Earlier this evening, with a plan for portobello mushroom paninis on the horizon, the question feared by many vegetarians came up: what about protein? (More thoughts on protein in veggie diets after the recipe.) In addition to the usual answer of cheese, I whipped up a quick batch of white bean dip to spread on the sandwiches. Here’s a versatile recipe based on Mark Bittman’s, along with my seasonal variations. The chive flower vinegar and garlic stock might be idiosyncratic to our kitchen but substitute freely – this is a forgiving and delicious recipe no matter how you edit it.
Springtime White Bean Dip
1 can white cannelini beans
3 or 4 stalks green garlic (or 2-3 cloves cured garlic) – coarsely chopped
Handful of chives or spring onions (maybe 8 chives or 3 spring onions, depending on size & strength you like) – coarsely chopped
A few sprigs of parsley, coarsely chopped
A tablespoon or two of olive oil (less for thicker dip & vice-versa)
2 teaspoons chive flower vinegar, to taste (An herb vendor at farmers’ mkt suggested this mini-project to us, but you can view directions here.)
—Feel free to substitute white wine vinegar or maybe plain vinegar with a squeeze of lemon juice.
A few tablespoons of garlic broth (veggie stock made from garlic greens, aka, the top part of a garlic plant that you don’t eat)
—Regular veggie or another kind of broth would be fine. Ideally you want one with a (complimentary) flavor of its own.
Salt and pepper
1. Put the chives, green garlic, parsley, 1/2 of the can of beans, and olive oil into the food processor. Blend until mostly smooth, probably just 5-10 seconds.
2. Add the 2nd half of the beans along with the chive vinegar and garlic broth. Blend until the new beans are smooth.
3. Add a generous amount of salt, pepper, and paprika. Blend for a few more seconds and taste. Adjust seasoning, including the oil to vinegar ratio if needed.
4. Use as sandwich spread, dip for veggies or crackers, etc.
Finally, some thoughts on protein and vegetarian diets. When I became a vegetarian at age 13, the first question anyone asked upon hearing about it was “Where will you get protein?” My stock surly-teenager response was a self-righteous (and kinda defensive) critique of the “typical (meat-based) American diet” and how “most people get too much protein anyway”. Yet as I ventured out beyond veggie burger dinners every night, I occasionally found myself hungry after what seemed like adequately sized meals. I was eating reasonably healthy food and meeting most nutritional requirements, but I still wasn’t full. This was particularly the case when working full-time on farms and needing even more energy than during the school year. While I don’t control or plan what I eat beyond our vague weekly dinner menu, I have found a couple helpful approaches for feeling full on a veggie-based diet.
– Get some serious protein & fat with breakfast. Examples include whole-wheat toast with peanut butter & honey or jam, eggs, yogurt, or soymilk and granola with some nuts.
– Find ways to sneak more beans, cheese, eggs, and nuts into your diet. Keep a bowl of almonds on the kitchen table for easy snacking, spread some bean dip and/or cheese on a sandwich, crumble hardboiled eggs into your salad, dip cut up veggies into hummus, add a scoop of hummus to a salad, opt for peanut butter on toast rather than butter.
If you have other suggestions or opinions, feel free to leave them in the comments!