In my effort to eat healthier, I’ve been using a lot more beans and legumes in my cooking and a lot less meat. I love cooking with beans: they are so versatile and when prepared correctly, they can be absolutely delicious. And oh yeah, they’re also very, very cheap. Beans are always better when prepared from dry, but let’s face it: most of us don’t have the time or the foresight to soak them for eight hours before a lengthy cooking time. Maybe sometimes we do, but certainly not on your average weeknight. That is why canned beans are a truly inspired invention. They simplify the process of cooking with beans so much, and some of the canned brands are actually quite good. But now here’s a question: what happens when you don’t finish a can? Prepared beans don’t keep for very long, and it always seems difficult to come up with ways of using up small quantities of them. So, what happens to these leftovers? Well, in my kitchen, this happens:
Bean dip! As I said before, beans are wonderfully versatile and wonderfully delicious, and I believe that bean dip is one of the best examples of this. Just about any bean can be made into a dip and in my experience, the results are always satisfying, and yes, healthy! Cooking with beans is not exactly a new idea. You’ll see a variety of these legumes popping up in almost all cuisines, from Italian to Mexican, from Indian to Chinese, and nearly all these national cuisines have some variety of a bean dip.
This particular white bean dip leans toward Italian, but I will not make any claims that it is traditional. I more or less threw it together with items I had around my kitchen, using whatever I thought would taste good. If you include salt and pepper, I only used six ingredients: beans, garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and the aforementioned s and p.
The process is so simple I won’t even bother writing it out as a recipe. This particular time, I used an entire can of beans. I minced up a couple of cloves of garlic and tossed them in my Magic Bullet (use a food processor if you have one … I don’t … a blender would work too) along with the juice of one lemon, a glug of olive oil (a tablespoon or two), the beans, drained and quickly rinsed, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
Blend it until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary to get the mixture to a dip-like consistency. You want it to be looser than a paste, but you don’t want to liquefy it. You could add a little more lemon juice to loosen it as well, just be careful about adding too much. Sour bean dip is not usually desirable. Once you have it at the desired consistency, you can start tasting it and adjusting the seasoning. When you’re satisfied, spoon it into a serving bowl and serve it up with pita bread.
Of course, this is just one of many bean dip options. Try black or red kidney beans blended with garlic, cilantro, lime juice, red onion, and a variety of spices, like cumin and coriander. If you have chickpeas (garbanzo beans), make hummus. Be creative, and have fun. Just don’t let those lovely beans go to waste!