White Bean-Tomato Gratin

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I love to use tomatoes when they’re perfectly red and ripe during the summer months when my garden is behaving properly. I probably overuse them, in fact, because I love tomatoes so much. Sometimes they’re good just sliced, with a little salt. They are also perfect for fresh sauces and salsas, and I’ll certainly cook them when necessary. None go to waste.

But then there are the winter months. Sometimes, “vine-ripened” tomatoes are available at my local grocery store, but these really fall flat in quality. Which isn’t surprising, of course. They sell them even attached to the vine, but they’re never the same.

Fortunately for all of us, there is such a thing as canned tomatoes. The kind you purchase. I haven’t gotten to the point where I’ve canned my own before, because my garden produces just enough for some nibbling and a little cooking, when, like I said, it’s behaving.

But I really love canned tomatoes. They serve a purpose. I think it’s important to buy the best, highest quality you can find, no matter the price. Because it does make a gigantic difference.

And while we’re on canned ingredients, let’s discuss canned beans. Specifically, white beans. From all of my white bean dip posts you know that I happen to respect canned beans. Certainly there’s nothing quite like home-made beans, from scratch, but white beans, like tomatoes in cans, are wonderful when necessary. (And for pureeing purposes, canned white beans process smoother than home-made, I’ve found.)

So today I’m simply making a gratin using canned white beans and tomatoes. The rest you should have on hand. Within an hour, this gratin was done. And it’s good. Please don’t tell me you don’t have time to cook.

White Bean-Tomato Gratin

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
Salt, pepper

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2 – 15.8 ounce cans white beans, rinsed and well drained

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1/2 cup grated Asiago or Parmesan

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1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
Fresh rosemary leaves, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and give them a good stir.
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Add the tomatoes, and cook for just a few minutes. There should be no significant liquid in the bottom of the saucepan. Stir in some salt and pepper to taste.
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Stir in the white beans and remove from the saucepan from the heat. Lightly grease a baking dish. The size of the baking dish depends if you want a thin white bean and tomato layer, topped with a significantly larger amount of breadcrumbs and cheese, or a deeper dish, which is what I chose.

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Place the bean and tomato mixture into the baking dish. Cover with the cheese.
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And then cover with the breadcrumbs.
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Drizzle a little extra olive oil over the top, if desired.
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And then sprinkle a few rosemary leaves over the top, if you like rosemary. This is completely optional. Honestly, there’s not much rosemary flavor in just those few leaves, but I happened to have them on hand, and like the looks of rosemary.

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Bake until the top browns, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

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Today I served the gratin with some sous vide flank steak, which was a really nice combination.
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But the gratin would be delicious with just about any protein.
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Even fish, because it’s not strongly flavored in any way.

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note: If you don’t like rosemary, other options would be to add dried thyme to the white bean and tomato mixture while it’s cooking, or even dried basil or fresh basil. It’s just what flavor you want in the gratin. Even some fresh lemon or orange zest would be lovely. Or, just leave the basic flavors of the onion, garlic, and tomato shine on their own. There is nothing wrong with that.

Another White Bean Dip!

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Last year, for the first in my whole life, I started seeing pumpkin hummus recipes all over the place. And it kind of made me mad. Because why hadn’t I thought of this?

I love pumpkin. And I thought I’d made just about everything possible with pumpkin. When my kids were young I was very adept at sneaking pumpkin into so many different kinds of dishes, because to me, it was just another vegetable that would boost the nutritional value of whatever I was “hiding” it in, whether is was soups or stews or pancakes or oatmeal. Sometimes things got a little orange, but kids aren’t as scared of orange as they are green.

But even now, with kids grown and gone, I still use a lot of canned pumpkin, but I never thought about adding it to hummus! Why not?

I’ve presented white bean dips on my blog before, because I honestly prefer them to hummus. I love a good hummus, with the lemon and tahini additions. But with white bean dip, there’s just so much more that you can do. My favorite ways are a spicy version using cumin, coriander, and cayenne, that was actually published in Gourmet magazine, and an herby way I make white bean dip in the summer, using fresh rosemary. Those seem to be the most popular variations for which I get requests from my family. But now I’m going to have to add another to that list. Pumpkin White Bean Dip.

Oh, this might not be a popular statement, but I also prefer white beans over garbanzos. They process smoother; they’re never pasty or dry.

What I use for my white bean dips are canned white beans. I typically buy great Northern beans, but you can opt for the more expensive canellini beans just as well. The only rule is that they must be well rinsed and drained before using. And a good olive oil is also a must.

