There’s nothing that motivates me to cook more than throwing a party. There just isn’t the same healthy pressure when cooking for yourself. Even when I am motivated enough to whip something up that’s really good, the reward of cooking for lots of people is definitely greater.

When I have guests over, I actually buck the common wisdom and cook new things fairly frequently. What can I say? I like living on a very, very safe edge. I definitely have a few go-to dishes that I like to make for parties, but in general, I get bored when I make things too many times.

Last night was Mark’s birthday party, and I wanted to make a couple of simple snacks to avoid excessive drunkenness. Dips typically serve that purpose pretty well, especially when you serve them with lots of bread. For this dip, I incorporated a lot of roasted garlic and some caramelized leeks with white beans and other deliciousness.

For the desert, my decision was sort of circumstantial — I have a friend who works in a photo studio and gave me 9 granny smith apples that were left over from a photo shoot (I am not above free apples, people), so I finally made this apple sharlotka from Smitten Kitchen that I’ve had my eye on. I added some nutmeg to the mix, but otherwise followed the recipe faithfully. It is tender, moist, apple-filled, and nice and tart — in other words, highly recommended and quite simple to make. I have a 10″ springform and it was flatter but worked out just fine.

Full recipe for the dip after the jump!

Roasted Garlic White Bean Dip
Makes a heap ‘o dip — this was enough for a party of 20

2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed & drained (or 4 c. cooked beans)
1 head roasted garlic
2 leeks
1 t. thyme leaves
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 c. labneh or greek yogurt
olive oil
salt & black pepper to taste
chives for garnish

Roast the Garlic
Take a whole head of garlic and cut off the top, so that most of the cloves are exposed (you do not have to peel). Wrap tightly in foil and place in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until very soft. The tops of the cut cloves will begin to turn a caramel brown and your whole kitchen will smell like roasted garlic. This is a good thing. Remove from the oven and take out of the foil. Let sit until cool enough to handle (or burn your fingertips like I did in a rush to finish assembling the dip).

Caramelize the Leeks
Cut each leek in half and then thinly slice the entire white and light green portions of the leek. Rinse very well to make sure you remove any sandy soil from between the layers. In a medium saute pan, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, thyme, a pinch of salt, and cook until very soft and caramelized at the edges. Lower the heat if they start to stick to the pan or brown too quickly.

Assemble the Dip
Combine the beans, garlic, leeks, labneh or yogurt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Turn it on and slowly pour in olive oil through the spout until the texture is creamy (I leave the quantity of oil up to you — just go slowly and stop to test and taste frequently). Add salt and black pepper to taste. Chill in the fridge until about 30 minutes before serving, then bring to room temperature, top with chopped chives if you feel like it, and serve with bread or veggies for dippin’.