Wednesday, July 16, 2014

White Bean & Roasted Tomato Dip

Before Austin hit the map with its celebrity chefs and renowned restaurants we were literally starving for casual, yet upscale places to have a bite. While we were in college in the 90s there were a small handful of great places, but most of Austin was fraught with chain restaurants, greasy college grub joints, inferior Tex Mex and mediocre BBQ.

And then suddenly around 1997 our little college town started earning its culinary PhD. St Edward's was flanked by grubby South Congress, which was riddled with a few funky shops, prostitutes (and the senators that loved them), XX movie theaters and a sprinkling of gang bangers. And then one lucky day, Vespaio opened. Named after the den of wasps found in the walls during the demolition, Vespaio was met hungrily by the small crowd of us who envisioned a more sophisticated, but charming Austin dining scene. We dreamed of the Austin it has become (other than the traffic). And we dreamers happily waited in line for two hours to try the inventive cuisine offered to us. All these years later, she still purrs like a wizened cat among the kittens and we had the most delicious dinner there with old friends recently.

 Culotte of Beef with Bordelaise and White Truffle Risotto.

Pizza with Prosciutto, Arugula & Egg.

This recipe is inspired by the white bean dip we had on our last visit. I loath hummus- not sure why, but I do. Chickpeas just aren't my thing and I always inwardly groan when someone pops open supermarket hummus at get togethers. Blech! But this recipe is vastly different and hopefully will have you thinking of taking a break from hummus.

There are two ways to make this. Easy and fast, or slow cooked and better. I prefer the slow cooked and better method, but will share the easy and fast recipe as well.

LOW, SLOW, BETTER
2 cups cannellini dried white beans, soaked in cold water overnight. Place them in a heavy pot with a lid and add halved onion, bay leaf and cover beans with two inches of water. Cover and simmer a couple of hours until beans are tender.

While beans are cooking, cut the root of of a whole garlic bulb, drizzle with oil, wrap in foil and roast 30 minutes in a 320 degree oven. If you like them completely mushy and easy to spread on toast, then roast about 45 minutes.

Open a jar of roasted tomatoes soaked in oil- pull out a couple of them for the dip.

Once beans are cooked and garlic is roasted and squeezed from the bulb, add them in a blender with the squeeze of a lemon and a good glug of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons), some sea salt and tomatoes (I used two slivers). Blend until pureed. You could add a little water if it is really thick. Or a few dashes of good wine vinegar if you like it more acidic.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, flaky salt (like Cypress or Maldon salt) and some red pepper flakes. The dip is great with raw veggies or toasted french bread, crackers, spread on a burger. You name it.

EASY, STILL TASTY.
Drain and thoroughly rinse a can of cannellini beans, grate a small garlic clove with jarred tomatoes (or red beller pepper), squeeze in a lemon, olive oil and add some salt and puree till smooth. This will still taste great in a pinch, but not as deep in flavor as the low & slow method. And here's one more SUPER EASY way...

Many specialty or upscale grocery stores now have marinated olive bars stocked with great things like marinated beans, garlic, artichokes, peppers. Grab some, take them home and blend them with fresh lemon juice and herbs. EASY!!!

I have fallen in love with these gluten free crackers!

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