Jeff & Linda's Kitchen of Diversity
White Bean Salad
As you are no doubt seeing with these tapas recipes, Spanish cooking represents a wonderful fusion of traditional European, Middle-Eastern, and New World techniques and ingredients. This should be not at all surprising given that much of Spain was variously controlled over the last two millennia by Rome, then Charlemagne, and then Moors from the Maghreb before Spanish kingdoms eventually took control of the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish ports were also the first places in which the bounty of New World agriculturalists spread across Europe.
The following bean salad is an excellent example of this process. Bean salads themselves have been part of the Mediterranean diet for thousands of years, although before New World traced commenced these would have been limited to various chickpeas, peas, lentils, horse beans and broad beans. An excellent example of this is the bean salad described in last month’s iftar meal, although even this recipe has been influenced by New World agriculture as is shown by its inclusion of tomato. The common bean of the New World (Phaseolus vulgaris) was one of the first of the New World domesticates to be accepted into the European diet, as it provided the nutrition and cooking qualities of the broad bean (fava bean) without requiring removal of the tough, inedible skins and did not contain potentially fatal alkaloids like vicine or convicine. In the following recipe cannelloni beans are used, which are a white bean commonly used in Italy. However, this New World crop is treated in a very European fashion being mixed with celery, gherkin and chives and dressed in a garlicky mustard vinaigrette.
½ pound dry cannelloni beans
¾ cup olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/8 teaspoon sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 gherkin, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, cut into ½-inch lengths
Pick over beans to remove any stones or other foreign material. Soak in water over night. Drain beans, place into pot, cover with water, and heat to boiling. Simmer for 1- 1½ hours until beans are just cooked. Drain, rinse with cool water, and drain again.
Whisk olive oil, vinegar, crushed garlic, minced parsley, mustard, sugar in a bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mix together the cooked beans, celery, and gherkin in a bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette and top with the chopped chives. Serve at room temperature.
This dish will taste much better if allowed to sit overnight to allow the various flavors to meld. Also, while you can make this using canned cannelloni beans, we recommend strongly that you search out dry beans to cook up as the canned beans to us taste much of their can.
While Cannelloni per se are not sold by Baker Creek, Gold Marie Vining is a good replacement. Use a nutty Creole garlic like Morado de Pedronera. Any home-grown celery, like Tendercrisp, will add excellent flavor. You can also grow your own chives.