice grains were still quite crunchy, so I ended up adding all of the hot liquid.

When the risotto has reached a creamy texture, give it another taste and adjust the salt, as needed. To finish the risotto, add the cooked mushrooms and asparagus to the pan, along with 2 ounces of grated Parmesan, 1 t lemon zest, and 1/2 t nutmeg.

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A bowl of Alton’s risotto.

Alton’s risotto is a very classic recipe that works very well. Yes, it does take some time for all of the liquid to be absorbed by the rice, but risotto is really not a difficult thing to make and you can get creative with the additions you make. If you are new to risotto, I can say that Alton’s recipe is a fool-proof introduction.

Brown Rice Salad

I have always been really comfortable cooking white rice, but have never had a great way to cook brown rice. For this brown rice salad, Alton shares his preferred method for cooking brown rice, which is an oven method. To cook brown rice Alton’s way, put 1 1/2 C short or medium grain brown rice in an 8-inch square pan. Add 2 1/2 C of water just off the boil, 1 T butter, and 1 t Kosher salt, and give it all a stir.

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Brown rice, hot water, butter, and Kosher salt in an 8-inch pan.

Cover the pan tightly with foil and place it in a 375 degree oven for one hour. After an hour, remove the foil and fluff the rice with a fork. Voila – perfect brown rice!

To make Alton’s brown rice salad, heat a 10-inch pan over medium heat and fry six pieces of bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and add 1/2 C diced red onion.

When the onion is golden, add 1/2 C white wine vinegar, 1/2 C chicken broth, 2 t Dijon mustard, 1 t sugar, 1 t Kosher salt, and 1/2 t pepper.

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White wine vinegar, chicken broth, Dijon mustard, sugar, Kosher salt, and pepper added to the cooked red onion.

Crumble the bacon into the pan, along with the cooked brown rice and 1 T chopped fresh dill. Stir the mixture until the liquid is absorbed.

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Cooked brown rice, bacon, and fresh dill stirred into liquid.

You can eat the salad immediately or you can refrigerate it for up to a week.

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Alton’s brown rice salad.

I fixed this rice salad for lunch for us and we thought it was great. The rice is perfectly cooked and the salad is super tangy and zesty. I highly recommend this salad for a side dish or light meal. And, Alton’s brown rice cooking method is awesome!

In case you are curious about different types of rice, Alton explained the differences in grain lengths in this episode. Short-grain rices, like Arborio, contain a lot of amylopectin, so they release a lot of starch and have a sticky, creamy texture. Medium-grain rices have a soft texture when cooked and have a mixture of amylose and amylopectin; they have less amylopectin than short-grain rices have, but more amylopectin than long-grain rices do. Finally, long-grain rices have the most amylose and the least amylopectin, so they release less starch and cook up with a fluffy texture.

 

 

 

Clams on the Half Shell with Fresh Mayonnaise

Once again, with this episode, my Good Eats project has led me to prepare a food item at home that I have never before prepared. This, to me, is the best part of this project, as I am learning to cook things I potentially would never have otherwise attempted. Clams, this time, were the subject of my exploration.

Though I have eaten other shellfish on the half shell (namely oysters), clams on the half shell were new to me. Really, this isn’t so much a recipe, but rather more of a method. Here’s a link to Alton’s recipe. All you really need for this preparation are fresh, live clams and a batch of Alton’s mayo, which I made previously. When eating raw clams, you want small clams (like littlenecks), as they are more tender than larger clams. When purchasing clams, you want to go to reputable seller and you want to purchase clams that are closed, very hard, and that sound like rocks when you tap them. My grocer had to special order littleneck clams for me and they seemed to be pretty fresh. Clams do sometimes open a little bit, even when they are alive, but they should close if you tap them; discard any clams that do not close when tapped. Also, it really is ideal to purchase clams the day you plan to serve them. Store them in your refrigerator before use in an open container that has been topped with a wet paper towel. When ready to serve your clams, dump them in a colander and give them a good rinse.

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Littleneck clams after being rinsed off.

Wipe off any additional grit in a clean tea towel. Next, set them in the freezer for 30 minutes before shucking, as this will make the process easier.

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Littlenecks, ready to be wiped dry in a tea towel before going in the freezer for 30 minutes.

To shuck, insert a butter knife into the groove at a “corner” of the shell, working the knife between the sides of the shell and prying it open.

