A couple weeks ago, I was toolin around the kitchen, trying to figure out what on earth I could bring to work for lunch besides turkey sammiches. Not that I dislike turkey sammiches! No! But I would prefer to only eat meat on very limited occasions. So, ok. What else goes in sammiches? Egg salad? Good, but awfully messy. Cheese? Gets boring really quickly. Hummus? We run out of it in roughly three seconds. Peanut butter? Blech, sticky. Er. Burritos? We have them twice a week for dinner.
I had been reading such fine reference items as The Tassajara Cookbook, looking for ideas, and noticed that other people make an awful lot more use of nuts and beans than I do. Hummus and refrieds? Both made of beans. Peanut, almond and cashew butter? Nuts. So why shouldn't I be able to apply various techniques and create some other protein-oriented filling?
I decided to experiment.
- Roughly 3 cups cannellini beans (or whatever dried bean you have), soaked overnight and boiled until soft, then drained.
- 1 yellow onion, diced.
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, if you so desire, minced.
- 2 tbps butter or olive oil.
- a cup or so of broth or milk. You can leave out the milk for vegan goodness.
- salt, pepper, sage, thyme, a dash of cayenne, and a handful of fresh parsley if you have it.
This procedure goes very much like that in my refried beans recipe. I just applied the same technique to create a very different flavor.
Bust out your frying pan and melt your butter/oil over a low to medium flame. I like olive oil here, for the flavor. Throw in a generous helping of sage and thyme and a smaller amount of cayenne to toast for a minute or so. I think I might have added some marjoram or basil as well, but kept sage and thyme as the dominant spices. Er, herbs. Then add your onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent.
When everything is soft and smells delicious, start mashing up your beans. Use a potato masher or a fork to make a paste. Leave some chunks in for texture in the finished product. Add the beans to the frying pan and stir to mix thoroughly. When it's all incorporated, add maybe half a cup of broth or milk and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring, for five or ten minutes, until the liquid is absorbed/evaporated by the bean mixture. How does it look? Do you want your bean butter to be creamier? Then add another half cup of broth or milk and repeat the process. Obviously, milk is going to create a creamier, slightly milder bean butter, while broth is going to create a more pungent one. I tend to use a little of both, and maybe add a little cream if I have any lying around. Add salt and pepper to taste, plus a handful of torn parsley. I like Italian parsley, with the flat leaves. Cook down the beans to your desired texture, i.e. spreadable but solid, and take them off the heat.
Let the beans cool, and spoon them into jars to store. The two pints or so generated will keep up to two weeks in the refrigerator. In the meantime, make copious sammiches with them. What sammiches might you make?
- White bean butter with mozzarella, red pepper slices, and spinach. Olive oil and ground pepper on the bread. I've been eating this version over and over.
- White bean butter with feta, chopped fresh tomato, and sprouts. Salt on the tomato layer.
- White bean butter with tomato kasundi and mixed dark greens. I've been meaning to try this when we get good tomatoes again...oh hey, it's June!
- White bean butter with chopped pimientos or roasted peppers and pesto.
- White bean butter with jalapenos, plum tomatoes and queso blanco, a la a really good sandwich that ideath could make to take to work with her. Might want to use a milder pepper to start, or substitute something like black olives, as I'm not all that sure jalapenos and sage will play well together...or you might want to season the bean butter to match your desired fillings. Hot sauce, perhaps?
Sourdough and sunflower wheat breads have held up well to white bean butter sammiches. A firmer bread is better, in my opinion. I also feel that you need a good dose of crunchy vegetables to balance out the softness of the bean butter. So, go ahead and experiment, but always be generous with your romaine, and good will come to you.
I also feel compelled to mention that it would be entirely possible to do away with all this cooking and just mash the boiled beans with some olive oil and black pepper. I myself like lots of oniony spicy goodness, and don't mind cooking for a long time, but if you want to just mash your beans and use them plain, be my guest.