At the start of any get-together, we typically put out a bunch of cheese and bread and olives so everyone has something to munch on while hanging out in the kitchen as we cook. Last night, the first time we used the wood-fired oven to cook pizzas -- more on that soon! -- the dilemma facing us was what to serve as an appetizer if cheese was going to be melted all over the main dish. Pizza's a tough dinner to round out -- you don't want the appetizer or the dessert to be too similar to it and get everyone all cheesed- and breaded-out.
Bari here in Memphis. To stand in for the cheese, we made smashed chickpeas that were flavored with minced garlic, rosemary, and capers, much like the classic Italian bagna cauda, but the capers subbed in for the anchovies. It was really good! We can imagine using these same ingredients to make a killer vegan panini.
Bagna Cauda Smashed Chickpea Dip
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon capers
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
11/2-inch section of fresh rosemary (stem removed, minced)
1/3 cup white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
1/2 teaspoon of champagne vinegar
1/8 red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to tase
1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
Mince the garlic and the capers together. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add the minced garlic and the capers. Cook until fragrant, but do not let the garlic burn. Add the rosemary and then the wine and vinegar. Add the red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Cook until wine is reduced by half. Add the chickpeas and smash using a potato masher. If it's too thick, add water to thin it slightly so that it's spreadable. Place into a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining olive oil. Serve alongside grilled vegetables, sliced chibatta, and olives. (Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer.)