Detach the meat from the shell by scraping it off of both sides of the shell with the knife, leaving the meat in the bottom side of the shell. Set your clams on a serving plate, topping each clam with some of Alton’s mayo.

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Not the greatest photo, but a shucked littleneck with Alton’s mayo.

My shells were really lopsided and toppled a bit, so setting them on a bed of greens may make a more attractive presentation. We ate our raw clams as an appetizer one evening, having just a handful or so each. When I eat raw shellfish, I prefer to have condiments, so I liked the addition of Alton’s mayo, which I love anyway. Since I’m a newbie to prepping raw shellfish, I get a little nervous when I am eating them at home, so I think I would have enjoyed raw clams more if I were eating them in a restaurant. Overall, I’ll say that we thought they were good, but not fantastic, and I don’t know that I’ll be jumping to prepare them again anytime soon.

Radonsky for the New Millennium 

For the second recipe in this episode, Alton used cherrystone clams, which are larger than littlenecks. I could not find cherrystone clams where I live, so I ended up using manila clams for this one.

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My manila clams.

As with the recipe above for clams on the half shell, you will want to shuck your clams, but for this preparation you will only want to detach the clam meat from one side of the shell. You will also want to discard the empty half of the shell from each clam.

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Shucked clams.

Mix together 1/4 C flour, 1/4 C breadcrumbs, 1 T freshly grated Parmesan, black pepper, and Kosher salt. Sprinkle the flour mixture liberallly over the shucked clams.

Melt 3 T bacon fat in a skillet over medium-high heat; we keep bacon fat in the refrigerator for occasions such as this.

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Bacon fat in the pan.

When the bacon fat has melted, fry the clams, shell side up, until they are golden brown and their shells have lightened in color.

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Clams frying in bacon fat.

Serve the clams with malt vinegar and parsley.

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My fried clams.

So, I really thought I would like these better than the clams on the half shell, but it turned out that we both found the clams to be too strong in flavor. I liked the crispy coating on the clams and the tang from the malt vinegar, but the clams I used were extremely briny in flavor and had a strong aftertaste that lingered. Perhaps this recipe would have been better with littlenecks? If I were to make this again, I would try it with littlenecks, or cherrystones if I could find them.

Clam Chowder

A clam episode would not be complete without a recipe for clam chowder. We always seem to eat more soup in the fall, so clam chowder seemed like a perfect thing to eat on a fall evening, though I am still clinging to the idea of summer. This recipe begins by rendering the fat from 3 ounces of salt pork or bacon over medium heat; I used Alton’s bacon that I made previously.

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Bacon fat rendering.

Once the fat is rendered, remove the meat pieces from the pan and save for another use. Add 1 1/2 C chopped onion to the pork fat and cook until translucent.

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Onion added to bacon fat.

Next, add 6 C of cubed russet potatoes, peeled (this is about 4 medium or 3 large russets). Add whole milk to the pan, just to cover the potatoes.

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Potatoes and whole milk added to pot.

Meanwhile, drain and reserve the juice from 14 ounces of canned clams, and chop the clam meat. You will want to have at least 1 C of clam juice; if you do not, add water to make 1 C of liquid.

Pour the clam juice into the bottom of a steamer and steam 12 clams over the clam juice, checking on them after 5 minutes.

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My clams, steaming over canned clam juice.

Remove the clams as soon as they open, as they will become tough if overcooked. Save the steaming liquid!

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Steamed clams.

When the clams are steamed, use an immersion blender to blend the potato mixture to your desired consistency – I left some lumps in mine.

To your blended soup, add ~1/2 of the steaming liquid and taste it. Alton cautioned that the steaming liquid can be quite salty, so you want to add it gradually. I wound up adding all of my steaming liquid, as it did not make my soup overly salty. Fold in your chopped canned clam meat.

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Canned clams and steaming liquid added to soup.

Top the soup with black pepper, sour cream, parsley, and grape tomatoes, and serve with steamed clams on the side.

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Clam chowder with parsley, pepper, tomatoes, sour cream, and steamed clams.

We both thought this chowder was great. It had lots of clam flavor and pieces, along with plenty of potatoes. Ted even declared this one of the best clam chowders he has had. I don’t know if serving the steamed clams on the side is even necessary, though it does make for a nice presentation. I was not sure about serving the soup with sour cream and tomatoes, but I actually quite liked the garnishes. I will make this one again. It makes for an easy weeknight meal.

