Easy Mediterranean Bean Salad

Now that we’re officially into summer, the season of picnics, potlucks and long weekends spent with a cooler by the lake, it’s worth getting a few quick, easy, fuss-free recipes into rotation so that you can get out of the kitchen and into the sun. This is relevant even if, like me, you’re as pregnant as a Virginia ham right now and the air conditioning in your kitchen is the only thing keeping you (relatively) lucid. If that’s the case, I still suggest focusing on a few simple 10 minute recipes that can be whipped up in a snap, but be sure to keep some random herbs and a cutting board handy so that when people come in to check that you’re still alive you can wave your knife around in the air and act all busy until they leave you to your cool, blissful serenity of staring off into space and wondering if flip-flops eventually biodegrade.

It is no secret that I love my multitudes of marinated bean salads, so here is yet another to pile on the heap.  As far as bean salads go, this one is full of Mediterranean flavor and probably the biggest crowd pleaser of the lot.  The recipe can be made up to a few days in advance, and the flavors will just mellow and round out over time so that leftovers are even better than the first time around.  With a citrus vinaigrette and the lovely confetti look of roasted red peppers and purple onion, speckled with finely minced fresh herbs, this salad won’t wilt on the buffet table and is the perfect take-along for a back yard barbecue.

Easy Mediterranean Bean Salad

Serves 6 as a side dish

  • 2 cans (19 oz) white beans *
  • 1 can (19 oz) romano bean
  • 2 large roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 lemon (1/2 tsp zest, juice of the half)
  • 1/2 navel orange (1/2 tsp zest, juice of the half)
  • 3 tbsp best olive oil **
  • small handful fresh parsley (~ 2 tbsp, minced)
  • small handful fresh basil (~ 2 tbsp, minced)
  • salt and finely ground white pepper,to taste

* My favorite, and the ones that I use most often, are navy beans. I like canned navy beans because they’re creamy and rich with a relatively thin skin, but a white kidney or Great Northern bean will work just as well.  In a pinch, you could even sub in some chickpeas…or perhaps that’s just part of my bean-eating agenda, because frankly there are few dishes that I think wouldn’t be improved by the addition of a few chickpeas. Also, sometimes you have 15 oz tins instead of 19 oz. Such is life, and your bean salad will be fine. Don’t worry too much about the math.

** When your ingredients and flavors are this simple, quality matters. Splurge on a nice fruity “finishing” olive oil that adds flavor and richness to the dish instead of the utility olive oil that you keep on hand for everything else.

Zest the lemon and orange into a medium to large sized mixing bowl and squeeze in the juice of both.  Finely mince the garlic cloves and then mash them with a bit of salt (I use the flat side of my knife to press down and smear the minced garlic on my cutting board until it is a pulp) to really break it down and mellow the flavor. Add the garlic to the citrus and drizzle in the olive oil.  Give this a quick whisk but don’t worry too much about uniformity.

Rinse the beans under cold running water and drain them well in a colander.  Drain and chop the roasted red pepper. Peel and finely dice the red onion. Add the beans, onion and pepper to the dressing in the bottom of the bowl.

Discard the stems from the herbs and mince the leaves. There should be approximately 1/4 cup of fresh herbs, loosely packed, once they are minced.

Stir everything together and season to taste with salt and finely ground pepper.  Beans love salt, but some canned beans can have a surprisingly high sodium content already, so it helps to season the final dish instead of seasoning the dressing before the salad is tossed.

Seriously, that couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes, even if you get distracted and spent 10 of them absent-mindedly mashing garlic into a paste….and I really hope you don’t.

Bring on the long weekends, I say! And bring on the bean salad while you’re at it, because when the weather is this nice you shouldn’t be fussing around inside the kitchen when that time could be spent languishing in the shade with a baggie of ice cubes instead.