Considering that bean salads — a can of beans, a Good Season-ish dressing, whatever chopped vegetables struck my fancy — were a fairly significant staple of my diet in my post-college years, I was shocked, absolutely shook, to realize how sparsely they’re represented here. In fact, there’s only two and they’re among the oldest recipes on this site. Let’s fix this right now. I spotted Alice’s Rosary Cannellini Salad at the end of a Stained Page newsletter last month — a wonderful newsletter if you’re interested in following cookbook news and gossip. The recipe is from a new, charming cookbook called A Good Meal Is Hard to Find: Storied Recipes from Deep South, by Martha Hall Foose, with original paintings throughout from Amy C. Evans in which each recipe tells a story from a quirky Southern character who shares a beloved recipe. I don’t usually look at bean salad recipes because I don’t need a recipe, I stubbornly insist, I can create my own on a whim whenever I want, but a few days after spotting this one — with an intriguing combination of roasted bell peppers, a sherry vinaigrette, and radicchio — a voice within me that said “maybe you can but what if you didn’t have to” grew ever-louder and I succumbed.
I am so glad I did because with a few tiny tweaks, I not only discovered my new platonic ideal of a bean salad, I discovered the very best summer food to bring in a jar anywhere your socially distanced summer might let you escape to. I had some on an empty beach two weeks ago. I brought some to the park to walk my children. If you come by to pick something up, I’m definitely
shoving a jar in your hands leaving a jar in a bag on the counter, walking away, and hoping you spot it before you leave it outside for a few days or something. It’s colorful, deeply flavorful, keeps fantastically, and hits the spot without making you need a nap, fulfilling all of my salad hopes and dreams right now. At a time when so many favorite, beloved restaurants and cafes are closed, and feeding ourselves requires nonstop planning and self-sufficiency, getting to eat something this delicious has made me feel like I’m missing out on a whole lot less.
Six months ago:
One year ago: Raspberry Crumble Tart Bars
Two years ago: Ice Cream Cake Roll
Three years ago: Strawberry Graham Icebox Cake and Broccoli Rubble Farro Salad
Four years ago: Almond-Rhubarb Picnic Bars
Five years ago: Toasted Marshmallow Milkshake, Fake Shack Burger, and Swirled Berry Yogurt Popsicles
Six years ago: Carrot Salad with Tahini and Crispy Chickpeas
Seven years ago: Greek Salad with Lemon and Oregano and Two Classic Sangrias
Eight years ago: Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice and Tzatziki Potato Salad
Nine years ago: Classic Cobb Salad, Lime Yogurt Cake with Blackberry Sauce and Blue Cheese Scallion Drop Biscuits
Ten years ago: Asparagus, Lemon and Goat Cheese Pasta and Raspberry Buttermilk Cake
Eleven years ago: Martha’s Mac-and-Cheese, Crisp Salted Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies
Twelve years ago: Cherry Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake
Thirteen years ago: Homemade Oreos and Cellophane Noodle and Roast Pork Salad
Beach Bean Salaad
- 2 large bell peppers (one red, one yellow, if you can find)
- 1 poblano pepper or a third bell pepper (mine was orange)
- 3 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or 1 pound dried, cooked)
- 4 ounces very thinly sliced soppressata, cut into very thin strips (optional)
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 2 garlic cloves or 1 large, minced with a teaspoon or two of oregano
- 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh rosemary (I skipped this)
- 1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh oregano leaves (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano)
- Freshly ground black pepper or red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 to 2 cups radicchio in 1/4-inch ribbons or torn into bite-size pieces
In a big bowl, combine your beans and soppressata, if using. When cool enough to handle, break the peppers open over the beans and let the peppers’ juices run out. Pull the charred skin and seeds from the peppers and discard. Sometimes, I find it easiest to give each pepper strip a quick rinse under cool water to remove clinging seeds. Cut the peppers into thin strips and add to the beans, plus any more juices that collect. Chop garlic with rosemary and oregano finely minced and add to bowl. Drizzle the oil, vinegar, and lemon juice over the salad and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss to combine everything. Here, you can add ribboned radicchio, as I do, or you can put torn pieces on a plate later and serve the bean salad on top of it. The salad is ready to eat now, but it’s even better after marinating for an hour or two.
Do ahead: Bean salad keeps in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.
A few ingredient notes: You could swap 1 pound dried cannellini, cooked and cooled, for the 3 drained cans. (I made my first batch with Rancho Gordo’s delicious Marcella beans and the batch you see here with Goya Great Northern and it turned out to be exactly as good, lucky us.) You could use other small beans, black or yellow-eyed peas, or chickpeas here, doesn’t matter. I add a little garlic, because roasted red peppers need garlic. I use dried oregano instead of fresh because of my Good Seasons nostalgia, and skipped the rosemary because my plant is scraggly. I used much less radicchio than called for (original recipe call for two heads). I know it can be quite bitter but it mellows beautifully without becoming soggy or unpleasant in the salad, even days later. And I use a third sweet bell pepper instead of a poblano. Rainbow-colored peppers aren’t mandatory but they do look pretty if you can find them. You could use jarred peppers, but I vastly prefer the sweetness (and juices that flavor the salad) of roasting fresh ones. The soppressata (an Italian dry salami that comes hot or mild) is completely optional and I don’t think you’ll find the salad lacking for anything if you skip it. Whatever swap you’re considering, I say you go for it. Bean salads are flexible.