Sometimes you have to admit that, no matter how hard you try to prove otherwise, you are wrong. Right on the heels of my last post about how great dried beans are, I have to take it back – at least partially. Dried beans can be great. Just not if you’re as absent-minded as me. And not if you need them right now.
I was going to write this whole post about how, now that you’ve got your pantry stocked with dried beans, you should try to enjoy them in something summery instead of the usual types of heavy bean dishes one thinks of. Well, there’s a reason you don’t see a lot of summer bean recipes that use dried beans. They are really winter ingredients, for when you don’t have as much fresh anything around. They take a long time to cook and, if you’re me, they burn if you aren’t paying close enough attention.
But however you get your white beans into a soft enough state for this dish, do it. It is delightful. It’s a great lunch or side, or even dinner for one or two. I make it when I want something quiet. The flavors are nothing to write home about, but this dish can be perfectly satisfying to snack on while doing something else. I also make this when I find it hard to rustle up an appetite for a full meal, or anything too rich. And hey, if you do repeatedly burn them (like me), you get a nice smoky flavor on the non-burnt beans.
This dish is simple, though it requires some advance planning to be able to use dried beans. The beans will need to soak, be cooked, and then the mixture should marinate so that the flavors permeate the beans. In a pinch, a can of small white beans will also do – just rinse and add the rest of the ingredients (see step 4 and on, below). The dried beans have a much better texture and flavor, but make the dish much more complicated, so it is a trade-off.
Recipe: White bean salad
Makes about 2 cups, which can serve 1-4 as an appetizer or snack
- 1/2 lb dry small white beans
- 1 tb chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 tb olive oil
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt
- lemon juice to taste (fresh or bottled)
- pepper to taste
- To do the night before you would like to eat: Rinse the beans in a strainer and pick out any non-bean debris that might be included. Soak the white beans as directed on the package (or place in a pot of boiled water, covered, and let sit for at least 8 hours).
- Strain the beans again after they have soaked. Add the beans back to the pot, along with fresh water to cover the beans at least an inch, and a pinch of salt. Set on medium heat and allow to cook for at least an hour, covered, stirring occasionally. If at any point the water is no longer covering the beans, add more hot water. Do not allow them to get dry or they will burn. Lower the heat if the water is evaporating too quickly.
- When the beans are done (taste a few to see if they are soft enough to easy break apart between your teeth), strain and rinse under cold water. Shake to dry them somewhat.
- Add the beans to a bowl and mix in the rest of the ingredients.
- The beans can be eaten now, though the flavors will develop a bit better if allowed to meld a bit first. 15 minutes is helpful, though they can be stored covered in the refrigerator for another day as well.
Serve in a soft pita pocket or on lightly toasted slices of bread, scoop with tortilla or pita chips, or eat it with a spoon. It’s refreshing either way.
*I’m not sure why all my beans are photographed in this bowl. I think I subconsciously refer to the blue bowl as my bean bowl. I’ll try harder next time. Or better yet, no more beans for a while!
About this author: I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...