white bean dip with rosemary and sage

Well, hello there,  2014!!!  By my calculations, I’m only about two weeks late to the party, but, hey…life has a way of being lived sometimes and I have to admit there’s been little time for cooking AND photographing.  Just cooking, lately, and Brownie meetings to supervise, and piano lessons to patiently sit through, and puppy obedience classes to attend.  Also, believe it or not, it gets dark really early this time of year in the desert.  By 5:30, if I haven’t cooked, plated, and photographed, there’s just not enough natural light.

Ahhh, excuses, excuses, excuses.  Enough of that, on to the bean dip.

I made this for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012.  It was a huge hit with our guests and, even though it was just going to be the three of us this year (one of whom wouldn’t touch the stuff with a ten foot pole), I decided to do it again for our New Year’s Day feast.  We already had too much food, but this dip is so good (and gets better with each passing day), I was happy to have the leftovers for some post-celebration snacking.  It’s low in fat, high in flavor (lots of garlic goodness), and a good source of protein and fiber from the beans.  It’s also really fast and easy to assemble.  Put it together the day before you plan to serve it for maximum flavor mingling!  (I hear there’s a big football game in the not-too-distant future).  Serve with the crackers or crudités of your choice.  Enjoy!!

White Bean Dip with Rosemary and Sage (recipe courtesy Cooking Light, Aug 2007)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • Fresh sage sprig (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth. Serve with pita wedges crackers, fresh veggies. Garnish with sage sprig, if desired.

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balsamic marinated tomato and mozzarella salad

I know there are a lot of food purists out there who will say this is a travesty; the bastardization of the Caprese Salad.  Yes, there is balsamic vinegar which some say you would never find on a Caprese Salad in Italy.   And yes, I served it as a side dish as opposed to a starter as they would in, you guessed it…Italy.

Alas, we are not in Italy.  We are in the United States of America and here?  Here, I put balsamic on my Caprese Salad and serve it as a side dish.  Except there’s one, minor detail.  This isn’t really Caprese salad.  Because it also has minced garlic and chopped onion.  So, there.  Take that, Italy.  It’s a side salad!

Don’t get me wrong.  I love me some Caprese Salad.  It’s the most tantalizing starter at any summer meal.  But this version is basically a balsamic marinade, and the added onion and garlic gives you an added kick in the taste buds.  It really was very, very good.  Lots of robust flavor with the same summer freshness of the purist’s Caprese Salad.  Keep this recipe on hand for summer weekends where you’re not hosting a formal sit down meal with several courses.  This has summer picnics and barbecues written all over it, especially if you’re invited to a summer meal where you’re asked to bring a dish to pass.  Make it ahead and let the flavors mingle.  It’s all good.  Enjoy!

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Balsamic Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (recipe courtesy Food.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, cubes
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

In medium bowl, combine cheese pearls and tomatoes.  In separate bowl, whisk together olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, and chopped basil.  Stir to blend evenly.   When dressing is evenly mixed, toss over cheese and tomatoes, stirring gently to coat.

Chill until ready to serve.

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Cook’s Notes:  Especially where dressings and marinades are involved, always use the best quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil you can afford.

Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip

We had some friends in from Seattle over the New Year and I needed some snacky-type appetizers for the grazing while I worked on the crab cakes.  Mostly, I think the dips and crackers were more of a distraction so no one would notice I didn’t have a clue what I was doing with my crab cakes (which turned out amazingly well for a first-time effort, I might add).  Anyway, this was one of two bean dips I made and I have to say, as much as I liked this one, it wasn’t my favorite.  It needs some tweaking, I think.

What I’d change right off the bat is the amount of olive oil.  It only calls for two tablespoons, but because the recipe uses sun-dried tomatoes packed without oil, I found it a little too dry for my taste.  So I’d either add additional EVOO, or I’d opt for sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil to increase the moisture of the dip.

I might also shop a different brand of sun-dried tomatoes.  The ones I used must have had a higher sugar content because I did find this dip to be a little on the sweet side.  Just an FYI when purchasing ingredients.

If you’re not a huge garlic fan, don’t worry.  I love garlic but was leery of using an entire head of garlic for this recipes.  Fortunately, roasting garlic has the delightful effect of mellowing the flavor and virtually eliminating what some might perceive as pungent garlic overtones.  This dip won’t leave you with embarrassing garlic breath the next day (or, maybe it did and all of us had eaten so much of it we just didn’t offend each other).

Serve with pita wedges, Calabrese crackers, or fresh sliced veggies.  Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole garlic head
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 (3.5-ounce) package sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15.8-ounce) can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drainedDSC_4886

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap head in foil. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes; cool for 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.
  3. Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Add tomatoes; cover and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Drain tomatoes in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup liquid.
  4. Place garlic pulp, tomatoes, 1/4 cup reserved liquid, oil, and remaining ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.

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garlicky baked shrimp

 This is one of many great recipes I’ve tried from over at Real Simple.  One of the things that attracted me to it in the first place was the ease of assembly and the quick cook time.  Getting dinner together in 25 minutes or less is a mind-blowing experience.  Let’s just say, it doesn’t happen often.  Kat is at my elbow more often than not.  She likes to cut and mince and grate and generally dangle off the countertops adding extra minutes to my prep and cook time.

Although it had me at cook/prep time, there was one thing I was concerned about; the reviews for this recipe were generally not favorable.  Granted, there were only three, but none of them were glowing.  And for me, pretty much any recipe with shrimp in it should automatically get five stars.  This one didn’t.  It got two.  But I made it anyway because I just don’t trust everybody who writes a review can truly hold their own in the kitchen.  And shrimp can be tricky if only for the fact it cooks really fast and once it’s overdone, well, there’s just no disguising its overdone-ness.

So I kept an eye on the shrimp while it baked, watching for opaque, tails curled.  If you cook shrimp with any regularity, you’ll recognize when it’s time to pull this from the oven.  I baked these for just about 15 minutes and was using large shrimp.  Keep the size of the shrimp in mind while baking.

Overall, the flavor was really good – definitely could taste the garlic, and the shrimp were done to perfection.  I served them over a long grain Jasmine rice with a side salad and there were no leftovers.  Enjoy!

Garlicky Baked Shrimp

Ingredients:

1 lb medium to large fresh shrimp, raw, peeled and de-veined

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 Tbsp white wine

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 c unsalted butter, cubed (this is a lot of butter – you could safely use less, so use best judgment)

1/4 c panko bread crumbs

2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

Preparation:

  • Pre-heat oven to 425
  • In a baking dish, combine shrimp, garlic, and white wine, stirring to blend well. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with mixture of softened butter, panko bread crumbs, and chopped parsley.
  • Bake until the shrimp are opaque, 15 to 18 minutes
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