One of the most joyful things about this season is that friends and family drop in to visit. But that can also be one of the most stressful parts, considering all the elements you'd like to have in place when they come by — not the least of which is having a delicious nibble to serve.
With that in mind, consider this recipe your holiday pressure-release valve. It's a memorable Mediterranean bite of crunchy toast topped with coarsely mashed white beans with lemon, garlic and rosemary, finished festively with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle parsley and crushed red pepper flakes. It takes all of 15 minutes to whip up with ingredients that are easy to keep on hand — so it's perfect for surprise guests — or you can make the toasts and the beans a few days in advance and pull it all together at the last minute.
The dish has a modern, rustic elegance; it is a nice savory break from all the cookie action, and it pairs well with many beverages you might be pouring at this time of year, including a cup of tea or hot cider and a glass of red wine. Most importantly, it is a genuine pleasure not just for the guests, but for the host as well.
Garlic-Rosemary White Bean Toasts
• 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 6 medium slices crusty, whole-grain bread (about 5 ounces total)
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
• One 15-ounce can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
• 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
• Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Use 1 tablespoon of the oil (total) to brush the slices of bread on one side. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet, oiled sides up; toast (top rack) for about 10 minutes, until browned and crisp.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the garlic and rosemary; cook for one minute, stirring, then remove from the heat. Add the beans, lemon juice and salt. Use the back of a spoon or a fork to mash some of the beans, creating a mix of mashed, whole and partially mashed beans.
Spread each toast with the bean mixture, then use the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to drizzle over each portion. Sprinkle with the parsley and crushed red pepper flakes.
Nutrition: Per serving: 190 calories, 6 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 250 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar.
Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television's "Ellie's Real Good Food." She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.