If you’re a fan of the convenience and versatility of canned beans but you’ve thought they could use a flavor boost, I’ve got two words for you: Marinate them. Beans can soak up the flavors in a simple mixture of vinegar, olive oil, garlic, basil and red pepper flakes – and they can do it even more quickly with the application of a little heat.
The following use of this idea comes from Jenny Rosenstrach’s new book “The Weekday Vegetarians” (Clarkson Potter, 2021), which is full of her ideas for eating meatless five days a week and then being free for carnivorous splurges on two. Rosenstrach calls for marinating the beans in the refrigerator for as little as 15 minutes and as long as five days. The beans can be refrigerated for as long as five days before assembling the salad
She doesn’t call for warming, but I knew – and verified in testing – that it jump-starts the whole affair so effectively it’s worth incorporating into the method. Marinated beans have all sorts of uses, from a simple side dish to grain bowl topping, but Rosenstrach tosses them into what she calls pizza salad. The brilliant thing about it is the bean marinade becomes the salad dressing; unlike with meat marinades, there’s no need to worry about food safety issues in the reusing.
By the way, you can interpret the pizza salad name any way you like here. Rosenstrach calls it that because it reminds her of her family’s tradition of topping tomato pizza with salad. And this would work beautifully for that or on the side. I like the name because with tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan, you’ve got many of the elements of a simple pizza except the crust. Add some croutons, if you like, and you’d get even closer.
Pizza Salad With Marinated White Beans
For the marinated beans:
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, halved
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 fresh basil leaves, chopped, or 1 rosemary sprig, left whole
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 cups cooked white beans such as cranberry, cannellini or great northern or two (15-ounce) cans, rinsed and drained
For the salad:
5 ounces lettuce such as bibb, little gem or baby greens of your choice (about 8 cups)
1 pint quartered or sliced tomatoes, preferably grape or ripe heirlooms
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
6 ounces bocconcini (small mozzarella balls) or ½-inch cubes fresh mozzarella
½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
8 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
Make the marinated beans: In a small skillet over medium heat, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, black pepper, basil and red pepper flakes. Toss in the beans, bring the mixture to a simmer, then remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and let come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. (If desired, cover and refrigerate overnight or as long as five days.)
Make the salad: In a large shallow bowl, toss together the lettuce, tomatoes, shallot, mozzarella, parmesan and basil. Toss in the beans with their marinade and serve.
Yield: 6 servings
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