Roasted Jalapeño & Garlic White Bean Dip

Who doesn’t love a good dip? That’s a serious question.

I can’t think of a single person I know who would completely pass up an opportunity to engage in some cracker/chip/veggie dunking-to-mouth action. It’s a total snacktivity that gets everyone involved, which is always nice…except if you run with a crowd of double dippers. But that’s an etiquette situation for another day.

I’m always looking for good uses for roasted garlic besides eating whole cloves straight out of their husks. (I know, I have a problem!) Sometimes I have the decency to spread them on a deserving piece of bread and other times I’ll toss them in a salad with some roasted veg. But why not combine my beloved roasted garlic with a little bit of subdued peppery heat and some savory cannellini beans? Like I said (rhetorically this time), who doesn’t love a good dip?

This is basically hummus but with white beans subbing in for the chickpeas. I love the velvety texture that the white beans lend to the base of the dip, and their creamy flavor matches up perfectly with the sweet caramelized garlic and slightly spicy, but earthy jalapeños. As with hummus, you can use a little warm water to thin out the dip gradually, until you’ve got the consistency you’re looking for. No excessive oil necessary.

Roasted Jalapeño & Garlic White Bean Dip
– 1 1/2 cups (or 1 can) cooked white beans
– 1/2 roasted head of garlic, cloves removed from the rough husks
– 1 large fresh jalapeño pepper, roasted and roughly chopped
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1/4-1/2 cup water
– salt
– toasted chopped walnuts or pepitas to garnish

To roast jalapeño pepper and garlic: Pre-heat oven to 205 C/400 F. On an oiled piece of aluminum foil, place the head of garlic (with the bottom, woody part cut off) and a split and de-seeded jalapeño. Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, and remove the jalapeño (it should be golden brown in parts). Wrap the foil around the head of garlic and continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes until fragrant and the cloves are golden brown.

For dip: Place white beans, about 5-8 roasted garlic cloves, chopped roasted pepper, olive oil and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Puree, stopping to add water – a little bit at a time until the consistency is smooth and creamy, adjust seasoning as needed. Top with toasted nuts or seeds if desired.

Refrigerate in an air tight container for up to 5 days.

Chopped Broccoli Salad

Real talk: some days I miss Whole Foods real bad. I realize that this is a total first-world problem and that I’m beginning to sound ridiculous – but [my favorite pastime] grocery shopping is just not the same after having been so spoiled on the regular.

They have all the random things I decide I need in my kitchen immediately. Mulling spices? Right near the apple cider! Pre-cut butternut squash? Fo sho. Three-year aged Gouda? Got it. Truffle salt? No prob.

Let’s not even talk about the gelato bar and bakery, please. And the salad bar! Ah, the salad bar…so amazing, so dangerous! This salad I made today was one I found on Oh She Glows, an awesome vegan blog. Angela reminded me of the joys of the Whole Foods salad bar when she made her own version of their Detox salad.

It’s crunchy, zesty and a little sweet with a satisfying chew-factor from the dried fruit – plus it’s raw and easy to throw together.

This salad is great to make for lunches throughout the week – dressing it as you go, to prevent it from becoming soggy. It lends itself to additions, so you can change it up each day – simply serve it alongside grilled shrimp, a veggie burger or chicken and the next day you can mix it with some leftover pasta or rice and feta cheese to give it a new life. You can mix it with chickpeas, black beans or tofu too, for a vegetarian-friendly protein hit. Or eat it inside a pita with a dollop of yogurt and hot sauce. Mad ideas for this salad, yo.

Chopped Broccoli Salad (serves 6 as a side)
Based on Detox Salad from Whole Foods’ salad bar and Oh She Glows

1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1-2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1/3 cup mix of sunflower seeds and pepitas
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
a handful of chopped parsley
a handful of chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper

In a food processor, finely chop the broccoli and carrots until they become rice-like in texture. (If you don’t have a food processor, chop the broccoli and carrots with a knife as small as you can get them.) Mix with other ingredients in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. If you’re looking to stretch out the salad throughout the week, you may want to reserve the seeds and the lemon juice/maple dressing and add it as you go. (I added it all at once and it still had a nice crunch the next day.)

Bulk it up with: 1 cup of brown rice, quinoa, cracked wheat or orzo pasta
Add some protein with: 1/2 – 1 cup chickpeas, cubed tofu or black beans
Add some gratuitous cheese with: a little bit of crumbled feta, blue or goat cheese

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Creamy Aged Cheddar Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Sometimes I’m a little behind on trends. Like how it took me about a year to figure out who Adele was and then was all, wow I really like this Rolling in the Deep song! Luckily I have friends who were kind enough to explain that it kind of gets played a lot and everyone is beyond sick of it.

Fail.

I was totally late to the polenta party too. Polenta is great. When creamy, you can stir in cheese and herbs and top it with meat, seafood, veggies, nuts – anything, really. It’s sunny, warming and completely comforting. It looks really good with some lightly caramelized roasted vegetables too.

The first couple of times I made polenta I was happy to do all of that stirring business. But soon I found myself avoiding the chore of policing a pot of cornmeal altogether. Stirring? I got things to do!

Then I stumbled upon the solution of baking my polenta. Simply place 1 part polenta and 5 parts water in an over-proof dish and bake for 45 minutes or so, until the liquid is absorbed and it’s at its desired consistency. Minimal stirring required!

No-Stir Creamy Polenta with Aged Cheddar
1 cup coarsely ground polenta
5 cups water
small knob of butter
salt
3 fresh thyme sprigs, picked
1/4 cup grated aged cheddar cheese

Preheat Oven to 375 F/190 C.

In an oven-safe dish, combine polenta, water, butter, salt and thyme. Place in the oven and cook for 40-50 minutes, giving it a stir or two toward the end – until desired thickness.
Remove from oven and stir in grated cheese. Top with roasted vegetables or other desired toppings.

For Roasted Vegetables:
Chop orange carrots, purple carrots and a yellow bell pepper into bite-sized pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, a teaspoon of sumac and a teaspoon of thyme. Spread on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes or so, until soft and golden. Serve on top of creamy polenta with grated aged cheddar.