I am a serial food pleaser. I caught the entertaining bug from my grandmothers and mother while watching them put out dish after dish, platter after platter for holiday events, Saturday BBQs, or a Sunday meal. There was something about those moments that dug in deep with me. Preparing and offering up food made with love seemed to awaken a real joy in me. I loved the excitement of it. I love the way it makes me feel. Entertaining is part of my DNA...DANA.
From way back when, luring friends and family to come over to nibble on my food experiments has been a constant agenda. I giggle at the memories of my high school years when I would try to convince my friends to gather at my house for wine, cheese and board games instead of their suggestion to go to a bar. Nerd, or early onset foodie? Either way, it was and still holds true. Given the choice, I much prefer hosting a small gathering than going out. Seeing as it's been a while since I've used my usual bullet point list, here goes a few reasons to entertain at home:
Your guests can stay as long as they like, no one hovering over with a check waiting to seat the next group
You can make whatever food you like, and experiment and use them as test subjects
You don't spend nearly as much as in a restaurant
You don't have to deal with a bunch of people who aren't part of your group
You can laugh and dance and play whatever music you want
You can move around from room to room, sit on the floor or lie on the couch or be outdoors
You can display all your table decorating talents
You can wear comfy clothes
You can kick your shoes off, although I never do
When I lived in a studio apartment in NYC, my entertaining was contained to having a friend or two over for dinner. After moving to Miami, I had the space to entertain but with crazy work hours, I barely had the time. Go figure! I was left with one option to soothe my aching entertaining soul. Throw myself birthday parties. I knew I could at least carve out time for my own birthday, and I also knew friends would make the effort because of that. Buffet style was mostly how these shindigs went down. It made it easy to put all the food out and have people fill and refill as they wished, at their pace. Less fussy that way, too, kept the mood relaxed, informal and moveable. You've heard me talk about the importance of having some food cold, some room temp and 1-2 options warm. With these annual parties the guest list was usually my same dear friends. That meant I needed to come up with food ideas that would check all those boxes and as well as be different from the previous year.
I promise to post more of those old favorites in upcoming posts, but today I want to share a white bean dip. Reason being is that I recently revived this recipe during our latest trip to Miami. So, it seems only fitting having first made it decades ago in Miami.
While on this trip, we had a few people over our apartment. Perfect time to feed my need to 'food please'. So I whipped up a few bites. JC always laughs because he says, "No, biggie we can just put out some cheese" and then I decide we need a few other nibbles, and in a flash we have a spread of food.
On our last night of this past trip we were invited to our friends', John and George, house for dinner. We adore them for many reasons but are belly tickled that they are food lovers as well. We make a perfect complement in the kitchen together. Their part: the main meal. Our part: the appetizers.
Talk about an excellent time to revive an old dip. This task was also going to require me tapping into my something from nothing style as we only had a few food items left in our apartment due to our return to NY. Time to whip up what's available. I had made the potatoes topped with trout and had extra, so that was on app down. I had leftover heirloom tomatoes, chopped up made a tasty bruschetta. Lastly, in the cupboard... white beans. In the fridge, standing by wanting to be needed: scallions and cilantro at your service. Perfect aromatics to jazz up a white bean dip.
This is a dip that can be modified to use what you have available or what flavor profile you like. Clearly, not a lot is needed to create this one. You can use a different kind of bean, or basil instead of cilantro. Mix and match to what you have, or whatever will rock your taste buds.
1 15 oz can Cannellini or Great Northern beans
1/3 c cilantro (plus extra for garnish)
2 T lemon juice
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/3 c scallions, sliced (plus extra for garnish)
Drain the liquid from the beans reserving 1 T. Place the beans, garlic, salt, pepper, oil, lemon juice in a mini food processor. I used a blender because it was all I had, but found it didn't chop as well as I would have liked. Buzz them up to your liking. You can make this dip super smooth and creamy, or leave it a little chunky. I like it both ways.
Remove this mixture and place in a decorative bowl. In same blender, add the scallions, cilantro and reserved bean liquid. Buzz until you get a chopped mixture. Dollop this mixture in the center of the bean mixture. Then slice a few more scallions and cilantro and sprinkle on top. Serve with crusty bread or vegetables like cucumber slices, celery, carrots, or even blanched broccoli.
All of the appetizers were a big hit at our friends' house. But the dip got the most ohhs and ahhs. I almost felt I should have made more! John's sister loved it so much she kept asking for the recipe. Hey, guess what? I have a blog just for that reason. So, here you go Ann, and for all of you who might enjoy this super simple dip that will please your own guests, or bring to a party and please other guests. Either way, a crowd pleaser.