When it comes to entertaining, one of my favorite dishes of all time is asparagus served with roasted garlic aioli sauce. I love the combination of garlic, egg yolks, mustard, and lemon juice served next to crispy steamed asparagus. But I think we can all agree, as delicious as aioli sauce is, it is not the healthiest dish in the world. So when I saw this healthier version of aioli recipe in Amy Chaplin’s cookbook- At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen, I had to try it. And I am so glad I did, because lately, this Steamed Asparagus topped with white bean and artichoke aioli has been my favorite thing to eat.
The best part of this dip is the fact that it is so easy to make. All you have to do is to put everything in a food processor (or a blender) and process for 2-minutes or until it has a smooth texture. In terms of the ingredients, you use canned Cannelini beans and artichoke hearts, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and ume plum vinegar. I know that the last ingredient – ume plum vinegar – may not be one that you readily have in your pantry. I did not. But since it has been coming up quite often in many of my favorite food blogs and cookbooks, I invested in a bottle of it (this
is the brand I use). Though you certainly can make this recipe without it, by substituting it with a little more lemon juice and salt, I still recommend giving this unusual ingredient a try.
I am saying that it is unusual ingredient, because I don’t cook Japanese food as much. But for those, who are regulars of Japanese cuisine, ume plum vinegar is no unusual ingredient. I found the best explanation as to what it is in Amy’s book (in the Vinegars section):
“ Naturally fermented, unpasteurized, and unfiltered organic vinegars are an excellent pantry staple for tasty quick dressings, pickles, and marinades. Adding a dash of vinegar to bean dishes or other rich meals at the end of cooking enlivens and balances flavor…”
“Traditionally brewed ume plum vinegar is the treasured brine that is left after pickling umeboshi (Japanese Plum with shiso leaves). It is the perfect seasoning as it adds salt and tanginess at the same time.”
So whenever you want to add a little of that salty and tangy taste to your dressings, dips, and soups, you can use ume plum vinegar. However, one thing to keep in mind is that since it is strong and salty you have to remember to adjust the amount of salt you use in your recipes.
The one ingredient that is so crucial for this aioli recipe is the oven-roasted garlic. Because I think, with the help of white beans it is what makes this so creamy and delicious. I usually roast a couple of heads of garlic once a week, keep it in an airtight jar, and use it in everything I make throughout the week. I find that it is such an easy way to add flavor to pretty much any savory dish that I normally use fresh/raw garlic.
Finally, I steamed my asparagus because I love the tender and crispy texture of steamed version compared to the roasted version. However, you can serve this aioli with roasted asparagus, or any other vegetable you like for that matter. Either way, this white bean and artichoke aioli recipe is one that you can use whenever you want to entertain a healthy conscious crowd or you fancy the creamy texture of the classic French version.
Steamed Asparagus with White Bean and Artichoke Aioli
- 1 pound asparagus washed
- 1/4 cup roasted garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1 15- ounces can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
- 2 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 6 artichoke hearts from a can drained
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves plus more for garnishing
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cut off and discard the ends of asparagus.
- Place a steamer basket inside a large pot. Fill it with 2 cups of water. Place the asparagus inside the basket. Cover and steam until asparagus are bright green and tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove asparagus from the basket and place on a large plate.
- Meanwhile, place garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, bean, ume plum vinager, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, artichoke hearts, and basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl halfway through. The mixture should be smooth and creamy.
- Spoon it over asparagus or serve it on the side. Right before serving sprinkle it with black pepper.
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Recipe adapted from Amy Chaplin’s cookbook – At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen.