White Bean Dip
I can’t believe that after all these years, I’ve never made white bean dip. I’ve made dips with eggplant, chickpeas, eggplant again, and even weeds, if you can believe it. I don’t know, it always seemed like it would be too plain, or ho-hum. A mound of puréed beans? No thanks.
But boy, was I wrong. First up, of course, are the beans. There are good beans and there are not-so-good beans. The good ones are fresh and buttery tasting. The not-great ones are old and stale. Who knew that dried beans went bad? Dried beans generally have a shelf life of about one year and if you’ve ever tried to cook up a batch of dried beans and they’ve remained stubbornly tough, it’s usually because they’ve been hanging around too long.
I had a bag in my pantry since, well, I can’t remember when I bought them. So as we say in the restaurants business, “Use ’em or lose ’em” – so if you’ve got some beans in your pantry that you keep pushing aside, as I was (to reach for the chocolate) now is the time to get ’em soaking, folks.
When you’re buying ‘fresh’ dried beans, get them from a good source for best results. There are some wonderful heirloom bean suppliers in the states, such as Rancho Gordo, Phipps Ranch, and Seed Savers Exchange. In Paris, I get mine from an épicerie that has a lot of turnover; La Grainerie du Marché d’Aligre, which is a favorite place to shop at.
For this batch, I used the famed Haricots Tarbais, which are kind of pricey but have an especially rich flavor and since I don’t do drugs, I spend the money that I save on good dried beans. Haricots Tarbais start off ivory-white, but after an hour of so of simmering, they soften and take on a burnished caramel color, which gives the dip an extra boost of flavor. They cost about 5 times what other beans cost, so you don’t need to go as wacky as I did. (Although think of all the drugs I could buy if I bought crummy beans!) But yes, I have made this with supermarket dried beans, and it’s definitely much better with good ones.
However canned beans will do in a pinch – it’s not the end of the world if you use them – and if you keep a tin in the pantry, with your chocolate, this is a great last-minute recipe to whiz together to serve before dinner with thin slices of toasted bread. I’m a fan of grainy breads, which work rather nicely with the bold flavors of the chopped herbs and the garlic used in this dip.
In addition to the fresh herbs, the olive oil is important as well. Don’t be afraid of olive oil. Like butter, it’s a flavor, not just something you use to fry onions in. And if you use a good brand, you can use it judiciously because it has so much more flavor than those big greenish bottles that cost $2.99. (It’s funny that people will pay $10-$20 for a bottle of wine that they’ll polish off in one sitting, but balk at paying that for a bottle of olive oil that will last them at least a month.)
But I’m hopelessly frugal as well, hence you’ll notice that I’m parsimonious with the oil mixed in the dip, but use it generously poured over the top, where it shines.