This White Bean Spread is so laughably easy I feel like a complete doofus for waiting so long to write about it. This recipe is as simple as it gets: it's perfect for a super-healthy snack, great as a delicious, filling appetizer, and it's so hilariously cheap you'll feel like you're cheating the system by making it.
Basic White Bean Spread
About 2 cups of cooked white beans (see below for directions, see also note #1 below)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
2-4 garlic cloves, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, cayenne pepper and salt, to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil, to taste
1-3 Tablespoons reserved liquid from cooked beans
1) Cook white beans according to directions below. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.
2) Add two generous cups of the cooked white beans to a food processor. Pulse a few times, then add the lemon juice, garlic, pepper and salt. Blend thoroughly. Then, add the cooking liquid and olive oil in increments of 1 Tablespoon each, until you're happy with the thickness of the spread. Adjust seasonings to taste.
3) To serve, place spread in a small bowl, make a well in the center and pour a small amount of olive oil in the well. Shake a generous few shakes of cayenne pepper or paprika over everything to add a splash of color. Serve with crackers and/or raw veggies.
How to cook dried white beans:
Cover beans with 3-4 inches of water in a large soup pot. Let soak overnight. The next day, rinse the beans, then cover with 3-4 inches of new water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-2 hours, until the beans are done to your liking. Drain, reserving some of the liquid to adjust the thickness of the bean spread.
Serves 4 easily as an appetizer.
1) Dried or canned? Readers, it's really easy to cook your own dried beans. But if you're pressed for time, or (like me until recently) slightly intimidated by the idea of dealing with dried beans, you can feel free to substitute a 1-pound 13-ounce can of canned white beans. Drain the beans, reserving about a quarter-cup of the canning liquid (you'll use it to adjust the spread to your desired consistency), rinse the beans in a colander and you're good to go.
2) Modification ideas: A standard white bean spread is modest, mild and simple, but there's a gazillion ways you can modify it and jazz it up. Consider adding handful of leafy greens, like spinach or swiss chard. Or a handful of fresh parsley for color and an extra flavor nuance. Some versions of this recipe call for roasted garlic, which adds still more nuance.
Of course, the possibilities with spices are endless. A half-teaspoon of ground cumin. A few shakes of cinnamon or nutmeg. And obviously you can bring the heat: chipotle pepper for a smoky hot flavor, or a full teaspoon of cayenne pepper for a five-alarm white bean spread.
Readers, if you have your own spice or ingredient variations, please share them in the comments!
3) Help! I cooked a 1-pound bag of white beans and I'm drowning in beans! One pound of dried white beans (which is just over 2 cups of this magical fruit) leaves you with a lot of cooked beans. Your beans will expand to nearly 3x their volume as they cook, leaving you with 6 cups of cooked white beans in total.
So here's an idea: cook a full 1-pound bag of dried beans. Use 2 cups of cooked beans for your spread, and then use the remaining 4 cups for two separate recipes: a batch of Easy Minestrone Soup and a double batch of White Bean and Kielbasa Soup. Wham. You're sitting on a week's worth of food.
4) Laughable cheapness alert: In other words, this single pound of dried white beans not only produces a healthy and delicious bean spread, it also can go on to be the foundation ingredient for two different soups that collectively feed up to 15 people. All from a cute little bag of beans that cost perhaps $1.29.
5) Finally, this is what the bowl looked like 30 seconds after I set it on the table.
No, I'm not married to a pack of wolves... I'm married to a perfectly nice, petite woman who briefly lost control of herself when I set this down in front of her. See? I'm telling you, it's good.
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