Think beans are just for cold weather?

Think again. In a crispy cool bean salad, beans are lighter, yet still as filling.  This side-dish favorite can be prepared in countless ways. So pick your bean base from one of the choices below and then try one the recipes in this post:

Kidney: For a meatier main dish, mix these rich beans with barley, fresh green peppers and a can of tuna and then top with an olive oil and lemon dressing.

Black:  For a Tex-Mex style salad, simply mix beans with corn, tomatoes, green onions, fresh cilantro and top it all off with a sprinkling of lime juice and olive oil.

Green:  Crisp and garden fresh, green beans will give your salad lots of crunch. Toss them with cherry tomatoes, soft feta cheese and grilled corn. Add a lemon-mint vinaigrette to really bring out the flavors.

Pinto:  Make a spicy salad by mixing pinto beans with cherry tomatoes, pepperoncini peppers, onions, celery and fresh parsley. Toss in an herbed vinaigrette and add a splash of Tabasco for extra flavor.

Garbanzo:  A highly versatile bean, garbanzos are great mixed in couscous with roasted bell peppers, red onions, cucumbers and feta cheese. Toss in a honey-Dijon dressing to finish.

Beans are eaten around the world with all kinds of flavorings and accompaniments. Black beans, for example, seem well-suited to Mexican style salads, while the flavors of the Mediterranean—green beans, anchovies, basil, thyme and fruity olive oil—enhance creamy white beans. Indian flavors—cumin, ginger, yogurt and cilantro—are great for chickpea salads as are Middle Eastern flavors—garlic, parsley, olive oil and feta.

You can easily make these salads by opening a can or two of beans and mixing them with seasonings and your favorite salad dressings. However, 1 cup dried beans gives you 2-1/2 to 3 cups cooked beans and, with the exception of chickpeas which actually take well to canning, most beans suffer, becoming quite mushy when canned. When you use canned beans, you also miss a chance to add extra flavor to your salads. Including a few aromatic vegetables and seasonings in the pot when cooking dried beans is an opportunity to add depth and character to the final dish. If you do use canned beans, try a few brands to see which you like best. The organic ones taste better and usually have little or no salt. Just remember to always rinse canned beans well before using.

Most beans improve in flavor and texture when cooked a day in advance. If you plan to hold them for a day or so, refrigerate the beans in their cooking liquid once they’ve cooled. If kept at room temperature for too long, beans can sour and ferment.

To soak or not to soak?

Soaking dried beans in water overnight before cooking them has two benefits: most soaked beans cook faster—up to an hour less. Also, if the soaking water is poured off, the beans will be easier to digest because you’re leaching out and pouring off the oligosaccharides that cause gas.

If you are not good at planning ahead, there’s a quick-soaking method. Cover the beans with water and bring them to a boil. Boil for two minutes and then let them soak for an hour off the heat, drain, and then add fresh water and continue cooking.

Many people believe dried beans last forever. In fact, very old beans and those that have been stored in hot, humid conditions might never soften even after hours of cooking. Yet it’s almost impossible to tell the age of dried beans. If you have a good market that goes through beans quickly, you’d do well to buy them there. Heirloom beans are available by mail from small growers.

To salt or not?

A major debate exists in the culinary world on whether adding salt or acids to beans slows down the cooking time or toughens the beans.  Cook’s Illustrated did a study and concluded that salt has no effect on cooking time or bean texture. Furthermore, they suggest that for maximum flavor, it’s actually essential to salt your beans at the beginning rather than the end of of cooking. Also, when soaking beans, Cook’s Illustrated says that by using salt water, the bean will cook up with softer and more pliable skins.  

Tomato sauce, wine, lemon juice and vinegar, however, do prevent the starch on the inside of the bean from swelling and becoming tender. These ingredients can be added to bean salads, but not until the beans are fully cooked and soft. And speaking of acidic ingredients, don’t dress cooked beans until the day you are serving the salad. Though the beans need some time to absorb the flavor from the dressing, too much time in contact with the acidic ingredients—and this includes yogurt—will make the beans mushy.

After cooking the beans and letting them cool in their broth, strain them and mix them with summertime ingredients, such as basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and chiles from the farmers’ market. These salads are good for a light lunch along with some bread—crusty Italian with white bean salads, warmed tortillas with the black beans or and pita with chickpea salads.

Consider experimenting with a pot of cooked beans to create your own salad. Try some of the recipes below for a different side dish to add interest at your next BBQ. These recipes also make use of the many fresh vegetables that are available this time of year.

Basic Method For Cooking Dried Beans

Use this basic method to cook any type of dried bean, including cannellini, kidney beans, chickpeas, and more. 1 cup dried beans yields about 3 cups.

