We’ve been moving around quite a bit lately, so it’s been hard to find the time to soak beans. Ah, bean soaking. That cooking activity we all say we don’t have time for but of course we do. Well I’ve also grown tired of using canned chickpeas when I’m in the need for some hummus. And the colder it gets, the more I like the idea of a spread and some toasted pita fresh from the oven. While the unsalted kind can work, the texture of the beans many times turns out mealy, and sometimes doesn’t accept any moisture at all. You wind up with an incredibly green, greasy, ball of chickpea dough spinning around and around in your food processor. Not cool. Amusingly enough, this is the first dish Matt and I attempted together, and basically how he was introduced to my cooking. Note to self: salting too early makes for not awesome mouth feel and impermeable starches and proteins.
We’ve got a lot of awesome garlic, parsley, and radish right now, harvested from my mother’s garden. So when I was in need of some hearty spread the other day, I decided to try out some cannellini beans instead. Surprisingly, even a can of Organic salted ones greatly improved the recipe. Cannellini beans have a much better texture – creamy, a little lighter, and more accepting of flavors with much less need for tahini and oil. The spread that materialized out of a lot of finger licking and pureeing reminds of an awesome crostini my friend used to make, the aroma of toasted cumin, and something my cilantro-adoring Indian father always likes to say: “Ewwww, parsley.” With a little sweetness from caramelized onion, a little garlicky kick, and some heat to warm you up, it’s a hearty, addictive snack.
1 small sweet or red onion
1 tablespoon cooking olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon urad, toor, or chana dal (optional)
A few whole peppercorns
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1/3 cup Italian parsley, woody stems removed
Juice of 1/2 lemon
A pinch or more of paprika
4 radishes, ends removed, and 1 radish sliced thinly for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Turn the oven on to 250 degrees.
In a small saute pan, heat the cooking olive oil over medium. Once hot, add the onions and saute without burning until caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir periodically to prevent burning. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove from heat.
Cut the pita into 8ths, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, grind on some pepper, and place evenly on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until crispy. Remove, place in tinfoil, and keep in a warm oven until ready to use.
While the onions and pita are cooking, dry toast the cumin, dal (if using), and peppercorns in a small saute pan on medium. Once they start to pop, add them to the food processor.
Assemble the rest of the ingredients and add them to the food processor, reserving one sprig of parsley and the sliced radish. Once the onions are done, add them as well and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. If it’s a little dry, add in a tablespoon of oil. If not creamy enough, add in a tablespoon of tahini.
Place the spread in a bowl, garnish with the radish and the parsley, and serve the pita on the side. Enjoy!