Jan 27, 2012

White Bean, Sage and Roasted Garlic Spread

When the vegetarian and I first moved in together, I (like most omnivores adapting to a more vegetarian diet) worried that I'd never have enough protein in my diet. So I turned to legumes. Previously, I had only really cooked with lentils, which don't require soaking or too much advance preparation (in our lives, I often don't have time to plan dinner until it's 7pm and I've just gotten home and am suddenly very hungry). But lately I've been expanding my repertoire and have started cooking with other beans, including those that require soaking.

There seem to be two schools of thoughts on whether or not to soak beans. Basically, if you soak them they require a shorter cooking time. But if you factor in the 8-hours of soaking, well, then the total preparation time isn't actually shorter. For me, it depends on the day and whether or not I remembered to soak my beans when I got up in the morning. Yesterday, I didn't. So I soaked the beans for about three hours when I came home in the afternoon (while we enjoyed the new BBC Sherlock), then cooked them for 1h45. The puree was simple (it's a long cooking time but you can do other things while you wait) and, served with Parmesan Crostini, a perfectly simple meal to enjoy in front of television.

A note about garlic: the vegetarian and I both like very flavorful food, so I cook with a LOT of garlic. If you don't like it, feel free to limit the quantities. I will say, though, that white beans (especially Great Northerns) leave a pretty blank canvas so you can get away with rather strong flavors. And roasted garlic has a delightful sweetness. Try it -- you might be pleasantly surprised. Bon Appetit!

White Bean, Sage and Roasted Garlic Spread
(adapted from Chef Marcus Samuelsson)

  • 1.5 cups great Northern beans, soaked 8 hours or as long as you can
  • 7 cups water + 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Leaves from 1 stalk sage (about 10 leaves)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 drizzle olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic-lemon olive oil (or your favorite flavored olive oil)
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • Parmesan Crostini
Place beans, 7 cups water, garlic cloves, sage and bay leaves in a large pot. Cover and simmer, over low heat, for 1 hour and 45 minutes (or until beans are cooked to your liking). Remove bay leaves and drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of bean-cooking water.

While beans are simmering, preheat oven to 350F. Peel off outermost layers of garlic heads, then cut off tops just to expose cloves. Place in an oven-safe earthenware roaster. Drizzle with olive oil and add 1/3 cup water. Cover and bake 45 minutes.

In a food processor, puree together bean/sage/garlic mixturecloves from roasted garlic and 1 tablespoon garlic-lemon olive oil. Add as much of the bean-cooking water as necessary to achieve the consistency of a spread. Stir in salt, black pepper and lemon juice. Serve with Parmesan Crostini.

Links to other white bean and garlic delicacies:

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