Meatless Monday – White Beans with Tomato and Basil


My copy of Fields of Greens recently made its way back to me.  As I thumbed through it, I had a similar reaction to the one I had when I rediscovered Sundays at Moosewood.  What a seriously fabulous book, even if you are not a vegetarian.

Fields of Greens is written by Annie Somerville, chef of the the famed Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.  In business for over 30 years, Greens is the first vegetarian restaurant that I ever visited and it was Barr that took me there (Do you hear the song Memories in the background?).

It was during my Odwalla days and I remember being blown away by the quality and flavor of the produce.  With this anticipation I planned my Meatless Monday, White Beans with Tomatoes and Basil, perfect for a summer dinner.

The recipe called for cannellini beans but it being Maine, all I could find were great northern beans which worked just fine.  Being impatient I did not soak the beans overnight.  Instead I went for the quick soak method.  Bring bring beans and ample water to a rolling boil.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and cover.  Let beans sit for 1 hour before draining and proceeding with the recipe.

I was curious about adding hot beans to the vinaigrette and how it would taste; this was indeed one of the most appetizing bean salads I have had in a long time.  All of the flavors mingled together so nicely and making components of a dish ahead of time is always appealing to me because it makes pulling dinner together that much easier.

I was a wee bit tempted to add other ingredients, like cucumber or fennel, to this salad.  I exercised restraint and suggest you do the same because the key to this salad’s deliciousness is its simplicity.

The book recommends serving this salad with crusty bread, fresh mozzarella and an assortment of olives.  I skipped the bread and went for Barr’s Fried Mozzarella with olives and marinated mushrooms on the side.  ‘Twas an outstanding supper!

Cannellini Beans with Tomatoes and Basil from Fields of Greens Cookbook
Serves 4 – 6 as a main course

1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight or quick soaked (see above)
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of fresh herbs (marjoram, sage, thyme)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
champagne or rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. fresh lemon zest
1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, more to taste
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
(roma, cherry, grape or hot house – whatever looks and smells the best)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Drain and rinse the beans.  Place them into a large saucepan and cover generously with cold water.  Add the bay leaf and fresh herbs.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat for a gentle boil. Cook until tender 25 – 30 minutes.  Test the beans to make sure they are done.  If they are still tough give them a little more time.

While the beans are cooking, heat 1 cup of water to a boil in the microwave.  Add the onion and steep for 15 seconds.  Scoop out the onions with a slotted spoon and transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Toss the onion with a 1/2 tsp. of champagne vinegar.

Add red wine vinegar, lemon zest, garlic, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper to the onion and mix to combine.  Whisk in the olive oil.  Drain the cooked beans.  Add the hot beans to the vinaigrette and toss well.  Allow the beans to cool to room temperature. (The salad can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated until needed.  Just let the salad warm to room temperature before serving.)

To serve, add in the tomatoes and fresh basil.  Taste and refresh the salad with a splash of champagne vinegar and additional salt and pepper if needed.

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