With a hint of lemon and sage, this dip is a simple appetizer for casual entertaining. It's similar to hummus but has a chunkier texture than its Greek cousin. Place a bowlful of dip on a platter, and surround it with cucumber slices and carrot and celery sticks, or use it as a spread for crostini ("little crusts").
1. Place beans in a large bowl, and coarsely mash with a fork or pastry blender. Add parsley and remaining ingredients, and stir well. Serve at room temperature, or cover and chill until ready to serve.
Bread Bases: Bread is an essential part of the Italian diet and is a great base for traditional dips and spreads, as well as more elaborate toppings. Crostini (usually plain toasted bread) and bruschetta (garlic bread that's traditionally grilled) are easy to make at home.
To make crostini: Coat 1/2-inch slices of Italian or French bread baguette with cooking spray, and bake at 375 for 10 minutes.
To make bruschetta: Prepare grill. Place 1/2-inch slices of Italian or French bread baguette on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove from grill. Rub one side of each bread slice with cut sides of halved garlic cloves.
If you don't have time to make your own, check your local supermarket for commercial panetini (oven-baked Italian toast), crostini, and bruschetta.