A big bowl of greens, slices of green onion and radish, a handful of mint leaves, maybe some of those horseradish blossoms, a nice piece of grilled fish, a particularly good light vinegar, and a sprinkling of flakey sea salt, over a dollop of herby white bean spread is sounding pretty good to me.
- 1 cup White Navy Beans
- 3 pieces Green Garlic
- 2-3 Green Onions
- A good handful of herbs: mint, chives, horseradish, sorrel, and some well chopped Salad Burnett will be my choice, but some thyme, oregano, savory, whatever appeals really, will be fine.
- Juice of one lemon, at the most
- A generous grating of hard cheese - Parmesan, dry Jack, etc.
Check through the beans for anything missed in cleaning and set aside.
Clean and slice the white ends of the onions and green garlic, sauté briefly, in the oil or fat of your choice, until just beginning to turn golden.
Add the beans and the water, or stock, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the beans until well tender, I go about an hour and a half for spreads. Cover the pan, not too tightly, adding liquid as necessary, but try not to flood the pan, as flavor and texture will be drained off if there is extra water.
As the beans cook, chop the greens from the green garlic and onions, and all the herbs. It need only be as finely chopped as you would like. I do cut the green garlic tops pretty finely, as they can be toothsome, but I leave everything else a little rough. I like the more prominent flavor bursts. If you are inclined, zest the lemon, and finely chop into bits, then juice the lemon and remove any seeds.
When the beans are well tender, transfer them into a bowl, using a strainer to drain off most of the liquid, reserving that liquid in a bowl. Taste and give the beans a preliminary seasoning with salt, and then, while the beans are still warm, using a potato masher, or similar, start mashing the beans.
Add back liquid as needed to maintain a good consistency, but thick enough to be a spread. I like mine smooth, so I use a coarse strainer, and push the beans through, once broken up a bit in the bowl, using the back of a ladle for pressure. Straining is entirely your choice.
Add all of the chopped herbs, a good spoonful of the lemon, and grate in the cheese. Check consistency and adjust as needed, with cooking liquid or water.
If you are inclined, as I would be, stir in a bit of cayenne pepper, a few drops of quality hot sauce, or a chopped fresh chile, of a heat level appropriate for you.
Stir it all together, and taste for seasoning. I like to have the first serving while it is still a bit warm, but it is delicious cold as well.