Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crostini with White Bean Dip

'Tis the season for parties galore, and even if you're not hosting one yourself, I can pretty much bet that you've been invited to one.  Maybe you're supposed to bring some food, and cheese spread and meat balls just aren't cutting it this time.  Maybe your culinary creativity has been called upon to concoct some delicious appetizer for the family Christmas dinner.  Or maybe you just like tasty snacks.  In any case, crostini (a.k.a bruschetta) are a great place to begin, especially if you have one of those Panera baguette loaves from the co-op on hand.

The great thing about crostini ("little toasts" in Italian, in case you were wondering) is that you can pile them with all sorts of different spreads and other toppings.  Tapenade and tomato-basil mixtures are the most common, I think, but I just discovered a yummy white bean dip that uses lots of co-op ingredients, so that's the one you get to hear about today.

Homemade Crostini
Time:  35-40 minutes

1 baguette loaf
2 T. olive oil
1-2 large cloves garlic, peeled

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Slice baguette on an angle into 1/4" to 5/8" thick slices.  I use my biggest kitchen knife, rather than a bread knife, for this.  The older the bread, the harder it is to cut, so you may even want to slice it within a day or two of getting it; you can always toast it later.  Also, resist the temptation to use those bags of pre-sliced bread.  They work in a pinch, but they aren't nearly as good as the real thing.

Next, spread out the bread slices on a baking sheet (you'll probably need two).  Cut off the wide ends of the garlic cloves, then rub the garlic over each piece of bread (sort of like you're grating the garlic).

Use a pastry brush to very lightly coat each slice with olive oil (you can also use a mister).  If you don't have a pastry brush, go to the paint department at Menards and get a couple different sizes of their cheapest brushes.  They have some with wooden handles and natural bristles for under a dollar.  I also just saw some mini silicone brushes at Kroger/Scott's in their Christmas section for a dollar.  I think the natural bristles work better with olive oil, though.

Bake for 10 minutes, then switch the pans (if you're using two) and continue to bake in 5-minute increments.  Mine took about 20 minutes.  I like my crostini to be quite dark, but you can go for a more golden color if you want.

Cool completely and store in sealed plastic bags for up to two weeks or so at room temperature (if they last that long).  Be forewarned that your kitchen will smell very strongly of garlic after baking.  If you're expecting guests, you might want to make the crostini in advance so you don't have anybody swooning.

Now for the dip.  It calls for fresh rosemary, which is about $2 for the little plastic containers at Meijer and Kroger.  I had some in the freezer from a recipe I made months ago, but you can just leave it out if you don't want to splurge.  Just drizzle with a tablespoon of plain olive oil at the end, and sprinkle with a pinch of finely chopped dried rosemary if you have it.

White Bean Dip with Rosemary Oil (based on this recipe)
Yield:  2 cups
Time:  20 minutes

3 T. olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 (15 oz.) cans white beans (I used Great Northern), drained and rinsed
2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. coarse salt (or 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. regular salt)
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, rinsed (optional--see note above)

1. In a medium pan over medium heat, stir 2 T. olive oil with the garlic until fragrant, being careful not to brown garlic, about 1 minute. 

2. Pour the oil and garlic into a food processor. Add white beans, lemon juice, and salt to the food processor and whirl until smooth (it will have a creamy consistency similar to hummus). Transfer to a serving bowl.
(If you're like me and have a small food processor, do this in two batches.  Pour in half the olive oil and one can of beans; repeat; then stir everything together with the lemon juice and salt in a serving bowl.  If you don't have a food processor, you could try mashing the beans with a fork or spoon, then using a hand mixer to combine everything, but I haven't actually tried it, so don't take my word for it.)

3. Return the frying pan to medium heat and add the remaining 1 T. olive oil and the rosemary sprigs. Warm the rosemary in the olive oil until fragrant, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally so the rosemary doesn't burn. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes.

4. Set the rosemary aside and drizzle the olive oil over the bean dip. Mince one teaspoon of the rosemary leaves and sprinkle over the dip.

5. Serve your delicious dip with crostini, pita chips, or crudites.  Can be made up to 3 days in advance.

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