Simple Sustenance: Herb Magic — Creamy Cilantro-Lime and Cannellini Bean Spread
by Renu Chhabra
The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor.–Chinese Proverb
It is amazing how herbs can completely transform a recipe, giving it a whole new personality. Pureed with beans to make flavorful spread, processed with nuts for hearty pesto, or blended with oil or herb oil are just a few ways to taste the magic of herbs. Other blander dishes such as salads, grains, soups, stews, and breads also get fresh and delicious makeovers when they are in the company of herbs. And we can’t forget lavender cookies or basil ice cream, which add a few stars to the dessert category. It doesn’t take a lot to infuse their flavors to any recipe — sweet or savory. They always play their magic.
Cooking with herbs is an art. Knowing how much to use in a particular recipe is important, since some herbs like rosemary and thyme can be overpowering if used in excess. Pairing herbs with the right foods make them stand out even more. Rosemary with potatoes, thyme with mushrooms, basil with tomatoes, and mint with cucumbers are some of the very classic combinations. But trying new ones is the gateway to new discoveries.
My herbed bean spread came about from the ingredients on hand in my fridge and pantry: cilantro, parsley, garlic, and lime, pureed with white beans and a couple spices, produced a vibrant green and creamy spread. I used the stems of the cilantro as well. Tender stems of cilantro, in fact, give the spread texture and body. Cilantro and lime are perfect with each other. Together they create a very refreshing flavor. Combined with the herbs and spices along with citrus and garlic, canned cannellini beans got a new face lift — from bland to bold.
Recipe1 clove garlic
1 bunch of cilantro with tender stems
½ bunch of parsley
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lime or to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt to taste
¼ cup canola oil plus some to drizzle on top
Roasted sunflower seeds for garnish (optional)
In a food processor, coarsely puree garlic, cilantro, and parsley. Add cannellini beans, lime juice, cumin, paprika, salt, and pulse again until smooth or to desired consistency. Drizzle oil in the puree while the machine is running. Transfer the spread to a bowl and drizzle some more oil.
Serve this spread with crackers, pita chips, toasted bread, or slather in a sandwich and wrap.