When we were kids, my brother punched a hole in the wall of our hallway. He’s going to kill me for telling you all about his temper, but I really do have a point here. You see, my mother, ever practical, decided that if punching was his most natural method of venting his anger, she just had to give him something better to punch. So she bought a punching bag (and Evan, of course, got a laundry list of household chores in order to pay off the wall repairs).
When nobody else was home, I used to sneak into the garage and beat the hell out of that bag. OK, actually, the beating was probably pretty mild since I had no idea what I was doing. And it was likely only luck that prevented me from breaking a knuckle. But technique aside, I loved it. Until that punching bag arrived, I’d had no idea that anything other than a good sob-fest or a bowl of chocolate ice cream could be so soothing.
Now, you’re probably assuming that I’m going to tout the benefits of exercise for reducing stress, but who are we kidding? When stressed, my first instinct is to take to the kitchen. But even in the kitchen there are wonderfully violent ways to expend energy. So tonight, when I decided to make this bruschetta, I knew that the food processor was just not going to do it for me. Nope. Tonight was a mortar and pestle night.
Years ago, my step father gave me a huge, heavy mortar and pestle. At the time, I wondered what on earth I would use it for. Silly me! I now use it for everything from grinding pepper to crushing tomatoes, to making peanut butter. Often, like tonight, I simply choose the mortar and pestle because I need to pound something (and I have no punching bag of my own). There is something about the clang of the heavy bat-shaped club hitting the bowl that is oddly fulfilling. And that I get to eat the product of my aggression is icing on the cake (or, in this case, topping on the bruschetta).
Of course, you can certainly make this bruschetta in a food processor as the recipe states, but if you’re feeling a bit tense, I highly suggest the old-fashioned method. The food processor would have produced a smoother spread than you see here, but I actually quite liked the rustic texture. And I was having so much fun with the mortar and pestle that I decided to go ahead and pulverize the nuts too, and fold them into the bean paste, although the original recipe called for the paste to be spread on the bread and topped with chopped nuts. A word of caution: if you are not a garlic fan, you might consider using just one clove as two produced a pretty pungent product. The original recipe stated that it made six bruschetta, but I found that it made many more than that.
Bruschetta With White Beans and Walnuts
Adapted From Gourmet Magazine, February 1999
1/3 cup walnuts
1 15 ounce can white beans, drained
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
about a dozen slices of italian bread, toasted
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (original recipe called for parsley)
Toast the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Combine the nuts, beans, garlic, lemon juice, and half of the olive oil in the food processor (or in a huge mortar and pestle) and pulse until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and then stir in half of the basil. Drizzle the toasts with remaining oil. Top each toast with some of the paste and a sprinkle of basil.