Growing up, my mother made – very regularly – a healthy Chinese bean soup that I really really didn’t like. The memory alone was enough to turn me off of beans in general for many many years. But I’ve decided that they can’t all be bad, so I’m giving them another chance by cooking my way through different types. For example, it turns out that my aversion to all things bean-like was misdirected towards lima beans (Lima Bean Soup recipe here). So for my Cooking with Ali’s 100th post party, I tested out navy beans by making a white bean puree and serving it on toasted slices of baguette. The sweetness and texture of the onions is perfect in this simple bean spread. I also love that the subtle flavour of the garlic takes a few seconds to surface. My guests really liked it too. I owe you an apology, navy bean, for 2 decades of misjudgment.
adapted from Chef Christopher Cina. Note that the flavour is the best around the third day, which makes this perfect for entertaining as it can be made well in advance. This recipe makes about 1 quart of pate.
4 cups (375 g) dried navy beans, soaked in cold water for 24 hours
1 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1 large bay leaf
1 large onion (yellow or red), sliced finely
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup whole garlic cloves
3/4 cup olive oil (use more if you prefer a wetter texture)
salt and black pepper to taste
Simmer (do not boil!) the white beans in unsalted water with the bay leaf just until they start to split and soften, about 1 hour. While the white beans are simmering, in a small sauté pan, cover the garlic cloves with oil. Place them on medium low heat and allow them to soften and turn golden brown. Allow to cool. Heat a larger sauté pan with 2 tbsp of oil, place on medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the onions and cook until they start to develop some color, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar to the onions, reduce until almost all of the liquid is gone and remove from heat. The onions should still have the slightest crunch to them. When the beans have finished, remove the bay leaf and drain. While the beans are still hot, mash in the butter, a tbsp at a time and continue to mix until all the butter has been incorporated. Add the garlic and oil and puree with an immersion hand blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Then mix in the onions and vinegar with a wooden spoon. Keep in mind while seasoning hot ingredients that will be served cold, you want to slightly over salt as the saltiness will dissipate considerably when served cold. Remove to a serving dish and chill for at least 4 hours.
Serve with bread slices or crackers. If you’re planning on pre-spreading the white bean puree onto slices of bread, you should let it soften slightly at room temperature first. I warm a french baguette loaf in a 350 F oven for 3 minutes. Then I slice the baguette on the diagonal and toast the slices on a baking sheet in the preheated oven for 7 minutes. When I want crunchier bread, I brush some olive oil on both sides of the bread slices before toasting. Then I spread the dip onto the bread slices and serve.