Like many great recipes (see: chocolate chip cookies, nachos), this white bean puree was born by accident. OK, it’s actually a little embarrassing. A few weeks ago, I was doing one of my recipe tutorials on Instagram stories, demonstrating how to cook dried beans from scratch.
And, well, somewhere between shooting the steps and posting them online, I got a little distracted and overcooked the beans. I mean, they didn’t disintegrate completely, but a lot of them broke down and some of the skins came off.
But, the beans were still delicious and perfectly edible, so I decided to hide their imperfection the best way I knew how: by pureeing them.
I started by chopping up a leek and browning it in a generous glug of olive oil. Then I tossed my sad beans into a food processor – along with some of their cooking water, lemon juice, and the browned leeks. At the end, I sprinkled it with lots of za’atar. The resulting white bean puree was absolutely delicious.
Rich, creamy, and perfumed with the sweet-savory flavor of charred leeks throughout. We ate it alongside roasted potatoes and a fresh, crunchy salad. I’ve made it several times since then and I think you’re gonna love it, too.
Dried Beans vs. Canned
Whenever possible (i.e. when I have time), I prefer to cook beans from scratch because they have a better flavor and texture. Home-cooked beans also have less sodium and are less wasteful (i.e. no cans to recycle!).
If you want to try this recipe with canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse them first, to get rid of the excess sodium and some of the metallic taste. I also recommend warming up the beans before pureeing them, since this recipe is best served warm.
Making the Browned Leeks
Browned leeks are really the star of this recipe. And when I say browned, I mean charred, almost burnt. Not sweated, not caramelized – browned, and a little crispy even. The secret to making these leeks is not skimping on the oil; you want the leeks to be nicely coated in hot oil. The other secret is to use medium to medium-high heat and stir them often so they don’t burn.
Za’atar and Variations
Za’atar is a Levantine spice blend consisting of sumac, ground up sesame seeds, salt, and dried herbs like thyme, oregano, savory, and/or marjoram. It was really “trendy” a couple of years back, and has now become a staple on many of our spice racks.
You can find za’atar in most supermarkets these days, or mix up your own blend. Alternatively, you can sprinkle this white bean puree with just sesame seeds, oregano, and/or thyme.
I like to serve this white bean puree with garlicky roasted potatoes and a crunchy salad. It’s equally great alongside sautéed wild mushrooms or simply spread on toast. You can also use it as a substitute for mashed potatoes.
Wanna transform regular ol’ dried beans into something magical? Make this creamy white bean puree! Serve with roasted vegetables or simply spread on toast.
- 1 1/4 cups dried white beans (like cannellini or butter beans) (See Note about canned beans)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium leek
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons za’atar
- Place the beans in a medium pot and add enough water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Soak for at least 8 hours (or up to 24 hours, in the fridge).
- Drain and rinse the beans, and add enough new water to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Add the garlic and bay leaf to the pot, and cover tightly with a lid.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer, and cook with the lid ajar until the beans are creamy and cooked through, about 40 minutes (start tasting the beans toward the end, since bean cooking times can vary). In the last 10 minutes of cooking, season the beans with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- Reserve about 1/2 cup of the bean cooking water. Then drain the beans and discard the bay leaf.
- Meanwhile, clean the leek. Trim the root end, as well as a few inches off the dark green portion (just the part that looks bruised or dry). Halve the stalk lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons. Place the sliced leeks in a big bowl of water and swirl them around, separating the layers with your fingers, to release all the dirt. (If the water seems really dirty, repeat the process.)
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until browned and a little crispy, stirring frequently, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Transfer the drained beans to a food processor, along with two-thirds of the charred leeks, lemon juice, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth, adding the bean cooking water (a tablespoon at a time) if needed to achieve a creamy consistency. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Transfer the puree to a serving bowl and top with the remaining leeks and za’atar. Serve immediately.
If you want to try this recipe with canned beans, use two 15-ounce cans (about 3 1/2 cups cooked beans). Be sure to drain and rinse them first, as well as warm them up a little before pureeing.
- Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
- Calories: 220
- Carbohydrates: 28.4 g
- Fiber: 12.8 g
- Protein: 10.2 g
Keywords: beans, leeks, puree, za'atar, vegan