I’ve been on the scout lately for new salad recipes. After a season of eating root vegetables, turnips, daikon, and rutabaga have lost their culinary appeal. The cover of the recent Eating Well magazine, adorned with bright green beans, bold cranberry beans, paper thin radish slices and red cherry tomato halves reminded me of a good pantry staple: beans.
Folks have enjoyed the delights and satisfaction of eating beans for centuries, and with good reason, they are both delicious and nutritious. Low in fat, high in fiber, medical research has proclaimed beans as a near-perfect food, of which regular consumption will help control regularity, blood sugar and cholesterol, and even body weight.
The recipe for White Bean and Cheddar Salad uses canned white beans like navy or great northern. Garbanzo beans or chickpeas, and white kidney beans would be delicious also. If the sodium content of canned beans is not on your health chart, try soaking and cooking up your own dried beans.
Beans are soaked before cooking to soften and return moisture to them, which reduces cooking time, and break down the oligosaccharides (the indigestible sugars that cause flatulence.) Soak beans in about 3 times much water as you have beans, at least for four hours. For me, it’s easy to soak them overnight and cook up in the morning.
When cooking, be sure to use a large enough pot, and don’t boil them vigorously. Instead, simmer your beans gently, tasting frequently so you don’t over cook them. Cooked, drained beans keep will for several days in the refrigerator. I keep jars of cooked beans ready to eat in the freezer.
This salad gets it punch from crunchy, colorful vegetables and a dressing made with garlic and thyme. The bacon bits add a nice salty taste (who doesn’t love bacon?), and the nuts balance the creaminess of the beans. Nut allergy? Try pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead.
For a festive meal, serve this salad with cups of hot tomato soup and crusty garlic bread.
White Bean & Cheddar Salad
For the Salad
- 3½ cups cups cooked white beans 2 – 15 ounce cans
- 3 pieces bacon cooked and chopped
- 1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange), finely chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped celery or celeriac
- 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pecans
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
For the Dressing
- cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons mustard
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.
- Combine beans, bacon, chopped celery, walnuts, and parsley in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Add the grated cheese and gently stir to mix.
- Serve cold or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.