Many people think Italian cooking is complicated, and involves lots of “herbs and spices.” Nothing can be further from the truth.
Most Italian dishes are very simple and involve a few flavors which, instead of fighting for attention, come together beautifully to complement each other. This bean salad is a perfect example: it is simple, has only three or four ingredients, and amazing flavor. It’s also low in fat, high in protein, and the olive oil provides many health benefits.
I have made this for several get togethers, buffets and parties, and guests always comment on how delicious it is. It’s perfect as a side dish, for a pot luck, picnic…the list goes on.
As a matter of fact, this is my daughter’s packed lunch for school today, along with a piece of homemade bread!
As I said in my “rant” about using quality ingredients, yes, you can use canned beans, but will it taste the same as home cooked beans? You know the answer, so I’m including how to cook dried beans, in case anyone hasn’t done it before. I always have a supply of home cooked beans in small containers in the freezer. They’re handy for making this bean salad, or making Pasta & Beans, for a super quick and healthy meal.
COOKING DRIED BEANS
Soak the beans overnight (I cooked cannellini, but the same directions apply to any kind of bean like kidney, navy, garbanzo, borlotti, fava etc.) I usually start to soak them in the afternoon, in at least 4 or 5 times the amount of water. You don’t want the beans to dry up while soaking.
Rinse the beans well, picking out any debris (usually there is none) and adding water in a pot about an inch or two above the level of the beans.
Put on stove over medium high heat, and bring to a boil. Stir and remove the foam with a wooden spoon and discard, then lower the heat so that the beans are at a constant simmer for a minimum of 45 minutes, or until cooked.
Add about a teaspoon or so of salt towards the end of cooking. Taste the beans for readiness, and salt; if still hard, continue to cook, if it tastes rather bland, add more salt.
Drain, and cool. Use as desired, or refrigerate or freeze.
SIMPLE, HEALTHY, ITALIAN BEAN SALAD
- cooked beans (your choice)
- green onions or regular onion (sweet is best)
- extra virgin olive oil (good quality will make a HUGE difference)
- wine vinegar, optional (I LOVE it with vinegar, but it’s a totally a matter of taste)
- salt, if needed
Place all the ingredients in a bowl and toss together gently. Taste for salt, and add a little if necessary. How can it get any easier than this???
Serve with crusty Italian bread, of course, homemade is the best!