Cold summer salads are a staple in my kitchen. We have them nearly every single day when the weather heats up. In fact they’re one of the first things I start making when I’m impatient for the lazy days of summer to arrive. Perhaps it’s my way of trying to usher in the warmth and sunshine that seems so long overdue. I usually make them with pasta, but this bean salad is a great alternative that I’ve made several times already this spring. It’s packed full of protein and is something I can bring along on a picnic or serve as a side with grilled meat for dinner. It is best when made a few hours ahead, then just pulled out of the fridge when all the food comes off the grill. It can even pass as a meal on its own when it’s too hot to light up the grill or even turn on the stove.
And speaking of grilling, I have a confession: I only just started grilling outdoors last August, when I received a grill for my birthday. I admit, as much as I love smoky, grilled food, I’ve always been a little intimidated by the process of outdoor grilling – the mess of the charcoal, the unpredictability of the heat, and the risk for fire here in such a dry climate. Living in the city for years we never had a place to put a grill and I was more of an indoor grill girl, anyway (thanks to liquid smoke!) … That is until I lit up my new grill for the first time and realized how completely relaxing it is to slow down and cook outside under the trees with a glass of wine in my hand. Now I’m hooked. I have to ask myself every time why I didn’t get a grill sooner. This summer I’m looking forward to experimenting with new recipes, new flavours, and fuel to add to the charcoal (grape vines, hickory wood?). Leave me all your grilling tips & techniques in the comments!
White Bean Salad with Asparagus
I like to cook my beans at home but in a pinch, or when it’s just too hot to leave the stove on for an hour, I’ve made this with canned beans that have been rinsed well under cool running water. It’s just as good!
3 cups cooked Great Northern beans (canned or 1.5 cups dry beans, soaked and cooked until soft)
1/2 lb (230 g) asparagus
1/2 cup diced red onion
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 TBSP white wine vinegar
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed in a garlic press
2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp dry oregano
3/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (less if using canned beans)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
If using dry beans, prepare them by sorting, rinsing and soaking overnight. Drain the beans and place in a medium sauce pan. Cover with water coming at least 1.5 inches above the top of the beans and simmer, partially covered for 1 to 1.5 hours. Add salt to taste during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
To prepare the salad: Wash the asparagus and remove the tough ends of the stalks. Cut into 1-inch pieces, keeping the tops whole. Place the asparagus in a steamer basket in a pot with about an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil, cover and steam the asparagus for 2 minutes. Fill a bowl full of ice water and when the asparagus is done cooking, place them in the ice bath. Then drain and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the onion, cooked asparagus, cooked beans and the parsley. Fold together gently. Refrigerate 2-3 hours before serving.