White Bean and Sage Dip


I was originally not going to post this recipe because I whipped it up in a hurry and thought it was too simple. But then I took it to a party with me last night and was surprised to find that it was a huge hit! I guess simple is often better.

Originally I was inspired to make this because I have a sage plant growing in my kitchen that was looking a little scraggly, and was desperately in need of a trim. As I’m sure you are aware, pruning your herb garden means cooking with the cast-off trimmings. I think most people think of sage primarily for things like turkey and stuffing, but since we are vegan and gluten-free, I had to come up with another way to use it. I remembered that sage pairs really well with white beans, and since I knew I had a party coming up, I figured I’d make a dip to stand in for the ubiquitous hummus platter.

Working with sage is a really enjoyable experience. If you’ve never played with fresh sage in your kitchen before, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Not only does it smell amazing, but the tactile experience is fun too. Sage is furry! And it chops up really fine without getting crushed and soggy like some other herbs can.

This dip is great with veggie crudites, the same way you’d eat hummus. But also really does well as a spread on crackers or bread. I spread my leftovers on a raw gluten-free “bread,” topped it with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and a tiny bit of fleur de sel for an open-faced sandwich. Heaven.

I used cannellini beans for this, but I think navy or great northern beans would work great too. I also opted to use garlic oil instead of putting raw garlic into the dip because I wanted only the tiniest hint of garlic, and I didn’t want it to overwhelm the sage. If you are a garlic nut, go ahead and toss a few cloves in and see how it goes.

NOTE: You can easily make your own garlic oil by slicing the cloves from a bulb of garlic and warming them gently in about a cup of oil. You don’t want them sizzling violently and jumping out of the pot, just heated through enough to infuse flavor into the oil.

White Bean and Sage Dip (or Spread)

Ingredients

  • ½ pound (1 cup) white beans, soaked and cooked OR 2 cans beans, drained and rinsed
  • Juice of 1 lemon (meyer lemon if available)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup garlic oil or fruity olive oil
  • A large palmful of sage leaves, chopped fine

Method

Place the beans, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into a food processor and process until a thick paste forms. Using the feeder tube and with the food processor still running, add the oil. Continue to process until the texture is very smooth. Add the sage leaves and pulse a few times just to mix them in.

Serve as a dip or a spread. Will keep in the fridge for several days.

Makes about 3 cups

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Pomegranate Party Trick

pomegranate-091021-0001Autumn brings us so many tasty delights, I look forward to it every year. I think Autumn may be my favorite season. In addition to beautiful fall foliage, we get beautiful squashes and pumpkins, gorgeous greens, and of course…pomegranates! I always get so excited when I pick up my first pomegranate of the season, and this year is no exception.

pomegranate-091021-0003Pomegranate seeds are not just pretty to look at and tasty as all get-out, but they are packed with nutrition too. They are high in vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber, and are low in calories.

I love to put pomegranate seeds on just about everything, and they work really well with both savory and sweet dishes. I will sprinkle them on salads, soups, ice cream, overtop of pumpkin bread…anywhere I can think of.

One of my favorite things to do with pomegranate seeds is to float them in a carbonated beverage. Yes, pomegranate seeds can float! So today instead of a recipe, I offer you this formula for an impressive party beverage:pomegranate-091021-0002

  • Carbonated Beverage
  • Slice of lime (optional)
  • Pomegranate seeds

I love to use sparkling water for this, it is an almost-no-calorie treat. The pomegranate seeds sink to the bottom of the glass at first, but then float up onto a wave of carbonation. For a more adult beverage, I like prosecco, or even champagne.

TIP: I promise this trick can make even cheap champagne more impressive!

What other carbonated beverages can you think of to try? (Please don’t say beer!)

Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

tomato-091002-0001Tomato season is almost over! We might have one more good week left here on the mid-Atlantic east coast before it’s gone.

This makes me sad. But fortunately for me, it’s been a great season for tomatoes.

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And fortunately for me, I’ve been getting these lovely bags of tomatoes the past few weeks from my CSA. There have been abundant heirlooms, romas, beefsteaks, cherry, and pear tomatoes. They have all been amazing, but it’s these little bitty cherry and pear tomatoes that really inspire me.

They have been showing up in mouth-watering shades of red, yellow, orange, and tiger striped. They are intensely sweet and delicious; I’d have to say that on the Tomato Flavor Scale™ of one to ten, these go to eleven. I love to eat them plain, but mixing them with a few other ingredients out of my CSA delivery really brings up their flavor.

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When I make this little salad, I tend to just leave it out on the counter and snack on on it as the mood strikes. Taking a few minutes to treat your tomatoes this way also makes them great to use for pizza topping or in wraps.

Also, I think it pays to take the time to chop your garlic by hand for this one. The texture and appearance is better than pressing it. It won’t take too much time to do this, I promise…it’s just one clove!

Trust me, your taste buds will thank you…

Tip: If you weren’t already aware, you should store your tomatoes at room temperature whenever possible for best flavor and texture.


Little Tomato, Garlic, and Basil Salad

Ingredients

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  • 1 generous pint cherry, pear, or small roma tomaotes
  • 1 generous handful basil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil (optional)

Method

Quarter your little tomatoes and put them in a bowl (romas may need to be cut into smaller pieces). Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt to start pulling out some of the juices.

Chop your basil and mince your garlic, and add it to the bowl. Give the whole thing a splash of red wine vinegar, a splash of olive oil (if using), and a grind of pepper. Toss to combine, taste for seasoning and add a little more salt if necessary.

