If I’m going to loudly and proudly claim the title of Bean Queen (and I do), I would be ashamed if I didn’t post at least two bean recipes in a row (so here’s number two).
When my parents got back from their big Europe trip a couple of years ago, I was the one who picked them up from the airport. Their one request was that I bring a snack with greens in it—Italy, where they were for the last month of their trip, is a fantastic culinary country, but its restaurants don’t always have a ton of fresh, uncooked vegetable options or salads, like the ones we’re accustomed to in California (and especially in the O’Regan family). My parents also knew they’d be starving after hours and hours on a plane. My mom is a food-packing ninja, sandwiches seemingly appearing out of nowhere on long journeys, but even she couldn’t pack enough for that length of time. So I made a double batch of this salad before I went to pick them up, and they very gladly munched away on the drive back to my place, passing the container back and forth between bites. Hearty and full of spicy arugula and succulent beans, this salad hit the spot for the tired, hungry travelers. However, it’s just as good when you’re not sleep deprived or militantly rationing the last shreds of proscuitto.
If you can, use giant corona beans or some other type of large, creamy beans. Cannellini beans will also work just fine; you’ll just miss out on the drama of the gigantic beans (but you can get cannellini beans canned, so if you’re looking to cut time go ahead and buy canned and cooked beans). Use sourdough bread that’s already a couple days old for the breadcrumbs—it’s a great way to use up bread that’s a little too hard for sandwiches but that isn’t so old that it’s quietly molding away on your counter, awaiting its destiny in the compost heap.
Warm Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto & Sourdough Breadcrumbs
serves 4–6 • adapted from Dinner by Melissa Clark
1-1 ½ cups dried white beans, like giant corona beans or lima (use 3 cups/one 28oz beans from a can if you’re in a pinch)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
dash of baking soda
1 bay leaf
a couple of thyme sprigs
half an onion
1 roughly chopped carrot
1 roughly chopped celery stalk
6 cups baby arugula
⅓ cup chopped almonds
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp lemon rind, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ tsp salt
⅓ cup olive oil
lemon juice, to taste
freshly cracked black pepper
toasted pine nuts (optional)
If using dried beans: soak the dried beans in a large bowl of water overnight. The next day, drain the beans and place in a large pot and top with plenty of fresh water plus roughly 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil, a dash of baking soda (to keep the beans intact), a bay leaf, a couple of thyme sprigs, half an onion, and a roughly chopped carrot and celery stalk. (If you’re short on time or patience, skip everything but the salt, olive oil, and baking soda.)
Bring the beans to a boil. If you’re using smaller beans, like cannellini, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30–45 minutes, until the beans are soft but not falling apart. If you’re using large beans like corona or lima, continue to boil for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for roughly 40 minutes to an hour. The time it takes will depend on the size of your beans—it may take a lot longer than one hour. Just keep testing every 10–15 minutes or so, and top off with more water if needed. Once they’re tender, drain a little water off and add some cold water or ice and set aside to cool. Discard all of the aromatics. (You can complete this step a few days ahead of time, storing the beans in some of their liquid.)
Place 2 cups of arugula, the chopped almonds, parmesan, lemon rind, garlic, and salt in a food processor. Pulse a few times to blend everything together. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil until you achieve a relatively smooth consistency, or however you prefer your pesto.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut a 2-3 inch chunk off of a loaf of sourdough bread (or use 2–3 pre-cut slices). Cut off any tough bits of crust. Tear the rest of the bread into rough 1 inch chunks and toss with a few glugs of olive oil, making sure each chunk is lightly coated with oil. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with a little salt, and bake for about 8–10 minutes.
If using cooled or canned beans, warm them gently in a pan over medium-low heat with a little olive oil. They shouldn’t get hot, but be just warm. Toss the beans with the arugula pesto, and taste. Add more salt or pepper as needed. Mix the breadcrumbs into the warm beans.
In a large serving bowl, toss the rest of the arugula with the juice of ½ a lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. Toss, taste, and add more of whatever you think it’s missing. Top the arugula with the warm beans, breadcrumbs, and pine nuts (if using).