Scrap Iron Chef’s Bacon

I was super excited for the 59th episode of Good Eats. Who wouldn’t be excited at the prospects of making homemade bacon? This episode was a play on the TLC show Junkyard Wars, which I recall seeing several times. I don’t know that this episode would make much sense if you had not seen the original show, but I’m not here to judge production value… I just judge the food!

For Alton’s bacon, you will need a slab of pork belly, preferably from the back end of the pig (it has more fat). How much pork belly will you need? Alton appeared to prep about 10 pounds of pork belly in the episode, while the online recipe calls for five pounds. I, on the other hand, wound up with a 13.5 pound slab of belly. Basically, you can prep as little or as much bacon as you would like; you will just need to adjust the amount of brine you make accordingly. My pork belly was frozen, so I had to allow a couple extra days for it to thaw in the refrigerator. Even if your pork is not frozen, you will need to brine your pork belly for three days before smoking it.

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Ingredients for bacon brine: Kosher salt, sugar, molasses, black pepper, & apple cider. Not pictured: water.

To make enough brine for 10 pounds of pork belly, combine 2 C Kosher salt, 2 C sugar, 8 oz blackstrap molasses, 2 T ground black pepper, 2 quarts apple cider, and 2 quarts water in a large pot.

Bring the brine to a simmer and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once the brine is cool enough to use, portion your pork belly into chunks that can be stored in ziplock bags; I cut my pork belly into six sections.

Divide the brine evenly among the bags and refrigerate the pork for three days, turning the bags once per day to ensure even brining.

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Pork belly and brine in bags for three days.

When smoking day has arrived, remove your pork belly chunks from their brine and dry them on a rack over a sheet pan. A fan can help to expedite this process. Dry the pork for ~30 minutes per side. The purpose of drying the pork is to form a pellicle, or a protein layer, to which the smoke particles can adhere.

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Pork belly drying on racks to form pellicle before smoking.

If you are like me and do not own a smoker, you can build an Alton Brown smoker, much like the one I made for the smoked salmon episode. The difference between the bacon smoker and the salmon smoker is that you want to cold smoke the bacon, while the salmon was smoked with hot smoke. To make a cold smoker a la Alton, you will need a large cardboard box to hold your meat/racks, and a smaller cardboard box to hold your electric burner and wood chips.

You will also need a piece of flexible ductwork to connect the two boxes. Duct tape works great for sealing everything up, and you will want to seal the boxes very tightly.

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My smoker. Two cardboard boxes connected with ductwork.

The smoke will be produced in the smaller box before traveling through the ductwork to the meat box; this keeps the smoke cool. If you have a small fan to push the smoke through the ductwork, that helps too. I used a small personal fan that I taped to the inside of the meat box. Alton recommended inserting a probe thermometer in the meat box to be sure the temperature remains below 80 degrees; my temperature never rose above 63 degrees. You will want to smoke your bacon for about six hours, changing the wood chips about every hour.

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My bacon after drying. Ready to smoke!

Be prepared for some awesome aromas to waft around your home. When your bacon has finished smoking, chill it in the freezer for an hour before slicing. In the episode, Alton did not mention whether his pork belly had the skin on, as my pork belly did. I opted to cut the skin off before slicing the bacon. We have a meat slicer, which made slicing pretty easy, and I honestly cannot imagine slicing it all by hand. Regardless of how you slice your bacon, slice it fat side up.

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My sliced bacon. Freezing the bacon for an hour makes slicing easier.

Alton’s bacon can be stored in the freezer for up to a year. How does Alton recommend that you cook bacon? He recommends that you bake bacon on a rack placed over a sheet pan. Start your bacon in a cold oven that is set to 400 degrees, and check the bacon every three minutes until cooked to your liking. Oh, and save the drippings!

We first tried Alton’s bacon on BLT sandwiches with a slice of cheddar and Alton’s party mayo, and they were delicious sandwiches! The bacon is really quite delicious, though it does not have quite as much smoke flavor as I would have expected. We have a freezer full of delicious bacon that we can eat for months to come. Making bacon is certainly a fun weekend project that is worth a try.

Bacon Vinaigrette with Grilled Radicchio

If you are looking for something to use those delicious bacon drippings for, look no further than Alton’s grilled radicchio. For this recipe you’ll need radicchio lettuce, Kosher salt, black pepper, bacon drippings, brown sugar, coarse mustard, cider vinegar, and olive oil.

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Ingredients for Alton’s grilled radicchio: radicchio lettuce, bacon drippings, Kosher salt, pepper, brown sugar, coarse mustard, cider vinegar, and olive oil.

