White bean salad

(Food Styling/Sheryl Julian &Amp; Lisa Falso; Bill Greene/Globe Staff)
October 21, 2009

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Serves 8

A few weeks ago, I insanely volunteered to cater a friend’s wedding. With no kitchen at the venue, I had to find a crowd-pleaser that could sit out for a while. Taste was essential, of course, so I made a delicious white bean salad. Beans are fairly inexpensive (the bride and groom were paying for their wedding, so they appreciated that). Since not all beans are equal, check the date on the bag. Dried beans do not age well; if they’re cracked or shriveled, they’ve been on the shelf too long. They do require some forethought. Soak them overnight, then boil them until tender and add the remaining ingredients - red onion, capers, celery, green beans, fresh herbs, and a sherry vinegar dressing. If you want to use canned beans, you need three cans (15 to 16 ounces each). For a heftier dish, add strips of roast chicken, canned tuna, or my favorite, shredded smoked trout.

1 pound dried cannellini or Great Northern beans, soaked overnight
2/3 cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
6 ounces green beans, blanched and halved
1/4 cup each finely chopped fresh chives and fresh parsley

1. Drain and rinse the beans well and transfer them to a large pot. Add enough water to cover the beans by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add two generous pinches of salt and continue cooking for 5 to 15 minutes or until tender.

2. Drain the beans and transfer to a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and more salt. Remove the garlic and bay leaf. Leave to cool slightly.

3. In another bowl, combine the vinegar and red onion. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Whisk the mustard into the vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Slowly whisk the remaining olive oil in a steady stream. Pour the mixture over the beans. Add the capers, celery, green beans, and the chives and parsley. Toss well. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Jill Santopietro