Three Bean Salad

While I was visiting my friend Carolyn on Vashon Island, near Seattle, we spent a lovely day on "the watch" (the upper deck) reading, watching the mountain and chatting. Carolyn made this great salad for lunch, a recipe from Mario Batali, and I thought it might be perfect for a birthday party I attended last weekend. I couldn't find the recipe she used at the time, so I just did my best to make a good vinaigrette and added what I remembered from the salad I ate with C. I think this salad is perfect for spring and summer-- filling (lots of protein!), refreshing, and light.

Here's what I put together:

3/4-1 lb green beans, blanched
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup arugula
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts

2 T olive oil
3 T champagne vinegar
2 T cashews
1 t dijon mustard
1 t honey
1 clove garlic roughly chopped
pinch of stevia or low-cal sweetener (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

3 T sparkling water

Blanching: Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Remove tips from the beans. Add some salt to the boiling water, and add the green beans. Boil for 3-4 minutes-- test one. It should be a little soft but still have some crunch. This is a key texture to me. When they are ready, strain and place in  ice water to immediately stop the cooking. You can let them hang out there if you are doing something else.

Toasting: Place the pine nuts on a cooking sheet (I do this in my toaster oven). Preheat to 350. Cook the nuts for 5 minutes and then turn off the oven heat. Let them sit until they are quite fragrant, checking them often, about 10-12 minutes.

Dressing: Combine oil, vinegar and cashews. Whiz in your blender (love the bullet!) until completely smooth. Watch out for chunks. While they're sometimes fun, for this salad, not so much. Once smooth, add the dijon, honey, garlic, stevia, salt, and pepper. Whiz again. Finally, add the sparkling water and stir with a spoon (to keep some of the bubbles).

Salad: Drain, dry and chop the green beans into 1 inch pieces and combine in a salad bowl with the cannellini beans and chickpeas. Add the arugula and pine nuts and mix these ingredients together. Toss lightly with the dressing, trying not to break up the cannellini beans too much. I like to re-chill this one for 15-20 minutes before I serve it, but Mr. Batali suggests letting it sit at room temperature. I think chill enhances that nice crunchy texture of the blanched green beans...but he says the room temp makes the flavors in the beans and dressing more punchy. Up to you, I suppose!

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