Our dinner guests being vegetarian wasn’t the problem—having dinner guests was the problem. Dinner guests, while certainly welcome in Gourmandistan, do require certain steps to be taken, such as picking up the numerous books and magazines scattered about, removing the cats’ countertop colander bed and making hors d’oeuvre. Michelle looked around the place and assembled some meat-free prospects: a few dried white beans in the pantry, a Blue Dog baguette in the freezer and some fresh sage leaves in the ‘fridge. White bean purée and toasted bread—a nice way to start a vegetarian meal. (The vegetarian meal, by the way, was salad and pizza.) Olive oil for unctuousness, a dash of chili flakes for heat, plus the crunch of fried sage leaves. The perfect start to a delightful evening. No problem!
BRUSCHETTA WITH WHITE BEAN SPREAD
(adapted, very loosely, from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
- 3/4 cup dried white beans
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. dried sage
- Sprig of fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp. olive oil
Boil beans in a saucepan with water to cover by 2 inches for 10 minutes or so. Reduce heat and add garlic, bay leaf, sage, rosemary and oil. Simmer, covered, until beans are tender, adding water if needed. This will take a couple of hours. Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig and drain, reserving the broth.
- 1 head garlic, divided into cloves but unpeeled
- Splash of olive oil
- Splash of water
While beans are cooking, preheat oven to 350°. Put garlic cloves, olive oil and water into an aluminum foil packet. Bake for about 45 minutes, until soft and slightly caramelized. Cool, then squeeze out the soft garlic cloves.
- Additional olive oil
- Salt & pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
Purée the drained beans with the garlic in a food processor, adding additional olive oil, salt and pepper and the lemon juice. Do not scrimp on olive oil; you want it to be unctuous. Add some reserved cooking water if needed. Set aside. (Can be done a day ahead and refrigerated.)
- Olive oil
Thinly slice a baguette. Place slices on a cookie sheet. Brush olive oil over the top of bread slices. Bake in a 350° oven until lightly browned. Set aside.
- Fresh sage leaves, with small amount of branch attached
- Unflavored oil (e.g., canola) mixed with a small amount of olive oil
- Fleur de sel
Heat oil in small skillet. Fry sage leaves, 1 or 2 at a time, for 10 seconds or so per side. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.
Spread bean purée (warmed a bit if prepared in advance) over bread slices. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and top with a fried sage leaf.