Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Revise, Don't Reject: Salvaging Not-Quite-Wonderful Recipes

Recently I tried a recipe for Peppery Artichoke Pitas, from Better Homes & Gardens' Vegetarian Cooking. On a whole, the recipe wasn't bad, but it wasn't quite wonderful either. There's nothing wrong with the recipe, I just don't much care for cold beans in anything other than 3-bean salad.

However, the whole time I was eating the sandwiches, I kept thinking, "This would do really well as a spread." So before I scribbled a "do not make again" note on the recipe's page in my cookbook, I decided to do a little revision before I outright rejected the recipe. For me, it was another reminder that sometimes recipes are just guidelines. First drafts waiting for the customized modifications that will make them wonderful final versions for you.

The Original Recipe -- Peppery Artichoke Pitas
(Serves 6)

You need:
•15-oz can Great Northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
•14-oz can quartered artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained and chopped
•1/2 cup torn arugula or baby spinach
•1/4 cup creamy garlic dressing
•1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
•3 pita bread rounds, cut in half

To make:
•Mix the first 5 ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
•Spoon into pita bread halves and serve.

Now, again, it's not a bad recipe as it is (especially if you like cold beans). My vegetarian friend, Jennifer, loves the original recipe. But I did observe several things:

•The process moves faster if you dump the artichoke hearts and arugula/spinach leaves into a food processor on the Chop setting.
•The recipe works better with arugula, which has a stronger, peppery flavor. With spinach, you’ll need more pepper or a strong-flavored garlic dressing.
•This recipe works better with cracked black pepper than ground. If you substitute with ground black pepper, you may need to add more.
•This recipe tastes a lot better when served at room temperature than when served cold from the fridge.

The Variation
Make this a spread to put on things like Wasa or other crackers, or thick multigrain bread.

You can take the whole prepared mixture and dump it into a food processor. While the beans and everything else mash up well, it’s a little harder getting the artichoke hearts mashed. You can get a better consistency -- and a better integration of flavors -- if you mash the beans first in the food processor, then add the artichoke hearts and mash some more, then add the remaining three ingredients. As a spread, it tastes equally good when served at room temp or cold from the fridge. You might also warm it up in the microwave (not scalding hot), and serve it on crackers with a little grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Try it. And if you come up with other variations, let us know!!