I love it when friends or readers suggest recipes to me. It makes the recipe feel special when it comes with an endorsement like that, and special recipes are more fun to cook. Not too long ago, my sweet friend Nicole sent me a link to a new EatingWell recipe for a white bean salad over which skewers of shrimp are served. I had seen the same recipe in the August 2010 issue and thought it sounded interesting: canned white beans tossed with a lemony dressing brimming with fresh herbs. The soft creaminess of the beans is highlighted by crunchy celery and quartered cherry tomatoes add some visual brightness. I was sold.
During this hot summer month, what is better than a punchy, refreshing salad that requires no oven or stove time, just a few minutes of patient chopping and mixing, tasting and seasoning? If you don’t have your own herb garden, the fresh herbs are a bit of an investment, but sometimes I think it’s worth it to pony up for the extra flavor. The dressing is a sensory experience unto itself: a green slurry, intense with herbs and heavenly olive oil—I used my best stuff for this salad. It’s hard to stop sniffing it, with all those scents mingling in one bowl.
Nicole noted that the dressing is rather strong, and she and her husband ate it over couscous, which I think is an excellent idea. I was too lazy last night to make anything else to go with it, so I ate it two ways: over toasted rye bread, which I don’t particularly recommend, or by itself, which I liked a lot. The strong flavors really appeal to me here—they just seem so vibrant and fresh, so summery and alive.
Now that the salad is made, I have fresh chives, oregano, and sage in the fridge. I’m stumped about what to do with them! It seems like a waste not to make the most of my herbal treasures. So I’ll ask you, generous readers: what’s your favorite thing to make with one or more of those fresh herbs?
Summery White Bean Salad
Adapted from this recipe in EatingWell
The link above will take you to the version with shrimp in it. My version here is vegetarian. You’ll probably have a bit of dressing left over unless you want the salad’s flavors to be really strong. I’m planning to make another salad with my leftover dressing, probably one with wheat berries, cubes of cheese, and maybe some grated carrot. I love me some wheat berries.
My favorite part of this salad is the celery. It adds a welcome crunch to an otherwise soft salad. Make sure your celery is really fresh and crisp!
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons, depending on size)
3 tbsp. best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage
2 tbsp. minced fresh chives
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt (I got to use my pretty pink mineral salt here!)
2 15-oz. cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered (I used grape tomatoes, in honor of Nicole, who loves them)
1 cup finely diced celery
1) In a medium or large mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, sage, chives, pepper, and salt. Set aside 2 tablespoons of this dressing; you can add it later if you think the assembled salad needs more flavor.
2) Add the white beans, tomatoes, and celery. Toss gently to mix them together with the dressing. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more dressing if you like. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time.