Let the mixture sit in its own juices on the counter for about 30 minutes, if you can wait that long. (I often cannot!)

When ready to use, strain out the juices and set aside. Enjoy your tomatoes at room temperature.

tomato-091002-0001-2Tip: You can also add a few other things to play with the flavors here. I’ve tried this with different combinations of herbs, including parsley and mint. I’ve also tossed in some diced roasted red pepper when I’ve had it on hand, and a little diced jalapeno for some kick.

BONUS TIP: Don’t throw away that liquid once you’ve strained your tomatoes! Everything that has been sitting in the bowl and marinating has given some flavor to that juice. You can use the liquid to replace some or all of the cooking liquid in your pizza dough or a savory bread. Use it to make a light salad dressing. Or add it to your next batch of soup or stock. If you don’t think you’ll use it right away, freeze it and it will be ready when you are.

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Lemon Ginger Tea

lemon-090930-0002Lemons are really wonderful. No one would ever sit down and eat a lemon or drink a glass of straight lemon juice unless it was for a dare. But added to food and drinks, lemon brings an amazing brightness and pleasant acidity to many foods, both savory and sweet.

But when using lemon, there is a dark side of which we must be careful. It is….BOTTLED LEMON JUICE.amcor_cliffstar_lemon_juice

Oof, I shiver just to look at it.

Let’s consider bottled lemon juice for a moment…have you ever tasted the stuff straight out of the bottle? And then tasted a real lemon? They don’t taste remotely alike. It’s like bottled met fresh at a party once, and that’s all they have in common. Bottled just tastes kinda dead, and it certainly isn’t doing your food any favors either.

To be fair, there is one thing that bottled juice is good for, and that is canning tomatoes and tomato products (which I will discuss in another post). But if you don’t can, then you don’t need it.

Juicing lemons takes hardly any time at all, and it will really elevate the flavor of your food if you’re not already using fresh juice; this is a case where the effort is more than worth the return.

No special equipment is needed, you can juice lemons with a fork over a bowl if you want to. But if you’re going to take the plunge, I recommend splurging on a reamer that sits above a measuring cup (such as this one from oxo), which is actually really handy for juicing any citrus fruits.

You will notice that in all my recipes, I stress that you must use fresh lemon juice. Now you know why. There are certain foods that I make and take to parties with me that always have people asking me “what’s the secret?” Now you know the secret.

So let’s jump in and make something that really showcases fresh lemon juice: my favorite tea.

Technically, this is an “infusion” and not tea. It is inspired by a drink I used to order in the Bookworm Cafe on Lamma Island when I lived in Hong Kong. It is really versatile and the quantities can be liberally adjusted to suite your taste.

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Lemon Ginger Tea

Ingredients

  • a 3″ piece of ginger root
  • 2-3 lemons, juiced
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar

Method

Give the ginger a good scrub under running water (I don’t usually even bother to peel it). Slice it into thin coins, and place into a tea pot or pitcher. Add lemon juice, boiling water, and agave nectar. Stir to combine, and let steep.

The amount of time you let the tea steep will affect how spicy it gets from the ginger…longer time means spicier. I really like the kick of ginger so I tend to let it sit for quite a while before drinking.

Taste the tea and adjust the sweetness and acidity as desired but playing with the agave and lemon juice.

Serve hot OR over ice. It’s delicious both ways.

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TIP: If you’re really feeling saucy, how about adding some fresh mint as well?

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Simple Savory Avocado

food-090930-0003Avocados were not a food that I grew up eating. In fact, I don’t think that I even tasted an avocado until well into my 20s. I wish I could remember the first time my face encountered a perfectly ripe avocado’s rich, velvety smoothness and clean taste, which has now become something I absolutely adore.

While guacamole is a pretty well-known and DELICIOUS way to serve avocados, I also like them more simply done up: they really come into their own when roughly chopped and sprinkled over a hot bowl of chili, sliced thin and laid out over a veggie pizza in lieu of cheese, or mashed into some crusty grilled bread with just a pinch of coarse sea salt.

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One of my favorite ways to serve avocados is this easy dish. It takes just a few minutes to prepare (you could probably even get to sub-minute times if you really practiced) and the dressing can be made days in advance.

You can make your own variation by subbing in ginger, or another kind of vinegar, or some hot sauce. No matter how you go about it, this is a really impressive way to showcase any creamy ripe avocados you can get your mitts on. I like to make up the dressing and keep it in the fridge, so that I can pull it out and splash it over avocado halves as the mood strikes. You really couldn’t ask for a quicker, more elegant, or more satisfying small dish.

TIP: If your avocados are hard when you buy them, leave them on the counter for a day or two until they yield slightly to gentle pressure. They should retain some firmness and NOT feel squishy. As soon as you think you’ve got one at the height of its ripeness, you can toss it into the fridge for a few days to halt the process so that it will stay perfect until you need it. I actually prefer to buy my avocados on the hard side so that I can control how soft they get before they make it onto my plate.

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Simple Savory Avocado

Ingredients

  • Juice of one lemon (you MUST use fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
  • Ripe avocados

Method

Prepare the dressing first. Combine the lemon juice, soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic in a small jar (or bowl). Shake (or whisk) to combine. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a week.

When ready to serve, halve, pit, and peel your avocados. Place in a bowl or on a platter, drizzle with the dressing, and garnish as desired (chopped parsley or a sprig dill are nice). Enjoy right away!

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