Cut your radicchio into wedges, leaving some of the core in each wedge. Toss the radicchio wedges in bacon drippings to evenly coat, and sprinkle them with Kosher salt and pepper.

Grill the wedges until they are just starting to brown at the edges. Place the warm wedges on a plate and cover with foil.

Set the radicchio aside and allow the steam to cook the wedges while you make the dressing. For the vinaigrette, combine 1 T brown sugar, 1 T coarse mustard, and 1/4 C cider vinegar in a bowl. Whisk in 1/4 C olive oil and 2 T bacon drippings.

Drizzle the grilled radicchio with the bacon vinaigrette.

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Radicchio wedges served with vinaigrette.

We ate this as a side dish and both thought it was delicious. In fact, we liked it so much that we already plan to have it again. This is an excellent, and different, vegetable side dish that is perfect alongside grilled entrees.

The Once and Future Beans

It only seems fitting that I was scheduled to make Alton’s baked beans now, seeing that I am heading to “Beantown” shortly to (hopefully) run the Boston Marathon. I have recently been plagued with another running-related injury, so I am still unsure as to how my marathon will go. Regardless, we have had our share of protein-loading this past week, in the form of beans.

I’ve only eaten a few baked bean recipes that have really wowed me, while the rest have been overly sweetened, slightly mushy piles of “meh.” As I set out to make them, I assumed Alton’s Good Eats baked beans would fall into the “wow” category, especially after reading the ingredient list.

Ingredients for Alton's baked beans:  Great Northern beans, bacon, onion, Jalapenos, tomato paste, brown sugar, molasses, vegetable broth, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and Kosher salt.

Ingredients for Alton’s baked beans: Great Northern beans, bacon, onion, jalapeno, tomato paste, brown sugar, molasses, vegetable broth, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and Kosher salt.

To make Alton’s beans, soak a pound of dried Great Northern beans in water for 6-8 hours, or until the beans split easily. You will want to sort and rinse your beans prior to soaking.

1 lb of dried Great Northern beans.

1 lb of dried Great Northern beans.

Beans, ready to soak.

Beans, ready to soak.

Beans, beginning their soak.

Beans, beginning their soak.

Beans after soaking.

Beans after soaking.

When ready to cook, into a heavy Dutch oven, over medium heat, add a pound of chopped bacon, a chopped onion, and two chopped jalapenos; stir until enough fat has rendered to soften the onion.

Chopped jalapenos and onion in the Dutch oven.

Chopped jalapenos and onion in the Dutch oven.

Bacon, jalapenos, and onion in the Dutch oven.

Bacon, jalapenos, and onion in the Dutch oven.

Onion softened.

Onion softened.

Add 1/4 C T tomato paste, 1/4 C brown sugar, and 1/4 C molasses. The acid in the tomato paste, along with the calcium in the molasses, helps the beans to maintain their structure, rather than breaking down during cooking.

Tomato paste, brown sugar, and molasses added.

Tomato paste, brown sugar, and molasses added.

Meanwhile, drain the beans, reserving their soaking liquid. If your liquid is less than 4 C, top it off with vegetable broth to make 4 C; my soaking liquid was exactly 4 C.

Reserved bean soaking liquid.

Reserved bean soaking liquid.

Once drained, add the beans to the Dutch oven, along with their liquid.

Beans added to Dutch oven.

Beans added to Dutch oven.

Soaking liquid added to beans.

Soaking liquid added to beans.

Finally, add 1/4 t cayenne pepper, 1 t black pepper, and 2 t Kosher salt.

Spices added.

Spices added.

Bring the beans to a boil over high heat, stir, put the lid on, and throw the beans in a 250-degree oven for 6-8 hours, or until tender.

Beans brought to a boil before going in the oven.

Beans brought to a boil before going in the oven.

I began soaking my beans early in the morning, so I could put them in the oven right before I went to bed. Let me tell you… the house smelled so amazing when we woke up. Ted said he woke up at 3 am and almost went down to sample the beans in the middle of the night. Alton’s beans definitely did not disappoint. I am tempted to say that they may be my favorite baked beans of all time. They are also probably the richest, but a pound of bacon’ll do that!

Alton's baked beans.

Alton’s baked beans.

4-7-15 024 The beans were al dente, not overly saucy or sweet, and had a good kick of heat to balance them out. They really were fantastic, and I will definitely be making them again.

