Feb 20, 2009

Warm Herb-Scented White Bean Salad with Greens

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As crazy as this may sound on a blog such as this, one cannot live on dessert alone. And as maniacal as my sweet tooth is, I’m not sure I would want to. At least, not when there’s a warm, herb-scented bean salad to chow down on.


This dish is originally from the cookbook that I’ve practically been keeping under my pillow at night, How To Eat Supper. I don’t need to go into my near-restraining-order-sized love for Lynne Rossetto Kasper again on Piece of Cake, but hey, why not? I love this woman. Love her, love her show, love everything about her. She gets me. I am the type of cook who loves a challenge when I have extra time, but when it comes to everyday cooking, I want to head into the kitchen with an arsenal of Not Dessert recipes that can be made quickly but still feel like a fun project, and are soul-warming and satisfying in their simplicity but are always interesting and bright spots in a long week. I also love the fact that this book is full of recipes that one can easily riff on, and you can practically hear LRK cheering you on as you swap out an ingredient or two and really make a dish your own.

With this recipe, I sometimes use dried herbes de provence rather than fresh rosemary because I always have that on hand. I also recently swapped out the asiago cheese in the bread crumb topping for lemon zest and an extra pinch of salt since my completely adorable vegan sister was visiting, and it was still so delicious the two of us ate the whole dang thing in one sitting, half of it straight from the pan. The beans stay whole and firm, yielding to their creamy, sweet interiors, tasting even richer with a light coating of warm, garlicky herb-infused oil and a salty, crumbly topping. Adding extra greens that maintain some structure while barely wilting at their edges takes it beyond the side dish. And putting some toasty bread covered in ripe avocado with a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt alongside makes you never want to think about eating anything else again. Except maybe some cookies, which are especially necessary after eating something so full of savory health.

Warm Herb-Scented White Bean Salad with Greens
Adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift’s How To Eat Supper

Serves 2 (or one hungry vegetarian)

1 generous tablespoon dry bread crumbs (or about two tablespoons fresh)
1 tablespoon grated asiago cheese (or the zest of 1/2 a large lemon)
2 large garlic cloves
Good extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon herbes de provence
1 can organic white beans, drained and rinsed
2 big handfuls mixed sweet baby salad greens (such as romaine, butter and red leaf)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the bread crumbs until they are golden and fragrant. Stir in the cheese (or lemon zest and a pinch of salt). Pour the crumbs into a dish and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean and set it back on medium heat.

As the pan gets back up to heat, mince the garlic and add a generous pinch of salt to it. Working with the heel of your hand against the flat blade of a chef’s knife, massage the garlic into a nubby paste in a circular motion, using the salt as an abrasive. After a few firm rubs, scrape the flattened garlic back into a little pile, run the knife through it to mince it even finer and repeat the massaging and mincing process until the individual bits of garlic are nearly undetectable.

Film the pan with olive oil and add the garlic. Using a spatula, keep the garlic moving in the pan for about one minute and don’t let it brown. Add the herbs. Saute for about 30 seconds more and lower the heat to medium low. Add the beans and turn them gently in the pan, coating with the garlic and herb infused oil and being careful to keep the beans whole and as unbroken as possible. When the beans are just warmed through, toss in the greens and keep folding gently until the greens just begin to wilt. Turn the salad into a serving dish and cover with the bread crumb topping. Nudge the salad around in the bowl just enough to send some bread crumbs tumbling down deeper into the bowl, but not tossing completely. Serve immediately.

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