"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good." -Alice May Brock (of Alice's Restaurant fame)
I always have a container of some sort of dip in my refrigerator, which I eat with my carrots sticks and pita chips as part of my lunch. Because I don't like mayonnaise, sour cream, or cream cheese (yes, I know, it's odd), I am somewhat limited as to what the dips that I prepare can consist of. There is usually some sort of canned bean base, whether I use garbanzos, pintos, black, or cannellini. I'll sometimes add roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes to get an extra layer of flavor and color. As far as herbs and spices, cumin, cayenne, rosemary, and parsley are a few of my favorites. But whether the dip is Mediterranean, Moroccan, Asian, or Italian inspired, there is one ingredient that I always include: garlic.
I have always loved garlic, as my family certainly can attest to. Fortunately, I married a man who also enjoys a generous amount of the "stinking rose" in his food. We buy those large jars of the minced version at Costco, and we go through them at an alarming rate. Few smells are more enticing than freshly chopped garlic sauteing in butter or olive oil, and my homemade pestos just wouldn't be the same without it.
My favorite way to prepare garlic is to roast an entire head of cloves. Roasting a head garlic, wrapped in foil with a little bit of olive oil, takes away any "bite" in the flavor and instead produces a sweet caramelized taste and soft spreadable texture. We like to smear the roasted cloves on toasted baguettes for an easy appetizer, and I recently started mixing it into my dips. This is my latest variation, inspired by some of my favorite Italian flavors, such as sun-dried tomatoes, rosemary, and lots of good garlic! Here are just a few extra tips for this low-fat diet-friendly dip:
- The dip can be prepared one day in advance and then refrigerated, covered. Serve cold or at room temperature with bagel chips, pita chips, crostini, or crudites.
- This versatile dip can also be used as a spread for sandwiches, burgers, and wraps, or even as a filling for omelets.
- Cannellini or garbanzo beans may be substituted for the Great Northern beans.
- Roasted garlic is also great on its own. Simply squeeze the roasted garlic pulp onto toasted baguette slices, spread, and serve.
Sun-Dried Tomato, White Bean, and Roasted Garlic Dip
Makes about 2 cups
1 (4-ounce) package sun-dried tomatoes, without oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 (15 ounce) can Great Northern or white kidney beans, drained
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Remove the papery skin from the head of garlic, but do not peel or separate the cloves. Place the head in foil, drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; close the foil around the garlic. Bake for 45 minutes and then cool for 10 minutes. Separate the cloves and squeeze to extract the garlic pulp into a food processor or mini chopper. Discard the skins.
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the tomatoes, cover, and remove from the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the tomatoes, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.
Add the tomatoes, 1/4 cup reserved liquid, remaining olive oil, rosemary, salt, pepper, cayenne, and beans to the garlic in the food processor. Process the mixture until smooth. Season with extra salt and pepper, if desired.