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Roasted Red Pepper, White Bean, and Walnut Dip



It should come as no surprise by now that I will use every and any excuse to eat more beans, and to encourage you to do the same. They're truly the secret weapon of the pantry whether you're looking for a humble meal at home (pasta fagioli, beans on toast, minestrone) or entertaining guests.


Though entertaining requires some planning and usually some level of (hopefully just a touch of) stress, it's also one of my favourite things to get excited about. I pour over my cookbooks for inspiration, scribble menu ideas in my notebook before I land on the perfect option. As much as I love experimenting with new and special things for guests, there is something to be said for at least one standard dish. For me, it's certainly simply sliced fennel dressed with olive oil, Maldon salt and lemon zest. You can basically guarantee you'll find that among the appetizers waiting for you when you arrive for a meal in my kitchen.


Another fairly standard appetizer is some form of white bean dip. White beans blend into something creamy and wonderful while their flavour remains in the background, allowing more flavourful ingredients to really shine. They're always in the pantry, they're cheap and can help you stretch more expensive ingredients, they make it easy to have at least one vegan offering (if your guests require) and they help me prove to guests how wonderful beans are. Such a lot to juggle for such a humble ingredient!


Now dips themselves aren't super unique or novel, but they do allow for beautiful presentation and a mix of textures that we're all after. Think a pile of crispy and salty crackers sprawled next to colourful vegetables (and we can say crudite to be fancy), all framing a bowl of a creamy dip, the surface drizzled with fresh olive oil. Use your fanciest platter and I promise it'll seem special.


You can basically throw some olive oil and white beans in the blender, add some other flavour agent into the mix and you'll be okay. Maybe it's white beans with lemon zest and fresh rosemary, maybe there's a big scoop of pesto, or sundried tomatoes, or olive tapenade for a deep dark colour. Leaning to more pantry staples here will get you big flavour and little effort and we love that.


Let's talk about this specific dip here. I knew I wanted a white bean dip so I found a jar of roasted red peppers in my pantry and thought this could become a romesco-ish dip. I wanted to use walnuts because I had so many, which is not traditional here, but I was fine with. I also had no breadcrumbs or bread around, a pretty quintessential part of a romesco sauce. I realized quickly that I wasn't making a romesco sauce at all but something perhaps closer to a muhammara. Of course by starting with white beans I wasn't really making either of them but I did add the characteristic flavours of each like paprika and cinnamon. Red wine vinegar seemed like a good way to maintain some acidity without adding a lemony flavour to the mix.. I kept the walnuts fairly chunky after blending to maintain some texture and I was set.


I went through a phase of being so terrified to make anything, whether just for me to share, that was remotely close to a dish from another culture. I avoided trying things all together if I couldn't do it in the most correct or authentic way that it would be done in the country of origin. I was, and still am, quite cautious about taking dishes and posting something so off from the original and it really held me back from experimenting and getting creative. I think it's still a bit of a sticky subject when you add posting these recipes to the mix but I don't think avoiding cooking these dishes solves the problem either. So I'm embracing that nothing about this dish here is really authentic to anything but is a great way to combine flavours and inspiration to make something delicious.


Now at last I give you, a recipe:


Ingredients:


1 can cannelini or navy beans, drained and rinsed

1 300g jar roasted red peppers, about 2 whole peppers *note some brands are quite acidic, you may want to give a little taste and perhaps a rinse first. It's not a bad thing but you'll want to know what flavour you're starting with before you add vinegar

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

4 tsp red wine or sherry vinegar

2 tsp paprika (or smoked paprika)

1/2-1 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

salt and pepper

a few tbsp olive oil


Directions:


Add everything to the blender or food processor starting with 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Blend until almost smooth, leaving some small chunks of walnuts intact. If it's not blending well add some more olive oil. Taste for seasoning and stir in any additional seasoning with a spatula instead of blending again to keep the texture of those walnuts.


Serve with a drizzle of fresh olive oil, sliced veggies and crackers.


-olivia

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