Whether canned or dried, beans are handy to have in your pantry and you can use either for this easy summer white bean salad. Canned beans make it fast, but dried beans are wonderful if you’ve never tried them. With fresh lemon, herbs, garlic and shallot, add summer white bean salad to fresh greens or enjoy along side a burger. There are many ways to enjoy it.
Summer White Bean Salad
While canned beans are good when you are short on time, nothing can beat a dish started with dried beans. Soaked overnight and cooked slowly the next day, great are the rewards in flavor for healthy dishes like this simple summer white bean salad. Add a generous amount of fresh chopped herbs, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon and you have a tasty side dish for grilled chicken, shrimp, pork or beef. I add crumbled feta cheese, but skip it for dairy-free or vegan diners.
Rancho Gordo Beans
Discovering Rancho Gordo got me cooking with dried beans versus always reaching for canned. Based in Napa, California, they bring high quality heirloom dried beans to market. Beans that are grown in limited quantities and have better flavor and texture than your generic super market dried beans. And their beans that are fresh.
Once I tried Rancho Gordo bean varieties, dried beans became a constant in my pantry. My favorite was their cannellini beans until they stopped offering them. A great replacement is the Marcella bean, a thin-skinned cannellini bean named after the famed Italian chef, Marcella Hazan.
Big, white, creamy-tender pillows, Cannellini beans (white kidney beans) are very versatile. I use them in soups, salads, stews and side dishes like this summer white bean salad with delicious results. Cannellini beans are good for you too, and an inexpensive source of protein. Just a half of a cup provides 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Dried beans triple in volume, so 1/2 a pound of dried beans will yield about 3 cups of beans when cooked. A full pound cooks up to about 6 cups.
Soak Beans at Bedtime, Cook the Next Day
Start the beans soaking before you go to bed. The next day, cook them and finish the salad. Serve chilled or at room temperature with lots of fresh herbs and a little olive oil.
For Canned Beans
To speed things up, use three cans of white beans – cannellini, great northern or navy. Rinse and drain, add to a bowl, stir in vinaigrette, herbs and chopped raw veggies.
Summer White Bean Salad
- 1/2 pound dried Cannellini or Marcella beans or 3 cans of white beans, see note at end
- 6-8 cups filtered water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup diced celery
- ½ cup diced carrot
- 1 cup diced onion
- 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 large dried bay leaf
- Kosher or sea salt and black pepper as needed
- 3-4 ounces crumbled feta cheese optional
- 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot or chives
- 2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1-2 tablespoon freshly chopped herbs oregano, dill, mint, or rosemary
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice add zest for more lemon flavor
- 1-2 large garlic cloves very finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Begin by soaking beans overnight. Pick through the beans for any broken pieces or debris and discard. Choose a container large enough to hold beans and water to cover by about three inches. Beans expand while soaking. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If using canned beans, rinse and drain beans in a colander or sieve and see notes below for finishing.
- In the morning, drain soaking water from beans. To cook beans, warm 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot. I use a 5 ½ quart Dutch oven. Turn heat down a little and add celery, carrot, onion and garlic to the pot and cook until vegetables are softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Turn down the heat if necessary.
- Add fresh water to cover beans by a about 2 inches. Add the bay leaf. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat to low. Cover the beans and simmer gently for approximately 2-3 hours. Timing varies with the freshness of the beans. Check the beans occasionally to make sure they are covered by water. If water is low, add a little from a hot tea kettle. Beans are done when they are soft and tender to the bite. When beans are almost there, add salt and pepper to season. When beans are done, gently strain off the water and allow the beans to cool. Beans can be refrigerated covered at this point for a day or two, or continue with the recipe.
- To finish the salad, make the vinaigrette dressing. In a small bowl whisk together the oil. lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the beans and mix gently. Add the herbs and feta. At serving time, taste the beans and add additional salt and pepper if needed, then drizzle with a little extra good olive oil if desired. Fresh lemon zest is a nice garnish too.