Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Party fare...thoughtfully made.

We are enjoying a delightful ice storm in the region at present, so I wasn't too keen on leaving the house and having to chip my car out and slide down the roads. But my dear friend was having a Christmas party Saturday night, and I was afraid that she might not have many guests. Since I decided to attend at the last minute, I didn't have much time to pull together anything fancy to take to the potluck party. So I threw together that simple Tuscan white bean dip and crostini that I had at the Christmas cookie exchange last week.

For once I was purposefully trying to be low-key and not to impress anyone with my gourmet wizardry. But when I got a plate of food from the fabulous buffet and sat down to socialize, a friend specifically asked if I had brought that white bean dip? I said yes, but how would she know that? Her response was that she knew by the crostini that were so "thoughtfully made." LOL! All I did was cut up a baguette, brush some olive oil on the slices, and broil them for a few minutes, and only on one side! Not very fancy. But I guess some folks would open up a box of crackers and call it good? (To avoid protests from the Boxed Cracker Defamation League, I'd like to say publicly that I am a strong supporter of boxed crackers, especially those red bean and sweet potato Triscuits.)

Anyway, I followed the recipe below, but I added the zest of the lemon that I juiced, about two tablespoons of shredded parmesan, and about the same amount of pine nuts. Oh, and a bunch of chopped fresh parsley. Good stuff! 

White Beans and Rosemary Crostini
(Source: adapted from Under the Tuscan Gun)

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1/4 pound pancetta, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thickly sliced
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed
2 (15 ounce) cans cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons shredded parmesan, optional
2 tablespoons pine nuts, optional
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley, optional
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Baguette, sliced

1. Heat fireplace to a medium heat. Adjust grill racks over the flame and heat a heavy dutch oven over the rack. Alternatively, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.

2. Once hot, add the oil to heat. Add pancetta and render some of its fat. Add rosemary and garlic and sauté until fragrant.

3. Stir in beans and lemon juice and zest. Mash the beans with the back of the wooden spoon. Don’t mash them all smooth- you want some texture. Stir in the parmesan, pine nuts, and parsley (if using), and season with salt and pepper.

4. Toast sliced baguette. Serve the beans on top of the toasted bread. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.

Ooh, and here's a great idea if you have any of the spread left over. I made a double batch for the party, so I had some left. Today I took four smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed them, and put them in the crock pot with about six cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock and cooked this for several hours on high until the the potatoes were very tender. Of course, you can just simmer this on the stove if you're in a hurry. Once the potatoes were soft, I used a stick blender to blend the potatoes and broth until smooth, then I stirred in about two cups of the leftover bean spread. At this point, you can add some cream or half-and-half, too, if you like. Garnish with some crabmeat, and TA-DAH, Sweet Potato and White Bean Bisque with Crab! (You could also swap out the sweet potatoes for any kind of winter squash.) DELISH!

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