White beans and tomatoes, pureed, become a tasty spread

January 30, 1994|By Jim Burns | Jim Burns,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

It used to be an easy matter -- butter went with bread, period.

Then came margarine -- in sticks, then in tubs. Since it is not made from animal products, margarine saves you 21 milligrams of cholesterol in a 2-teaspoon serving over butter.

Following on the heels of margarine, olive oil galloped in on the Italian food trend, and suddenly we learned that we could put it on our bread just as easily as we could use butter or margarine.

This seems a good idea, because olive oil is very low in saturated fat and very high in monounsaturated fat. Since saturated fat is what slows down your liver's ability to clean unneeded cholesterol from the bloodstream, it is a good thing to eat sparingly.

But here's the thing -- butter, margarine or oil, fat is still fat.

If you are watching your fat intake, chef Eric Stapelman of Luma restaurants in New York and Santa Monica, Calif., has an alternative to these most common three -- vegetable spreads. He creates dishes without the fat-heavy dairy products and refined sugar found in most restaurant food, especially high end.

"I wanted to bridge the gap between haute cuisine and dining with an awareness. How many restaurants do you go to that offer an alternative to butter besides olive oil?" Mr. Stapelman asks.

If you think of how delicious apple butter tastes on toast in the morning, than you can imagine how good a savory version -- namely a vegetable spread -- can be. Mr. Stapelman recommends olive oil that is not extra virgin, which he says is too fruity in flavor and overwhelms the vegetable taste in the finished spread.

Roasted tomato puree with white bean spread

Makes 8 servings

TOMATO PUREE:

2 tablespoons olive oil (do not use extra virgin), plus extra for baking sheet

salt, black pepper

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh sage

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

5 large ripe tomatoes, halved

3 tablespoons white wine

WHITE BEAN SPREAD:

2 cups white beans or baby lima beans

3 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons olive oil (do not use extra virgin)

1 teaspoon finely minced sage

8 cloves roasted garlic (see note)

salt, white pepper

assorted crackers

To prepare tomato puree, brush baking sheet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with sage, thyme, rosemary and garlic. Place tomatoes, face down, over herbs and sprinkle with wine. Roast at 400 degree until tops of tomatoes are brown and skins are loose, about 30 minutes. Cool tomatoes and remove skins.

Drain off liquid. Puree tomatoes and herb mixture on low speed in blender or food processor. Slowly add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to form an emulsion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To prepare white bean spread, place beans in large pan with water to cover and soak, covered, overnight. Drain and rinse beans. Soak in fresh water 4 hours and then rinse again. Place beans and vegetable stock in 4-quart pan and bring to boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until liquid is absorbed and beans are soft, about 2 hours.

(Or for faster cooking, combine beans soaked overnight and stock in pressure cooker and cook 12 to 15 minutes. Follow manufacturer's instructions that came with your pressure cooker.)

Cool beans to room temperature. Puree in batches in blender or food processor, adding olive oil, sage and roasted garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble, evenly spread tomato puree on large platter. Place 2 large scoops white bean spread on top. Serve with crackers.

(Note: To roast garlic, put the whole cloves in a pan in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool and then peel.)

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