When we had lived for a few months in France, the multi-lingual Mrs. E and I decided to give back to all those wonderful people who had helped us adjust to small town life in a foreign country. So we decided to throw a cocktail party for two very good reasons.
One. The idea of cooking for real French people intimidated the hell out of me.
Two. When the invitation says “please come for drinks, 7:30 – 8:30” and the date, the French do just that. By 8:37 PM, everyone has said his goodbyes and you are left with some fresh ice and enough time to do the glasses and have one last snootful before dinner.
Yes, cocktails it would be.
When we dropped off the invitation at the Anglican Church (we were regular customers of their neat little library), the volunteer librarian sniffed in her perfect French-tinged Oxbridge accent “Drinks. I’m sure it will involve ‘dip.’ Americans must always have “dip.”
That put me off dip for a long time. Somehow I felt very unsophisticated serving (and I can still hear her say it….) “dip.” I have since mended my ways and embraced my very American-ness. Which means variously, my Southern, German, Spanish, French, English and Greek heritage. We mutts know our way around a spice rack.
Here’s what I should have served that evening (incidentally, the librarian didn’t come; it snowed that year on the Riviera for the first time in four decades…. tant pis, she missed the best martinis on the coast.)
White Bean Dip.
1 can of Cannelini, or Great Northern White Beans. (if you use dried, follow the directions and soak them.)
3 tablespoons of Olive Oil (use First Press Virgin if you can get it.)
Healthy pinch of oregano, or parsley, or thyme or rosemary.
1 -2 cloves of garlic to taste.
Fresh ground pepper.
1 Black Olive for garnish (optional.)
Combine everything in a bowl and use a hand-mixer to blend. Or purée in blender or food processor. You may even chop and mash everything together (think mashed potatoes consistency) in a pinch.
Scoop it into a decorative bowl (I like using those little chinese rice bowls). Make a small indent in the top of the mound with the back of a spoon and drizzle a little olive oil into the dent. Garnish with a whole black olive or some chopped herbs. Serve on a plate with some toasted pita chips.