Black Bean Salad

The second bean recipe Alton makes in this episode is for black bean salad.

Ingredients for black bean salad:  dried black beans, carrot, celery, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, onion, olive oil, lime juice, red onion, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, Kosher salt, and black pepper.

Ingredients for black bean salad: dried black beans, carrot, celery, thyme, parsley, bay leaf, onion, olive oil, lime juice, red onion, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, Kosher salt, and black pepper.

To make his salad, in a saucepan place 2 C of black beans, a whole half (that’s a bit ironic, isn’t it?) of an onion, and a tied satchel of 1/2 a carrot, 1/2 a celery stalk, some fresh thyme, some parsley, and a bay leaf. I like to think that we are fairly organized since moving, but I could not find my butcher’s twine anywhere, so I had to ditch the satchel idea and play “Go Fish.”

Beans in a pot with carrot, celery, onion, thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf.

Beans in a pot with carrot, celery, onion, thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf.

Barely cover the beans with water, bring them to a simmer, and partially cover.

Water just to cover the beans.

Water just to cover the beans.

Partially covered and left to simmer.

Partially covered and left to simmer.

After 30 minutes, add 2 t of Kosher salt.

Kosher salt added to beans after 30 minutes.

Kosher salt added to beans after 30 minutes.

Continue to cook the beans for an additional 30 – 90 minutes, or until al dente. My beans took a full two hours to be done. I had to add additional water a few times to keep my beans covered.

Beans after cooking for 2 hours.

Beans after cooking for 2 hours.

When the beans are cooked, drain them and remove the onion, carrot, celery, and herbs.

Drained beans in a bowl.

Drained beans in a bowl.

Toss the hot beans with 1/3 C olive oil and 1/3 C lime juice.

Cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, red onion, chili powder, and cumin ready to be added to beans.

Cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, red onion, chili powder, and cumin ready to be added to beans.

Beans tossed with lime juice and olive oil.

Beans tossed with lime juice and olive oil.

Add a small minced red onion, a handful of chopped cilantro, 1 t cumin, and 1 t chili powder. Toss to combine and chill for several hours.

Cilantro and red onion added to beans...

Cilantro and red onion added to beans…

...along with cumin and chili powder.

…along with cumin and chili powder.

Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Salt and pepper added after chilling.

Salt and pepper added after chilling.

Alton's black bean salad.

Alton’s black bean salad.

We ate this salad as a side dish and thought it was pretty good, but not mind-blowing. It would be a good, easy dish to bring to a potluck, but so would the baked beans, and those were so much better.

Turbo Hummus

Alton couldn’t really have a bean episode of Good Eats without including a recipe for hummus, could he? In this case, it was for his Turbo Hummus. I whipped this up when we were both really hungry after a hard workout.

Ingredients for hummus:  garlic, canned garbanzos, creamy peanut butter, parsley, lemon juice and zest, black pepper, Kosher salt, and olive oil. And... a parsley thief.

Ingredients for hummus: garlic, canned garbanzos, creamy peanut butter, parsley, lemon juice and zest, black pepper, Kosher salt, and olive oil. And… a parsley thief.

In a food processor chop 2-3 cloves of garlic; I opted for three and our breath was paying for it later, but it was good at the time.

Garlic into the food processor.

Garlic into the food processor.

Chopped garlic.

Chopped garlic.

To the garlic, add a can of drained garbanzo beans and half of their reserved liquid. Process until smooth.

Beans drained and liquid reserved.

Beans drained and liquid reserved.

Beans into the processor.

Beans into the processor.

Beans processed, along with half of their liquid.

Beans processed, along with half of their liquid.

Add 2-3 T of creamy peanut butter, a handful of parsley, the zest and juice of a lemon, black pepper, and a couple of big pinches of Kosher salt.

Peanut butter, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper, and Kosher salt added to beans.

Peanut butter, parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper, and Kosher salt added to beans.

Process. Finally, drizzle in 1/3 C olive oil.

Olive oil drizzling into hummus.

Olive oil drizzling into hummus.

Alton's Turbo Hummus.

Alton’s Turbo Hummus.

We ate our hummus with pretzel chips, polishing off half of it pretty quickly. Having made traditional hummus with tahini before, I thought you could taste a difference with the peanut butter. To me, it wasn’t better or worse – just different. This hummus was a bit thinner than I prefer, but the flavor was good, and it was definitely super fast to make. If you’re looking for a super fast snack, this is a good one.