Sometimes I am surprised to discover that I have a strong opinion about something. Like guacamole. I never really thought that I had strong feelings about guacamole until recently when a friend said that they had encountered a dip that was made of peas instead of avocados and declared to be guacamole. I was outraged. Really and truly furious and I am quite tickled by the depth of that fury. Like a natural talent for a certain instrument that is never known because that specific instrument never lands in your hands, some opinions must be floating around our cortex, unformed because they have never been called upon, and then suddenly one day someone says that a pea dip is guacamole and that is OUTRAGEOUS on a level that you never could have anticipated.
I had a similar reaction the first time that someone referred to this white bean dip as hummus. But then I realized that I had no other moniker to assign to this dip. It is just white bean dip. That being said, it is a superlative white bean dip. It is the first thing that I think of when I need to make an appetizer or a snack for a crowd. Served with some pita chips or chopped vegetables, it is delicious.
This is an endlessly versatile dip. The core of it is pureed white beans with fresh herbs. But the herbs can be mixed up and other things thrown in. There are also lots of shortcuts and lots of ways to spruce it up with a little extra effort. So, here I give you two versions of the dip preparation: the good version and the better one.
The White Beans
Good – Buy two cans of cannelini beans. Drain and rinse the beans in a colander. Add them to food processor and puree until smooth.
Better – Take 3/4 cup (6 oz.) of dried white beans* and soak them overnight. Drain and put them in a pot with one bay leaf. Cover with water (plenty of water, a few inches over the beans) and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer for 1 to 2 hours until cooked. (Time depends on the beans.) Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and discard the bay leaf. Drain the beans and cool until beans can be handled. Add the beans and cooking liquid to the bowl of a food processor.
The Other Flavors
Good – Mince one tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley and two tablespoons fresh dill. Add the herbs to the food processor with the beans along with one tablespoon good olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, and garlic (see below). Puree until smooth. Taste and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Better – In addition to the above, mince one teaspoon of fresh rosemary and zest the lemon half. Mix them into the tablespoon of olive oil and let sit for 20 minutes or so. Once the flavors have been absorbed to the oil, add the whole mix to the food processor along with the other ingredients. Taste and add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste with a pinch of smoked paprika or a dried red chile powder.
Good – Mince two cloves of garlic.
Better – Take two unpeeled cloves of garlic. Place them on a small piece of foil, drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Seal the foil tightly and roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. (Recommend setting foil packet in a pan so that if it leaks, you do not get oil on the floor of your oven. You can also do a whole head of garlic if you want to have extra roasted garlic around. Trim the bottom off a whole clove, drizzle with oil, wrap in foil and roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.) Let the garlic cool until it can be handled, then mince two roasted cloves.
* If using dried beans, use any white bean. Cannelini are good but so are great northern beans. I dream of splurging on Haricot Tarbais beans and making this one day.
** There is a third option here, which is to use a spoonful of that garlic mojo which appeared on this blog a few weeks ago.