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And for today’s dip, the inclusion of pumpkin, except in this case, since it’s January, I’m actually using butternut squash. Same difference. They’re both beautiful, orange winter squashes. I still have some canned pumpkin in my pantry, and I’m pretty sure it would work well. But I wanted to roast the butternut squash first for some extra flavor. It just takes a little more planning.

So here’s what I did.

White Bean Dip made with Butternut Squash

A chunk of peeled butternut squash, about 10 ounces
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 – 15 ounce can of white beans, rinsed and well-drained

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2 cloves garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
More olive oil
Pita chips for serving

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

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Place the butternut squash in some foil. I actually used 4 thick slices from the non-seedy part of the squash. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the foil packet in the oven for a couple of hours. There should be some caramelization on the squash. I could have roasted it a simply in an open dish, but I didn’t want the squash to dry out. When you’re done it should look about like this.

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Let the squash cool, then place it in the food processor jar. Add the drained beans, garlic, cumin, and salt.

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Process until smooth, adding a little olive oil at a time. White bean dip should be soft and smooth, but not runny. It also shouldn’t be pasty thick. That’s why I always pour in oil slowly. You can’t overprocess the dip; if anything, it will just get smoother. So take your time doing it. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dip out into a serving bowl.

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It’s a really good dip with pita crisps.
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For a little color, I sprinkled some paprika on the top, but this is completely optional. Enjoy!

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Note: This dip can be doubled or tripled. I always serve white bean dips within a couple hours of making them.

verdict: Like I said above in the post, this will be one of the top favorite requested dips in my house, as soon as everyone has tried it. I think the roasted butternut squash made a significant difference, but I’ll try it once with canned pumpkin or canned sweet potatoes just to see.

Rosemary’d Dip

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Bean dips are so delicious and versatile, and easily enjoyed year round. One of my favorites is White Bean Dip with spices. This one is similar in the use of white beans, but instead of spices, I only use fresh rosemary. So if you like rosemary, you’ll love this dip.

I don’t know if this is as much a dip or a spread, since I typically serve it with a spreader, especially with guests. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s a soft, spreadable purée of rosemary-flavored white beans. It can served in a bowl alongside breads and crackers, as I have, or creatively topped on crostini for a prettier presentation.

And let’s not forget the healthful benefits of beans. It’s wonderful to enjoy a delicious appetizer that’s actually good for us!

Rosemary’d White Bean Dip

2 cans Great Northern Beans, well drained and rinsed
1/4 good extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves*
1/2 teaspoon salt

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Place the drained beans in the jar of a food processor. Add the olive oil and the garlic, and puree until the mixture is smooth. I always process the garlic first to ensure there are no pieces of garlic left, then proceed with the recipe.

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I remove the germ from my garlic when I’m using it fresh in a recipe like this, and it’s not going to be cooked, like in a stew. Supposedly the germ is bitter. I’ve not tested this theory, but I do remove it when making this dip. I want a delicious fresh garlic flavor – not a flavor that is bitter and overly pungent. This is especially the case when the garlic is trying to sprout and the germs get quite large. I completely avoid them.

Scape down the puréed beans in the jar and process again.

If you’ve picked your rosemary early in the day, simply stick them in water to keep them fresh. I routinely do this even though I’m not sure how much it helps! I figure it can’t hurt.

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Then add the rosemary leaves and salt to the beans. If you think that the bean purée could be a little softer, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Pulse just to combine, then add the rosemary and salt. If you’re making it about 3-4 hours before serving, definitely make it on the soft side, because the beans will absorb the oil. But I wouldn’t make it any earlier then 3 or 4 hours.

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Place the dip in a serving bowl and serve at room temperature with assorted breads, and/or crackers. Vegetables are good with it, too.

If you make this dip a few hours before serving, keep it at room temperature; don’t refrigerate it. It’s not good refrigerated overnight, either. It just loses the good texture.

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* My rosemary this time of year is much less pungent than in the summer, so depending when you make this dip, make sure you taste it. Fresh rosemary can be very strong. But whatever you do, don’t use dried rosemary.

note: You could certainly use garbanzo beans in this recipe, but I prefer white beans for dips. You can see how soft and smooth they are in the photo after they’ve been pureed with the oil and garlic. In my experience, garbanzo beans never get this smooth, which is why I prefer white beans. I’ve heard that if the garbanzos are peeled, they will become smoother, but I’m not about to bother with that extra step.