Saturday, March 20, 2010

Garlic Toasts with White Bean Puree, Fried Sage & Pickled Shallots

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
Serves 4


White Bean Puree:
1 1/2 cups great northern beans
10 large sage leaves
2 bay leaves
1 head garlic
about 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

First, cook the beans: Sort through the beans and discard any wayward pebbles. Then, either cover with cool water and soak overnight at room temperature, or cover with boiling water and soak one hour. Pour off the soaking liquid.  Add the beans to a medium pot, along with the sage and bay leaves and about 1 tsp salt.  Cover with water and simmer gently until very tender, about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. When tender, remove the bay leaves and drain, saving the cooking liquid.

While beans are cooking, prep the garlic: Pull apart the head of garlic into separate cloves.  Slice off the tough bottom ends of each clove, and remove the peels, leaving the garlic cloves whole.  Place peeled garlic cloves in a small sauce pot and cover just barely with extra-virgin olive oil.  Turn heat to medium and simmer until garlic is tender and lightly golden brown, 30-40 minutes.

Add the beans (along with the sage leaves), 1/4 cup of the garlic-cooking oil, 1 tsp salt and about half of the cooked garlic to the bowl of a food processor.  Puree to smooth, then taste it.  If you’d like more garlic, add a little more, or even all if it.  (The strength of garlic can vary widely, so make sure you go by taste.)  Puree for about two minutes, until the mixture is incredibly smooth.  Add bean cooking liquid as needed, to give a spreadable consistency.  To store, refrigerate in an air-tight container.  Will keep about five days.  Should be served at room temperature or slightly warm.

Pickled Shallots:
1/2 # shallots
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
4 thyme sprigs
1 Tbl sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pink peppercorns, lightly crushed

Slice the top and bottom ends off of each shallot, and remove the peels.  Using a mandolin or a sharp knife, thinly slice the shallots into rings.  Place shallot rings into a large bowl, then pour boiling water over the shallots to cover.  Soak 2 minutes, then drain and rinse and shallots.
Combine the shallots with the vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, sugar, salt, peppercorns and 3/4 cup cold water.  Place a plate on top, to help submerge the shallots.  If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the shallots, add equal amounts of water and vinegar.  Rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then refrigerate in an air-tight container until needed.  Will keep about 2 weeks.


Garlic Toasts:
1/2 French baguette
garlic-cooking oil, from above
flaky sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Slice the bread into thick 1/2-inch rounds.  Liberally brush both sides with the garlic oil.  Arrange slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then sprinkle with salt.  Bake until golden brown and crispy on the outside, but still tender and chewy on the inside, about 15 minutes.  Time this so you can serve the hors d’oeuvres while the toasts are still warm.

Fried Sage Leaves:
8-12 especially pretty sage leaves
1/2 cup vegetable oil
kosher salt, to taste

Add oil to a very small sauce pot and place over medium heat.  When oil is about 350°F, add a couple sage leaves.  (You don’t really need a thermometer for this.  When you think it should be about hot enough, add one sage leaf.  It should sizzle.  If it doesn’t, the oil is too cold.  If it burns right away, then it’s too hot.)  It will only take about 3-4 seconds for the leaves to get crispy.  Remove them from the oil with a fork and drain on a paper towel.  Season immediately with a small sprinkle of salt.  Repeat with remaining sage leaves.  You should serve these not too long after frying, so they stay crisp. 

Final Assembly:
everything prepared above
about 1 Tbl capers

Spread a couple tablespoons of bean puree on top of each warm garlic toast.  Garnish half with a single fried sage leaf, and half with a cluster of pickled shallots and about 5-6 capers.




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