Recipe Project #104-106: Cannellini Bean Confetti Spread with Roasted Garlic, Broccoli & Orzo Salad, & Brambleberry Pie

(The Recipe Project now has a dedicated index page!)

This week the newly-wedded Compatriot G dropped in with his wonderful wife, Liz, to help us put away a dinner that included brambleberry pie and the bottles of red wine that they gifted us (plus another from our Keuka Lake Vineyards stash). I put together a summertime menu that was also dairy-free and pescatarian: we started with homemade baguette and cannellini spread and then went on to grilled swordfish, a simple green salad with cucumber, radishes, and mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, and broccoli and orzo salad. It was mostly do-ahead and flexible, since they were driving through from the coast of Maine and weren’t sure precisely what time they’d arrive. (Hence the two salads, which only needed to be room temperature.) I made the pie, bread, and bean spread earlier and mostly assembled the salads, and then we threw the fish they brought with them into a quick marinade before it went onto the grill. If I’d been more on my game and made the salad dressings and finished the salads ahead of time, it would have been even more low-stress.

I’ve always meant to be the sort of adult who has people over to dinner and knows what I’m doing, but despite all my cooking I’ve never really gotten around to learning to entertain. (Mr. Husband is much better at this than I am, but doesn’t usually do dinner party-style entertaining.) Fortunately, over the past year our friends have just sort of shown up and helped me learn, and that in turn has given us a push to get the dining room into better shape. And reminds me that it’s so, so good to have friendships that continue as everyone moves into new phases of their lives.

Cannellini Bean Confetti Spread with Roasted Garlic
This is from Steve Sando’s marvelous bean cookbook, Heirloom Beans. You might not think you need a cookbook devoted to nothing but beans, but you really do. You also need the meticulously sourced beans he produces at Rancho Gordo, along with their chile powder (which is the only one I’ll use.) Steve is an excellent blogger and a treat to correspond with, and the service at Rancho Gordo is always impeccable.

2 cups drained, cooked cannellini beans
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
5 roasted garlic cloves (I used an entire head)
5 ounces fresh goat cheese (which didn’t trigger anyone’s allergies)
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (omitted)
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
assorted crackers and/or crostini

In a large mortar with a pestle, or in a large bowl with a potato masher, mash together the beans, 1/4 cup olive oil, and roasted garlic until a thick, chunky paste forms. Work in the goat cheese until it is incorporated. Stir in the parmesan, chives, and olives. Stir in a bit more olive oil, a little at a time, until the spread is thick but still moist. Season generously with salt and pepper. You will have about 3 cups. Serve at room temperature with assorted crackers and crostini for dipping.

Note: I whirred it all in a food processor and accidentally got it a little too smooth. Still worked out fine, but needed to be chilled in order to set up a bit. It tastes best after a few hours of meditating on itself, and the flavors continue to bloom the next day. It was a huge hit with all of us.

Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Broccoli Pesto
In the headnote for the previous recipe, Steve notes that the recipe is actually one of Heidi Swanson’s. So is this one, from her vegetarian cookbook Super Natural Every Day. I’ve been cooking from it since it was released about a year ago and have made this salad several times but never found the time to blog it. Fortunately, plenty of other people have blogged the recipe. It can be served warm or cold, and it’s easy enough to leave out the parmesan if need be. I meant to serve it on the side but forgot; tonight I’ll add it back in to the leftovers and experiment with turning them into fritters.

Brambleberry Pie
Since it’s the first week of berry season here, I wanted to make either a berry or sour cherry pie. And since I didn’t make it to the market that morning (which is where the best sour cherries are), berry pie it was. I googled a bit for a recipe and eventually landed on this one, which uses both white and brown sugar for a more nuanced sweetness that lets the tartness of the berries shine through.

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