“Oh,” he mumbles, his mouth stuffed with food, “this is the bean salad I used to just shovel!”
“Used to?” I think, secretly glad I’ve found another meatless, cheeseless dish Shorty likes as much as I do.
When I first started cooking, I made this bean salad as a side dish pretty often, mostly because it meant I didn’t have to worry about timing the main dish to be ready at the same moment (the salad is served at room temperature so you can make it in advance without worrying about it getting cold or soggy or something).
Nowadays, though, any time I feel the need for a “detox,” instead of going for carrot and beet juice and the like, my brain says, “bean salad.” I don’t know why. Beans are probably not known for their detoxifying properties, strictly speaking.
In any case, I find myself returning to life after the holidays with recipes like this one: served at room temperature, delicious, yet utterly cheeseless, breadless, and meatless. Filling, but not painfully so.
I know what you’re thinking: THE HOLIDAYS ARE NOT OVER YET DON’T TAKE THIS FROM ME. I wouldn’t dare. I’m just going to go ahead and suggest that instead of waiting until after the parties and potlucks for a dish like this, just bring it along.
Now you might be thinking, “Oh, yum. Beans…Not.” or, “Not exactly a crowd pleaser.” Don’t get me wrong, room-temperature beans might not always be the most appealing at potluck parties, and it might not be the star of the show at, say, a tailgate, but there’s something simple and elegant about a perfectly seasoned bean salad. At each party I’ve served this, I’ve found that, even if people don’t dive into the beans at first, by the end they’re saying, “I think I need more of that bean salad. Where did that go?”
Plus, with lemon juice and olive oil as the dressing, it’s safe to leave this salad at room temperature throughout a get-together. I have suspicions that this could be puréed into some kind of epic white bean dip. More on that later. I’m still experimenting.
I’ve been making this bean salad for so long, I don’t even remember where I first saw the recipe. Here’s what I do to pull it together:
Italian White Bean Salad
3 14 oz. cans Cannellini beans (Great Northerns can be substituted, or, you can boil your own beans!!)
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup capers
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2/3 – 1 cup olive oil
1. Drain beans into a colander and rinse thoroughly, until they stop looking sudsy (aren’t canned foods weird?). Set aside to drain.
2. Cut onion in half across the root. Peel. Slice in half-moons, as thin as possible. Wash and dry parsley. Chop fine. Drain and rinse capers.
3. In bowl, whisk lemon juice and gradually add olive oil, forming a (tangy!) vinaigrette. I left the measurements vague so that you can taste as you go. Start with 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2/3 cup olive oil and alter it to taste.
4. In large bowl, add drained beans, red onions, capers, and parsley. Pour vinaigrette over salad and mix gently, thoroughly coating beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Serve immediately, or let flavors develop in the fridge for a few hours. Refrigerate until needed. Allow to return to room temperature before serving.
Serve within 24 hours for the sweet spot between freshness and thoroughly mingled flavors. Note that it keeps for several days in the refrigerator.