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not so much a desert rat

Recipe: white bean salad

I like the desert more when I’m not in it. Death Valley is a harsh place to love, at least for two people who prefer alpine environments. Whether I was walking through slot canyons, standing over badlands, or atop the eastern mountains that border the valley, my eyes always wandered west toward the Panamints where snow still lingers on the highest peaks just over 11,000 feet.

exploring canyons

it is an evaporitic basin

always a story in the rocks

west of the park

And just so you don’t feel totally neglected while we live it up in the dirt, here’s a quick and simple recipe for a white bean salad we served at a dinner a few weeks ago. I used canned beans once again because I haven’t gone and found myself a proper pressure cooker which is essential at my elevation (I spend a good deal of time researching the stuff I’m going to buy).

colorful and lovely ingredients

steeping the olive oil

The recipe is easily made vegetarian by omitting the anchovies, and that’s what I did because we had vegetarian guests for dinner. However, I am a fan of anchovies, so the next time I whip this salad up there will be anchovies. I imagine it changes the salad quite a bit.

fresh lemon zest

make the dressing

The addition of the lemon zest and juice lends a bright flavor to the salad that is well-suited for spring or summer. Even though the dressing blends up creamy, it’s not overly thick and doesn’t weigh the beans down. Sometimes I think of bean salads as being too heavy – not so with this recipe.

nice and tangy dressing

toss with tomatoes and parsley

The salad makes for a lovely side dish or even a light meal. I can’t wait to make some this summer when fresh tomatoes are in season and super sweet. In the meantime, I hope you all have a great weekend and keep off the streets!

a satisfying salad to share

White Bean Salad
[print recipe]
Fine Cooking issue #79

for the beans
1 cup dried white beans like Great Northern (or do as I did and use a 29-ounce can of white beans)
kosher salt
1/4 small onion
1 3-inch sprig fresh rosemary

If you use dried beans, place the beans, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, onion, and rosemary in a large pot. Fill with water enough to cover the beans by 3-4 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours or untili the beans are very tender, but not disintegrating. Let the beans cool for 15 minutes in their liquid then drain and place them in a large bowl (keep them warm). If you are using canned beans, skip all of the above and just rinse and drain them.

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
3-inch sprig fresh rosemary
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and rough chopped (optional)
1/4 cup fresh finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

In a small pan or skillet, gently heat the olive oil, garlic, and rosemary until the rosemary begins to sizzle at the edges. Turn off the heat and let steep for 20 minutes then discard the rosemary. Remove the garlic cloves from the oil (save the oil) and place them in a food processor with the anchovies (optional), grated cheese, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, lemon zest and juice. Process into a smooth dressing.

top with
1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Toss the dressing and warm beans together gently to coat, but not smoosh the beans. Let the beans sit for a few minutes and toss a few more times. Fold in the remaining infused oil, the tomatoes and the parsley. Season to taste and serve.

22 nibbles at “not so much a desert rat”

  1. Memoria says:

    Wow. That looks so good! I’m shocked because this dish isn’t something I would typically eat. I must bookmark this recipe. Lovely photos as usual.

  2. Rosa says:

    That salad is perfect! I love that kind of tasty combo.

    I’ve never been in a deserts and would love walking in Death Valley…



  3. Daiming Zhu says:

    It’s making me drool! I’ve always wanted to visit the desert and witness the amazing scenery. But the obvious heat has put me off quite a bit!

  4. Michelle says:

    Good grief. What happens when you’re distracted while checking your google reader is that you read “dessert rat” instead of “desert rat.” Oops. The DESERT photos are gorgeous, and this salad would make my hubby very happy. Healthy, filling, and delicious. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. Kristin says:

    Oooh yum. And I have non-picky visitors coming, so I can try it with them & moan & groan with pleasure while my husband & kids look at me like I’m nuts.

  6. thedelishdish says:

    i like the blended dressing! perfect for a nice light summer meal…i bet summer tomatoes would really make this outstanding too

  7. Manggy says:

    I love the flavors here – though I’ve never tried a proper bean salad before (not that popular here). I must now, and seeing how simple the recipe is (especially if I just pop open a tin), there’s no reason not to :) Great pictures, by the way. You might like the desert more at night, right? Or does there have to be snow? :P

  8. Marty McGrath says:

    Leaving Whittier for Death Valley tomorrow afternoon! hoping for wildflowers there, have heard rumors of flowers on roads inbound but skimpy in the Valley. Go to the Valley in winter, spring or fall and enjoy fine weather and the indescribable beauty of that vast wilderness…have been spending 2-3 weeks each November there at the Death Valley 49ers’ Encampment and have yet to see ‘everything’. Great nature tours and programs by NPS, as well! Bring food or eat at a rather pricey but good restaurant at Furnace Creek.

  9. Melissa says:

    Stories in the rocks, for sure… but I have to single out the food in this post alone. This is really, really up my alley. You have no idea. Thanks for this one Jen.

  10. Rob says:

    Love and miss the desert. But I mostly associate it with family, fun and good Mexican food. If I had to live there, I might not love it so much.

  11. Mrs Ergül says:

    Hmmmmm I like the whole look and feel of this salad! Yum!

  12. Nan@tastingoutloud says:

    There’s something fascinating about the desert — so beautiful and yet so inhospitable at the same time. Not as stark in the spring as one envisions in one’s mind’s eye though. Your images are beautiful. Maybe the desert isn’t but the salad looks pretty inviting!

  13. Brittan says:

    I never would have thought to use a caesar-like dressing on beans and tomatoes. I def. need to try this

  14. Andrea says:

    Yum! I think I’ll make that for supper tomorrow! I love, love, love my pressure cooker (Kuhn Rikon). The best part being if you forget to soak the beans overnight, never fear, just use the double cook method. Thanks for the great looking recipe!

  15. Amber says:

    Sounds and looks delicious – I can’t wait to try it!
    Great pictures as always. :)

  16. Meg says:

    Yum! This will be so tasty AND easy. What’s your favorite brand of canned beans? They vary so widely, and in a dish like this, where the beans are the star, getting good ones is so important.

  17. Rocky Mountain Woman says:

    I live at 6500 feet and don’t think I would survive without my pressure cooker. The salad looks amazing, I can’t wait to try it.

    Death Valley rocks! I usually try to stop there and play golf when I take the Vegas route to California.

  18. Cherine says:

    This salad is fantastic. Just came across your blog & I love it :)

  19. Palaisdeslys says:

    Always pictures so lovely, so beautiful, so perfect!

  20. jenyu says:

    I didn’t expect that I would like this salad either, but it just sounded so good and of course… it IS good :)

    Manggy – I love the desert at night. Dare I say it, from sunset to sunrise is about the most tolerable part of the day ;)

    Marty McGrath – I’m afraid you’ll be a bit early for the flowers.

    Rob – I wish I could associate the desert with good Mexican food :(

    Nan – the desert is incredible in spring if there is good rain, otherwise it looks the same as almost any other time of year.

    Meg – I don’t have a favorite brand of canned navy beans because it seems the only ones I can get my hands on are generic some such beans. One day I’ll get a pressure cooker and will buy proper beans!

  21. bekah jones says:

    Just made this today. LOVE the dressing! The whole salad is yummy, but I think I could eat the dressing with a spoon. My husband loves anchovies and I’m sure he will be quite fond of it too.

  22. denariel says:

    beautiful salad – have made this quite a few times now. The anchovies (I usually only add one) do add a lovely dimension to the dressing. Tonight I added some small pasta shells, for a more complete meal – perfect.

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