Lunches at cooking school are a fickle event. You never know when they will be, or if you will be granted a break at all. One day it may be at 10.30am and the next at 2pm. Some days you may be ravenous by 9am, particularly if there’s a class baking bread next door. The smells wafting through are pure torture, I’m telling you. Other days you may be put off food so much that you never want to eat again, have no appetite whatsoever, despite having eaten nothing since 6.30am. You get the picture. Lunches are up, down and all over the place. What is predictable, however, is that I will always enjoy eating this cannellini bean salad, regardless of the time of day or my state of hunger. It took me a while to realise that salads can actually be, well, exciting. Crazy, I know. I was a pretty good kid and always ate my veg without much cajoling. However, it was always eaten first – quite unceremoniously – and before all of the ‘yummier’ bits. But its not surprising really as iceberg lettuce, chunks of cucumber, wedges of tomato and carrot sticks aren’t all that interesting – to look at or to eat. In my 10 year old brain that’s all a salad was, and all it ever would be.
Boy, was I wrong. I have had oodles of fun this year experimenting with all sorts of different combinations. Quinoa, lentils, nuts, seeds, herbs, fruit, various cheeses, egg, almost every veg under the sun…the list goes on. You name it and it’s probably been in a salad at some point. My aunt is the queen of salads and I doubt I will ever surpass her in that, but I think this salad comes pretty close. Creamy beans and avocado contrast wonderfully with a tangy dressing and fresh, slightly sour zucchini. There’s grape tomatoes and sweet potato for a pop of colour, mint for an extra boost of flavour and leafy greens for your daily dose of goodness (iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin K…do I need to go any further?) I’m somewhat addicted to pepitas, and they work particularly well in this salad, providing a fair amount of crunch along with the blanched green beans.. Toast them if you wish (they do taste better), or if you’re feeling lazy simply throw them in raw. If you aren’t partial to pepitas then substitute them for another seed, or alternatively shave in a little parmesan for a sharper tasting salad.
Homemade dressing makes a BIG difference and I swear that this one will only take you minutes to whip up. The quantity is probably more than you need, however I always like to make a little extra to use at a later date. And the rate that we eat salads, it doesn’t hang around or long. In any case, everyone has their own preferences regarding how much dressing they use…just follow your instincts (and taste of course) when mixing it all together. With this salad you can look forward to lunches everyday…I certainly do.
Cannellini Bean Salad
150g orange sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
200g small zucchini, cut into 1cm thick slices
100g green bean, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm lengths
400g cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Small handful mint leaves, torn
120g grape tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
Large handful of mesclun lettuce/baby spinach/rocket
½ avocado, cut into 1cm cubes
Red wine vinegar dressing:
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp crushed garlic
¼ tp sea salt
Good grind black pepper
Place a medium saucepan with a steamer basket fitted in the bottom over medium to high heat. Fill with water until it is just visible through the steamer and bring to the boil. (Alternatively fill the saucepan two thirds of the way with water.) Once boiling, add the sweet potato and cook for 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and green beans and cook for a further 3 minutes or until just tender. Plunge veg into a bowl of iced water and leave to cool, about fifteen minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients in a screw top jar. Ensure the lid is only tight and then shake vigorously until emulsified. Set aside. Layer the leafy greens in a bowl/s (or divide amongst plastic containers if packing for lunches).
When the veg have cooled to room temperature, drain the water and add the cannelinni beans, pepitas, mint and grape tomatoes. If you are eating the salad immediately then add the avocado too, if packing for lunches then cut and add just before leaving home (to prevent oxidation). Drizzle over 2/3 of the dressing and stir gently to combine. Spoon the veggie-bean mix over the greens. Give a good grind of black pepper and drizzle over extra dressing if you wish.
Source: A Taste Without Waste original.