Ingredients:

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, smashed

2 to 3 sprigs fresh herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, or flat-leaf parsley)

1 to 1-1/2 cups dried beans, sorted through, rinsed and soaked

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Wrap the bay leaves, garlic,and herbs in cheesecloth and tie with twine. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches (about 2 quarts). Add the herb bundle and the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the beans are tender but not splitting and falling apart, 1 to 2 hours depending on the type and freshness the of beans. Cannellini and kidney beans take about 1 hour and 15 minutes; chickpeas may take up to two hours. Best way to tell is to taste one of the beans. Check occasionally to be sure the beans aren’t boiling and that they are covered with liquid; add water if needed. Discard the herb bundle.

Black Bean Salad

Serves 4 – 6.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 small jalapeño, seeded, deveined and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 -3 big handfuls baby salad greens, well washed and dried
  • 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Directions:

Making the dressing: I use an immersion blender – but a blender or food processor will work just as well. Combine the lime juice, vinegar, honey, jalapeño, salt, garlic and mustard. Puree and add the olive oil and puree again until everything comes together. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Set aside until you are ready to serve the salad.

Just before you are ready to serve the salad, gently toss the salad greens with a small amount of the dressing. Arrange it on a platter. Now toss the beans and most of the almonds with the remaining dressing. Arrange the beans on top of the salad greens and finish by sprinkling with the remaining almonds and the crumbled feta cheese. 

Bean Salad with Walnuts and Pecorino Cheese

If you can find yellow wax beans use half green and half yellow.

6 servings

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons Sherry wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil

Salad:

  • 1 ½ lbs green beans, trimmed
  • 8 cups (packed) torn arugula leaves
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh savory leaves or fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 2 ounces semi-firm sheep’s-milk cheese (such as pecorino romano), shaved with vegetable peeler

For dressing:

Whisk shallot, vinegar and mustard in small bowl. Gradually whisk in both oils. Season dressing with salt and pepper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature and re-whisk before adding to the salad.

For salad:

Cook green beans in large pot of boiling salted water just until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer beans to colander and cool.

Combine beans and arugula in large bowl. Toss with dressing. Transfer salad to serving platter; sprinkle with walnuts, olives, herbs and pepper. Top with shaved cheese.

Chickpea Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Serves four to six

If you use canned chickpeas in place of dried, don’t cook them. Add the turmeric and salt to them (but not the onion or bay leaves) and continue with the recipe as directed. Toast the whole spices in a heavy-based skillet just until fragrant; crush them with a mortar and pestle or grind them coarsely in a coffee grinder dedicated to spices.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, well rinsed (soaked and drained), or 3 cups canned (see note above), rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut in half
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 small potatoes (about 8 oz. total)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
  • 1 medium-size hot green chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint

Directions:

In a deep, heavy-based pot, cover the chickpeas with 6 to 8 cups cold water. Add the turmeric, bay leaves, yellow onion and 1 tsp. salt. Over high heat, bring to a boil; reduce to a gentle simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 90 minutes; let cool in the broth.

In a heavy-based pot, cover the potatoes with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until tender, about 20 min. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut them into small cubes.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and sour cream. Add the ginger, cumin, fennel and chile. Mix well.

Drain the chickpeas, discarding the onion and bay leaves. In a serving bowl, combine the chickpeas, potatoes, cucumber and red onion. Mix in the yogurt dressing, cilantro and mint. Combine well. Let sit for 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve at room temperature.

Make Ahead Tips ; The beans can be cooked a day ahead (in fact, the flavor and texture will be even better). Cool the beans to room temperature, then refrigerate them in their cooking liquid; bring to room temperature  and drain before assembling the salad.

Warm Kidney Bean Salad

Try this bean salad as a side with barbecue pork or grilled chicken.

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 — (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup green pimento-stuffed olives, sliced in half

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add oregano, vinegar and beans. Cook over low heat until beans are warm.

Remove from heat and stir in salt, parsley and olives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

White Bean and Baby Zucchini Salad

White-Bean Salad with Zucchini 

White beans add heartiness while chopped zucchini adds crunch to this vegetarian salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 pound zucchini (about 2 small), trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 ounces green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, place cannellini beans, zucchini, green beans, Parmesan, basil, lemon zest and juice and oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Note: Small zucchini are sweeter than larger ones, especially when used raw.

Green Bean Salad with Prosciutto

4 to 6 servings

The flavor of Prosciutto di Parma, the most famous of the Italian hams, makes a delicious addition to this summery salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally in half
  • 1 medium summer squash, cut in matchsticks (about 2 cups)
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into thin strips
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper

Directions:

Steam beans in steamer basket over boiling water until crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Empty into a colander and cool.

Drain well, pat dry with paper towels and transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and toss to combine.

 

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