A pot of beans is a summer savior. Cooked dried beans are so versatile that you can use them in a salad, as a side dish, in soup, pureed as an appetizing spread. I like to cook up a whole pot of them over the weekend, which is hardly a burdensome task, and have them available for impromptu uses throughout the week. These are white cannellini beans, or white kidney beans.
The key to flavorful bean salads, in my view, is the dressing. For one of my recent salads, I used the Fennel à la Grecque that I made earlier in the month. I chopped the fennel pieces, and combined them with beans that were moistened by the poaching liquid, an unctuous combination of olive oil, white wine and lemon. This was a perfect foil to sautéed shrimp, making this a one-dish meal.
The other salad uses a garlicky dressing that I’ve been making for a while, based on an internet source I no longer can locate. I heated a crushed clove of peeled garlic in olive oil and let it sit for 5 minutes. I then placed the mixture into my mini-chopper with a few anchovies (you could omit them and use salt but the depth of flavor is very good and it doesn’t make the dressing taste fishy), a splash of vinegar, and some snipped woody herb, like sage or rosemary. Here I used rosemary since I like it with beans and tomatoes, the vegetable I chose to add to the salad. I brought the refrigerated beans and their liquid to a simmer, drained and reserved the liquid and tossed the beans with the warm dressing to help the flavors become acquainted. When the beans were cool and ready to be served, I checked the seasonings, added a few chopped tomatoes (good use for the millions of cherry tomatoes that crop up at this time of year), and finished it with rosemary leaves.
I served the bean salad on a bed of small kale leaves that had been tossed in the same vinegar. My garden has been producing great kale from the same plants for nearly a year! That’s crazy but true. I’m about to rip them all out and start over but it’s tempting not to after all the hard work to keep them from bolting.