New woman in town. (VEGETABLE BEAN SALAD)

September 22, 2009


Bored in the supermarket Goya section? There is a remedy for that. A Northern California company, Rancho Gordo is here to school us on new-old varieties of beans and celebrate old-fashioned foods native to the Americas (the Beautiful). I, personally, am celebrating beans –the versatility and the benefits. Packed with fiber and protein, beans are naturally low in fat and cholesterol and very helpful in stabilizing blood sugar which is great for America the Diabetic. So these especially intriguing beauties were the star in a recent sort of refrigerator challenge to come up with a dish for an impromptu BBQ using odds and ends that were hanging about. The nice thing being, many of the close-by ingredients were results of our peppery container garden.


My goal was a hearty salad that would satisfy those not into meat, but tasty enough to be ladled all around. Adding plenty of veggies help keep a bean salad from being too dense and a super-flavorful dressing will be absorbed by the beans, bringing all of the ingredients together in a slick of deliciousness. I have several bags of Rancho Gordo beans (a great gift!) in my kitchen and I went with the Yellow Indian Woman type because the creamy texture would go great with the peppers’ bite, smallish size would mix well with the chopped veggies and the buttery color was perfect for the bright green, red and orange to come.

In handling beans, I rinse them and do a quick check for stones or dirt clumps. Soaking overnight in a large bowl of cold water is a standard procedure which reduces the cooking time and is said to remove some of the indigestible sugars that are responsible for beans’ bad rap. At the least, a soak will clean off any residue that is clinging to the exterior of the beans. Then into a pot with some fresh water with a small piece of kombu (kelp) seaweed, said to boost the nutrients and digestibility of beans in general.*

It is important to use enough water to keep the beans covered during the entire soaking and cooking times to prevent drying out and/or burning. When making beans for a salad, err on the side of too much water and simply strain the excess. When done they should hold their shape, but mash under a fork. Check in on them frequently while they are cooking, always giving a stir and adding water if necessary. Do not undercook, as that is hard on the gut and will make you hate me and my recipe. Really pay attention as they are getting close to done, it will ensure perfection. It’s hard to set a definite cooking time since all beans are different. Even the same variety of bean can differ in length of cooking due to age. That is another plus of sourcing higher quality beans and legumes, they are most likely fresher than the supermarket kind, since there is no way of knowing how for long Safeway’s beans have been sitting around. Once drained, the finished beans will continue to cook slightly from their internal heat. It is best to let them cool spread out on a sheet pan to minimize the carry-over and have better control over the final texture, a little past al dente, but not yet splitting apart, which is key in a great bean salad.


After cooling slightly, the thick pesto-like dressing can be mixed in and tossed with any veggies you like. The dressing is thickened with roasted garlic and shallots instead of  traditional nuts + cheese, making it suitable for all types of extremists. The beans will double in volume once they are soaked and cooked. A one-pound bag (about 2 cups dry) yields 4-5 cups cooked. The vegetables add another 4 cups, which can easily be stretched or reduced. This recipe makes enough bean salad for about 20 people as a side dish. It keeps well in the fridge (3-4 days) getting more flavorful as it rests. It’s a great snack to have in the icebox and a no brainer to-go lunch.


For the Roasted Garlic and Basil Dressing:

6 cloves roasted garlic and 1/2 cup of roasted garlic oil

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup fresh dill leaves, packed

1/2 shallot

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

pinch red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

For salad:

1 pound Yellow Indian Woman Beans, cooked

1 bell peppers, finely sliced

2 banana peppers, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

1 can hearts of palm, chopped

1 jalapeno, finely minced

  • Add all dressing ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree. Check for seasoning and adjust as needed.
  • Place the cooked beans in a large mixing bowl and toss with the dressing.
  • Add vegetables to the bowl and toss to combine.
  • Check for seasoning one last time. Serve + enjoy.
  • Leftovers may need a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to come back to life.


ALSO!! The Roasted Garlic and Basil Dressing can be applied to the TOP 15 Uses for Pesto

* I use this method and beans don’t bother me, that is my only proof that this theory holds water. I think everyone has an opinion on this one, which I am always happy to entertain.

One comment

  1. My aunt claims that a laurel (aka bay) leaf in the cooking water does the same job. That it helps make the beans easier to digest. Also she is a big proponent of skimming the scum while the beans simmer and changing the water (definitely between the soaking and the boiling).

    Sounds yummy!

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