2 cups cooked white beans, like cannelini, drained but moist
1 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
Grated rind of 2 lemons
Put the beans in the container of a food processor with 1 clove of garlic and a healthy pinch of salt. Turn the machine on, and add the 1/4 cup olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube; process until the mixture is smooth. Taste, and add more garlic if you like; then, puree the mixture again.
Place the mixture in a bowl, and use a wooden spoon to beat in the rosemary, lemon zest and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as needed. Use immediately, or refrigerate for as long as 3 days.
The puree can form the basis of a wonderful sandwich. For example, combine a thick layer of puree with grilled vegetables and a little olive oil on rolls or between thick slices of crusty bread. It can be used to thicken and flavor cooked beans. Just stir a few spoonfuls of the puree into simmering white beans (if you have pesto, add some at the same time). Thinned with the cooking water from beans or pasta, it makes a good pasta sauce.
A small mound of the puree served next to braised chicory or other bitter greens (both drizzled with olive oil) makes a fine side dish. Similarly, serve it at the center of a plate of lightly and simply cooked vegetables: carrots, green beans, turnips, asparagus, potatoes or cauliflower. Layer the puree with grilled eggplant or zucchini and bake or broil to form a simple vegetable napoleon.
You can make this dish even more elaborate by incorporating thin-sliced toast and grated Parmesan cheese in the layers. Or roll smoked salmon or thin-sliced cooked vegetables — again, zucchini and eggplant are good candidates — around a bit of the puree, and serve as hors d’oeuvres.