A creamy, garlicky, vegan white bean dip, topped with delicious tomato-paprika onions, Romanian fasole batuta.
Happy New Year!!!!
And with the new year a new series on Where Is My Spoon. And this time not only a two-week or even monthly series, but a whole year series. I decided to go for Romanian cooking in 2017, so I could call this “One Year of Romanian Cooking”.
Why Romanian cooking? Well, first of all because I am Romanian. 🙂 Secondly, I realized (quite a long time ago) that although I am thoroughly Romanian and only left my native land as an adult, I don’t cook quite as much Romanian food as you might think. I have my beloved dishes like the Chicken Soup with Dumplings or the Pea and Chicken Stew and several others, but if I really were to count them, they are really not that many.
The main reason for that is that I have only started cooking a couple of years after I left Romania and I have only had my grandmother’s own cooking for inspiration. My aunt and my cousin might have had an input on my cooking from time to time, but we don’t see each other that often to really deepen that input. And talking about my grandmother’s cooking: her food was really delicious and what she cooked always tasted amazing, there was only one catch to her cooking, she only made the same 20 or 30 dishes over and over again. Her whole life! Never tried anything new! Or if she ever did (I remember her cooking an unusual kohlrabi stew once, which was never mentioned again afterward), she would only say it wasn’t good and that there was a good reason she never tried that before.
So, you see, I know my grandma’s dishes very well, most of them I cook myself regularly, my husband and my kids learned to love them as well. But, there is so much more to Romanian cooking than that and I really feel I would like to know more about it. Romanian cooking is not something famous like Italian, French or Indian cooking, but it is really good, warm and comforting, no frills and no complicated methods, simple food using few ingredients most of the time, not so much spices, but still tasting so good. I really hope I can interest you in trying out some of my dishes.
What to expect? Lots of seasonal vegetables that grow in Romania like in the Garden of Eden, things like peppers, eggplants, zucchini and many more, quite a lot of pork recipes – probably more than I am used to eating these days – but pork is really eaten a lot in Romania. Also lenten recipes – many many Romanians are taking the fasting times very seriously, so there are lots of vegan Romanian recipes out there, not only savory but sweet as well. Not to forget the glorious cakes. Like I’ve just said: there are no frills in the Romanian cooking, but there are lots of frills in the Romanian baking. 🙂 And also lots of trips down memory lane, you can skip those if you like, I will not mind. 🙂 🙂
The first two weeks will be dedicated to some kind of Winter Menu, several dishes that I used to see a lot of in the winter months, starting with this delicious white bean dip, a staple in Romanian cooking, something I am sure every Romanian person out there has already eaten. A very simple dish, easily made and quickly devoured, healthy, vegan, lenten, whatever! I remember eating it not only at home, but also in our favorite tavern during those days – Don Titi’s Crama in Sibiu, a very special place to us, it was where I met my husband, who was traveling through Romania/ Europe at the time. Don Titi used to serve these huge slices of white bread, thickly smeared with white bean dip and topped with onions. A mug of hot mulled wine to go with it and you needed nothing else. Soooo good!
I always make this dip with freshly cooked white beans, I also use some of the beans’ cooking liquid when making the dip, that is why cooking your own beans is so important. My tip: cook more than the beans needed for this recipe – you can easily freeze the rest for future use (soups, stews, salads) and cooking a lot at a time saves time and energy as well. You can even freeze the cooking liquid for making more dip or soup in the future. I use vegetable oil because that is what my grandma used all the time (sunflower oil), but you can use olive oil if you prefer.
You can serve the beans not only as a dip or bread spread (like I usually do) but also as a lower-carb alternative to mashed potatoes, for instance. Serve it with any kind of meat you like, meatballs, sausages and don’t forget some pickled vegetables on the side. You will love this, I am sure!
- For the dip:
- 250 g/ 8.8 oz white beans (See note *)
- 1 large onion
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2-3 garlic cloves, to taste
- For the topping:
- 75 ml/ ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 2 onions
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ – 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- some more oil to drizzle, optional
- fresh parsley, optional
- more sweet paprika to sprinkle
- Rinse the beans and place them in a large bowl. Cover with water and leave to soak overnight. Rinse again, place in a large bowl, cover with plenty of water, add the halved onion and the bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cook for about 1 hour or until the beans are soft. The cooking time will greatly depend on the size and age of the beans so keep checking.
- Drain the beans but keep the cooking water. Discard the onion and the bay leaves. Leave the beans to cool slightly, then place them in the food processor together with about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and two tablespoons vegetable oil. Add the grated garlic cloves (I prefer to grate the garlic myself before giving it to the food processor, just to make sure I will not bite on some larger pieces of garlic later). Process until they are really smooth, scraping down from the food processor walls a few times in between. Add more cooking liquid, a little at a time, to get the right consistency, it should be like a really thick crème fraiche or softer mashed potatoes. Add salt to taste, I am generous with the salt here, but keep tasting until it is right for you.
- To make the topping: halve the onions and slice the halves into thin half rings. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the onions and ½ teaspoon salt and cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. When the onions are golden, add the tomato paste, sugar and paprika powder and stir for further 2 minutes, until well combined and slightly caramelized.
- Transfer the beans to a bowl or a serving platter and top with the onions. Drizzle with more oil if desired and sprinkle with parsley and sweet paprika. If served as a dip or bread spread leave to get cold. If served as an accompaniment to sausages, meatballs or any kind of fried meat, serve it straight away, while still warm. Don't forget the pickles: cucumber, green tomatoes, red peppers, hot peppers and so on.
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