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I'm not sure if it's truly Tuscan, but it's a salad with beans. And it's both delicious and versatile- as a quick lunch, a side dish, or a dinner appetizer.

When Paul McCartney was tasked with creating the theme song for "Live and Let Die," he later admitted that the hardest part was pretending that it took longer to write than it really did. Tuscan Bean Salad is similarly quick and foolproof- just beans, veggies, and dressing. Done right, it tastes like it was a lot harder to make.

Yes, you can use canned beans, but cooking your own dried beans is way better. Canned beans are not only mushy, they are also soaked with a solution way too rich in sodium for many a human heart. But... you have to soak them overnight, right? NO! Here's a hack for bringing them to life on short notice:

In a large pot, combine the beans with enough water to cover them with two inches to spare. Bring to a gentle boil, and leave it there for a minute. Then turn off the heat and let it sit for an hour while you dice vegetables. Next, add just enough water, salt judiciously, and gently boil uncovered until they are sufficiently tender. This last step takes maybe an hour. (You could theoretically start this salad after breakfast and then serve it for lunch the same day.)

What kind of beans, you rightly ask? As many as you like... if you are using just one type, I recommend Great Northern white beans. Go ahead and also use, say, light and/or dark Kidney beans, BUT- boil them separately, for they soften at different rates. For the sake of uniform texture, when combining different types of beans I like to keep them all the same size, but you certainly don't need to. (See photo above.)

For the veggies I consider carrot and celery mandatory, and (red) onion and garlic optional. Red and/or green peppers also work nicely, as does finely diced tomato. Again, for uniformity I like to keep the diced veggies all roughly the same size. For an added element of elegance, giving the veggies (minus the tomato) a quick sauté in PURE (not Extra Virgin) olive oil makes the texture just a little nicer.

For fresh herbs I turn first to basil, and then, if I have some, oregano. (After that you're on your own.)

And the dressing? Oh, you can whip up your favorite homemade vinaigrette (as long as it doesn't contain egg) but it's actually hard to beat a high-quality, olive oil-based commercial brand for this salad, especially an "Italian" style.

Pro-tip: after you thoroughly drain the beans (and combine them, if using different types) toss with the dressing right away. This serves two purposes: it keeps the beans from sticking together, and the dressing is absorbed more deeply.

Allow to cool; chill the finished mix in the fridge, or not... this combination is perfectly delicious (and definitely more flavorful) at room temperature. If you serve this over greens, you don't need to dress them, thanks to the "trickle-down" effect.

Like a lot of other things, this dish might taste even better the day after you make it.

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Virginia L'Bassi
Virginia L'Bassi
Sep 14, 2023

Thanks for a great recipe! Newbie question: what's the diff between pure and evoo..?

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