Eating healthy can be a little tough during the colder months. As the temperatures drop below 40, we can tend to crave hearty and comforting foods like braised stews, stick-to-your-ribs mac and cheese and big, delicious bowls of ramen noodles. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want as I’m cozying up to the fireplace is a plate of cold salad.
I used to think the word “salad” only described the green kind ― with chilled lettuce and accompanying vegetables. But then I realized a salad can be anything I want it to be. And in the winter, I want it to be a warm one. Enter my warm braised bean salad. It’s a dish I can make on a Sunday night and enjoy throughout the week ― either as a main lunch course or as a side for dinner when paired with a lean protein.
The base of this recipe starts with white cannellini beans. I prefer to soak overnight to speed up the cooking time the next day. It also removes the indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. Yes, I just said “flatulence.” The key to really flavorful beans lies in just two ingredients ― salt and bay leaves. The bay leaf will make it taste like it’s been cooking all day, and the salt will give it flavor.
After the beans cook, I toss them with some sumac-roasted vegetables and sautéed spinach.
I like to use sweet potato, carrots, red onion and delicata squash, but you can choose whatever fits your taste. Broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash or winter beets would also taste great. Lastly, I dress the salad with a bright, zesty lemon-and-herb vinaigrette. It gives the salad some brightness and acidity to balance the heaviness of the white beans.
This winter, don’t get stuck in a rut eating cold salads. Think outside the box and try this warming, nourishing bowl of beans. The best part? It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and still delicious. Say it isn’t so.
Warm Braised Bean Salad
1 pound dried cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch half-moons
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 delicata squash, halved, seeded and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon sumac
3 cups fresh baby spinach
Lemon Herb Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for pan
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chives
1. Rinse beans under cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Then transfer to a large bowl and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Soak for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
2. Drain and rinse the beans, then transfer to a large soup pot. Cover with at least 2 inches of water and add 1 tablespoon of salt and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until tender. Drain and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Toss together cut vegetables with olive oil, sumac and 2 teaspoons salt. Transfer to prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once, until tender and browned.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon, lemon juice and salt. Slowly whisk in olive oil until it’s emulsified, then stir in fresh herbs. Set aside.
6. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in skillet. Add spinach and season with salt. Cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
7. In a large bowl, toss together cooked beans, roasted vegetables, cooked spinach and lemon dressing. Season with more salt and serve.