Opening a can of beans
Sure you can cook them, but that requires planning in advance and in spite of what everyone says, I don't think canned beans taste any worse than home cooked ones. The liquid from home cooked beans is wonderful in soups and stews and the canned liquid sucks, but for a salad it doesn't really matter. So, open a can of bean, drain it in a colander, rinse under cold water and let drip a few minutes.
Blanching green vegetables
This one takes a little practice. Blanching means boiling in water (usually very generously salted) and then removing to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking as quickly as possible. It's a great way to cook any green vegetable: green beans, asparagus, snap peas, etc. The hardest part is not over-cooking them. After the first minute and a half, taste them every 30 seconds until they just start to loose their hard raw texture. They'll still be very crisp. Drain immediately, and dump into ice water. You have to act very quickly since every unnecessary second is over-cooking them. Here are some tips on blanching:
- Use lots of boiling water and lots of ice water to have full control of when the cooking process starts and stops (I use 4 quarts of each per pound of vegetable).
- As soon as the vegetable goes into boiling water, cover the pot to return it to the boil as quickly as possible. Once the water boils, you can uncover the pot.
- Never put your vegetables into boiling water until you got your ice bath ready.
- Never blanch more than one vegetable at the same time in case one is ready before the other. For example, the salad in the picture has blanched green beans and asparagus that were blanched separately. You can do that in the same water, but instead of draining the first vegetable in a colander, remove it with a slotted spoon, tongs, or using a colander insert (if you have one).
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (lemon juice will work too)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane zester or mashed to a paste with a knife
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, whisk the juice, mustard, and garlic together. Add the oil in a slow stream whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Other nice additions
This is one of those salads, I can never make the same way twice. In Thursday's class, we used cannellini beans, blanched haricots verts, finely chopped celery and scallions (minced red onions or shallots work well too). In Saturday's class, I replaced cannellini beans with asparagus. Don't worry about the exact proportions of ingredients. You can improvise with this infinitely, just make sure you add enough salt, pepper, and dressing to make it good. Taste, taste, taste.
Here are some variations on this theme:
- cannellini beans, celery, basil and/or cilantro salad
- cannellini beans, radishes, fennel salad (shave radishes and fennel paper thin on a mandoline)
- cannellini beans, tomato, basil salad
- seared or blanched asparagus, tomato, feta salad