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You Asked For It


White bean dip has a spicy kick

By Robin Domeier
You Asked For It
Restaurant writer Robin Domeier tracks down Charlotte restaurant recipes that readers have requested. Domeier is owner of Nibbles Personal Chef.

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    Are you looking for a recipe from a Charlotte-area restaurant that is currently in business? Send your requests to Robin Domeier, Please include your name, why you like the recipe, the area where you live and the restaurant’s location.

  • Mezzanotte Tuscan Bean Dip

    1 pound dry cannellini beans (see note)

    2 bay leaves

    1 small red onion, minced

    5 Roma tomatoes, diced small

    2 tablespoons chopped garlic

    1/2 cup basil leaves, cut in strips (see note)

    1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

    2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

    1 tablespoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

    2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves

    3 cups extra virgin olive oil (see note)

    COVER beans in cold water and soak overnight or for 8-10 hours. Drain beans and place them with the bay leaves in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 1-2 hours or until the beans are tender. Drain the beans and spread on a sheet pan to cool.

    MIX all the other ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the beans when they’re cool and mix well. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

    REFRIGERATE for a minimum of 2 hours to allow the beans to marinate.

    SERVE the dip at room temperature with warm, crusty bread.

    NOTES: If you can’t find dry cannellini beans (I got mine from Whole Foods), a similar amount of canned ones may be substituted. Drain the beans and pat them dry with paper towels before using. The French term for cutting basil into strips is “chiffonade.” To do it, stack the leaves and roll them to form a tight cylinder. Beginning from one of the shortest sides, slice the leaves from one end to the other, creating ribbons. Since extra-virgin olive oil plays a large role in this recipe, don’t go for the cheapest one. But you don’t need the most expensive one either. A mid-priced one will do. Look for a reasonably priced olive oil with a “best before” date on it.

    Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

  • Mezzanotte

    Where: 2907 Providence Rd., Suite 100.

    Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays (lunch); 4-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 4:30-10 p.m. Sunday.

    Phone: 704-365-4650.

Abby Hudnall of Charlotte writes: “We frequently go to Mezzanotte at the corner of Sharon Amity and Providence Road. I would love to have the recipe for the white bean ‘relish’ served with bread at dinner. It has olive oil, some herbs and something that gives it a kick. It is so good.”

When I cook something new, I like to look at the recipe to get a general idea of how it’s going to play out. So when Mezzanotte sent me the recipe for the Tuscan Bean Dip, I was slightly apprehensive as I couldn’t picture the end result.

There are large quantities of some bold flavors – red onions, garlic, basil, red pepper. And then there are the 3 cups of extra-virgin olive oil. But the further I got into making the dip, the more I got it: The cannellini beans (white Italian kidney beans) are both a blank canvas and a culinary sponge. They come to the table with little more than a mellow flavor of their own, and they absorb the flavors of the other ingredients.

Initially, I added only 2 cups of the olive oil. And that’s when the light bulb totally went on. I realized the oil was meant to transfer the flavors of the rest of the ingredients into the beans. That third cup of oil that I had been hesitant to add meant not only would everything get to luxuriate in this green-tinted nectar, but there would be enough oil to dredge hunks of warm bread through.

Robin Domeier is owner of Nibbles Personal Chef.
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