Tuesday, August 25, 2009

When you need a little snack

This may be hard to believe, but I am not a huge snacker. This seems at odds with my food-obsessed nature, but it's the truth. I guess I've never liked most snack foods all that much and I find them pretty easy to resist. I'd rather spend my indulgences on wine or dessert.

Sometimes I do like to fix a little something before dinner, though, if we're sitting around and getting a little hungry but not so hungry that I feel like cooking yet. My favorite thing to have in these cases is cheese and crackers. On the cracker front, I am pretty flexible. I can certainly appreciate a fancy cracker (I like those thick-cut olive oil and sea salt ones) but I can also throw down on some Triscuits. I am a little pickier when it comes to cheese. One I really love is d'Affinois, a French double-cream cow's milk cheese similar to Brie. I was introduced to this cheese about six years ago and since then have always preferred it to Brie. It's incredibly creamy and has a lovely, fresh flavor.

My favorite cheese, though, hands-down, is Cowgirl Creamery's Mount Tam. If you have never had Mount Tam, stop reading this silly blog and get thee to the creamery. Or if you don't happen to live within driving distance of Pt. Reyes, you can find this delightful cheese at Whole Foods. I love this cheese so much I don't let myself buy it unless I have the excuse of company coming over. Otherwise I go a little crazy. I also like their Red Hawk, but it's a little pungent.

But when there's no Mount Tam to be had, I bake some pita chips and whip up a little puree of cannellini beans. The chips are super simple--cut some pita bread into whatever shapes you like, toss with olive oil, coarse sea salt, and pepper (the key is to press the salt into the pitas) and bake for 18-20 minutes at 375 or 400, tossing once. I do them on convection, because it gets them nice and crispy.

The puree is easy too. I struggle with what to call this--bean dip is reminiscent of the weird peel-top refried stuff that shows up at Super Bowl parties, and hummus doesn't do it justice. I think hummus is OK, but often I find it a little on the gritty side, and too garlicky. Cannellini beans make a much creamier dip, and I vastly prefer the flavor. Garbanzo beans always taste like can to me, no matter how many times you rinse them.

What I do is rinse two cans of cannellini beans really well. Then I throw them in the food processor with some chopped rosemary and pulse it a little. After that I add the juice of two lemons, olive oil, and lots of salt and pepper. You can add as much or as little of anything as you like. I try to lean on lemon more than oil, but I never skimp with salt. Salt makes or breaks the puree.

Of course, you could add anything you like to this--garlic, or other fresh herbs. I tend to make it the same way because I always have lemons, oil, and fresh rosemary on hand. I like that in spite of its humble ingredients, this emerges a rather elegant snack, one I often serve to guests. What they usually say is, "Did you make this hummus? It's amazing!" I always want to correct them and say it's not hummus, it's a white bean puree. But I suppose that's not being a very gracious host. So I just load up a pita chip with the creamy, herb-flecked puree and nod and smile. Who cares what it's called, anyway? If it tastes good, that's what matters.

18 comments:

  1. That looks awesome, I could go for some right now. Seriously I could, I have no idea when my girlfriend is getting home so I can start dinner... heh.

    I snack a lot, usually at night, which is the worst. But I'm a night owl so that's when I sitting around.

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  2. Fantastic looking dip/bean snack thingy - and healthy too! I love cannelini beans ...I make patties using the beans, canned tuna and grated parmesan, great for desperate dinners.

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  3. This looks delicious! I usually love white bean dip whenever I have it at restaurants but have not tried making it myself. Now I think I'll have to try it.

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  4. Simple but wondeful. Sounds full of flavor. I agree about the salt. Salt, sugar and fat make food taste good. It's as simple as that!

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  5. Bob: whip some up! It's so quick, you could be snacking in minutes.

    shaz: I love the idea of the little patties. Do you bind them with egg and bread crumbs?

    jglee: You should try it, it's so simple and versatile. Good with raw veggies too if you don't feel like pita chips.

    Gypsy Chef: The power of salt is amazing. I especially love kosher and sea salt.

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  6. Oh, I LOVE Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk, it's like butter! I used to love snacking on good cheese. Then I got my cholesterol checked. Ugh! I still eat cheese but not as often and in moderation. Your cannelini dip looks great, and I actually like hummus, so this might be a nice alternative. Happy snacking!

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  7. I have to comment about the d'Affinois. It's my absolute favorite and I am, admittedly (and shamefacedly?), not a cheese fan. But I can scarf down a lot of d'Affinois before I remember that I don't like cheese. We're headed to Point Reyes this weekend for my man's birthday (and dinner at Osteria Stellina). We'll have to get some Cowgirl Mount Tam.

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  8. this is a truly excellent snack!

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  9. I love having a snack before dinner too and you really can't beat cheese and crackers for a quick fix! This puree sounds like a perfect party appetizer and I always make my own pita chips too.

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  10. I, too, am a huge fan of Mt. Tam. So creamy and so luscious. I sometimes have it atop my morning toast. Mmm! A great way to start the morning, along with some fresh fruit.

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  11. Single Guy Ben: I know, at a certain point you can't eat with abandon anymore. But Red Hawk is definitely worth indulging in.

    Ash: How did I not know you are anti-cheese?

    doggybloggy: Indeed!

    Cookie: Yes, it would be great for a part--quick, vegetarian, and can sit out forever.

    Food Gal: Perfect breakfast idea!

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  12. Mmmm, white bean purée. And I'm with you on the Mt. Tam. that stuff is great, as is most of the cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. You're lucky to be in such a great food town! :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  13. i'm a dedicated hummus fan, but i do have my garlic limits. this notion of using white beans is intriguing and it's something i intend to pursue!

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  14. croquecamille: It's true, Cowgirl Creamery can do no wrong! And thank YOU for stopping by :)

    Grace: try it, and let me know what you think!

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  15. This looks like something we had in Italy. We just called it "Italian Hummus"--but you're right, it's way better. I'm jealous of the cheese, but not too much. We get all the French cheeses here, and there are a lot of fromagières around here too.

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  16. Kate: French cheeses are nothing to sneeze at! Thanks for stopping by. Like your site too...

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  17. Mmmm...I'll have to try that Cowgirl Creamery cheese!

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  18. Finally made this, over a year after your post, for a late afternoon, nearly-rainy day snack. I had some roasted garlic left from last night's dinner, so that went in + a little bit of parm. Yum. I'm glad I remembered this post!

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