A Dreamy Bean Dip in Under 30 Minutes

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Sue Li. Prop stylist: Sophia Eleni Pappas.

It was the word “frazzled,” I think, that set me off. It was all meant to be very simple. I was to write a recipe for a superquick dip, using pantry ingredients, ready in under 30 minutes. Delicious. Easy. No need to overthink.

The only variable might be the main ingredient: the butter beans, I thought, or giant limasas they’re also known. The plump and creamy jarred ones I tend to get are not so easily available outside Britain, so I made a mental note to reassure home cooks that whatever beans they started with — from a jar or a can, or dried and soaked and cooked from scratch — the dip would still be delicious and work well. Relax. It’s fine. All good.

Recipe: Butter Bean Dip With Frizzled Onions and Preserved Lemon

But in recipe writing as in life, there are few things less reassuring or relaxing than being told to be reassured and relax. It’s all well and good for the recipe’s creator to be easy breezy. But then how can you reconcile this vague confidence with the fact that, in so many other matters, the same recipe writer can be so specific?

This paradox — relax, it’s fine! don’t relax, be precise! — happens not only in the same recipe but even in the same ingredient. Take an onion, which, for many recipes, accomplishes what “once upon a time” does in so many stories. On one hand, it’s so grounding and familiar, and at the same time, raises so many questions. Once upon what kind of time? the story reader might wonder. Which onion, exactly? the recipe reader thinks. A white one or a red one? A large or small or medium one? There are so many variables, none of which we writers seem to be in sync about in the slightest.

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