Friday, April 8, 2011

Feta Salsa Verde + Cannellini bean crostini


Sometimes as a vegetarian the hostess in me worries about having non-vegetarian friends over for dinner. I am always concerned about whether or not there will be enough food for people to feel full without a major protein course. At my dinner parties, I tend to serve several antipasti, a protein or carb-based main, and a seasonal produce-focused side or two.

When I cook Indian food, the protein-rich dals and beans (moong bean, chick peas, kidney beans, etc) add substance and heartiness to the spread. I am not a huge fan of tofu or stir-fry dishes (as evidenced by the lack of such dishes on my blog), so when I don't make Indian food, I tend to make a main dish incorporating seasonal vegetables with grains/rice/pastas- like farro, quinoa, polenta, couscous, orzo, and pasta- and on a rare occasion I make a hearty, smothered-in-cheese dish like a gratin or eggplant parmigiana. The way in which I think about food and cooking these days makes me worry that other produce forward dishes may not be as filling to someone who is used to eating meat.

I am in need of ideas-- what's your favorite non-meat dish for protein or a main course?

Speaking of dinner parties, I have discovered a weepingly delicious appetizer. Flavor-packed smashed cannellini beans are spooned onto crostini and topped generously with feta salsa verde. I have wanted to make feta salsa verde for months and am seriously kicking myself in the foot for having waited this long to make it.  It was so good that after we tasted it, we just kept eating it and forgot to take a picture... I know, I've failed you as a food blogger!

You simply must try this dish. The feta salsa verde is the kind of delicious that makes you want to add it to everything you eat. It's too bad that I never have any leftovers! I love the combination of the bright fresh herbs, the creaminess of the French feta, and the saltiness of the capers and olives. I used French feta which is creamier than Greek feta so it blends in quite nicely with the olive oil and herb salsa.

And the cannellini beans are fabulous served on crostini and even more wonderful served as a protein-packed side dish on a weeknight. The best part is that the cannellini beans take less than 15 minutes to make. You can see why we eat these flavorful, protein-packed cannellini beans as a side dish at least once a week!

Feta Salsa Verde 
4 oz French feta, crumbled
1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves or fennel fronds
2 tbsp fresh oregano or thyme leaves
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp + 1/3 cup olive oil
1 large clove of garlic
1 tbsp capers, drained
5 oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped 
optional skip the olives and double the capers to 2 tbsp

In a small food processor, briefly pulse the fresh herbs until finely chopped. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and very coarsely blend in the garlic, olives and lemon zest, adding 2 tbsp of olive oil. In a medium bowl, mash the capers with a fork and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sauce from the food processor over the capers. Gently whisk in the remaining olive oil, and lemon juice. Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt, if desired. Fold in the crumbled feta. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, serve immediately.

Cannellini Beans
1 15oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 dried chile de arbol
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
3 tbsp olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
maldon, or other flaky salt

Heat a skillet over medium high heat for 2 minutes. Add olive oil and chile. Saute shallot and garlic until fragrant. Add cannellini beans and stir well. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lower heat to medium and cook until slightly crisp, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add vegetable stock and stir to coat well. Increase heat to medium high and cook until stock is absorbed and beans are tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove chile, discard.

Smash lightly with back of fork and serve over crostini. Or do not smash and eat as a side dish. Or toss with baby arugula and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil for a protein-rich salad. Or toss with braised greens, like collard greens or kale or mustard greens.

2 comments:

  1. My dearest, I don't know who has EVER walked away from your table hungry!

    For filling veggie dishes, I think a quiche is nice. Actually just the other night A & I saw a Ming Tsai recipe for sweet potato pot pie that looked super yummy

    http://ming.com/foodandwine/recipes/simply-ming-season-8/sweet-potato-pot-pie.htm

    Actually at Z&H they've done a kind of similar thing where they take pizza dough (!!) in a pie dish, put in caramelized onions and (roasted?) sweet potato and pour an egg mixture over the top before cooking it all up. It doesn't keep over time, but if you eat it right away it's yummy & it sounds super easy (never done it myself).

    Xxxooo

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  2. Oh wow, both the Ming Tsai and the Z&H version sound delicious! Thanks for the recipe! I am starting to love quiche and frittatas more and more, especially when filled with seasonal straight-from-the-market produce. You know me and my struggle to love eggs :-) xoxo

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