Cannellini beans at heart of this cool, crisp salad

I love cannellini beans (sometimes called white kidney beans). Whenever a recipe calls for white beans, cannellini is my go-to due to its firmness, whereas navy beans and great northern beans seem too soft.

No matter the bean, whether for chili, soup or salad, if it’s canned, I go for organic. Since canned organic beans can be pricey at nearly $4 a can, I usually buy store-brand organic beans, which usually run $1.29, to keep the cost down.

Because this has been a hot summer, I’ve been focused on cool and nutritious summer salads that are not too high in carbs (so long pasta salads). Due to their high fiber content, beans have been the center of most of my salads.

I belong to a food co-op store where, as members, we underwrite the financial foundation of the store. We also get a small food gift each month: two cans of organic cannellini beans.

A search for a good cannellini bean salad recipe turned up one in the Milk Street/Tuesday Nights cookbook: Romaine and White Bean Salad with Feta.

One of the salad’s ingredients was kalamata olives. Fortunately, I already had a jar of halved kalamata olives in a balsamic brine. That brine works great in making oil and vinegar dressing. Rather than use the lemon juice Milk Street called for, I used the Kalamata olive brine.

My local farmers market has some beautiful, multicolored cherry tomatoes that are both eye-catching and delicious.

A few years ago, I shopped at a Mediterranean market. The owner loved feta cheese so much that he had a wide variety of feta from several countries and different animals (like sheep’s milk) in a range of ages and brines.

Sadly, that market is gone. So, I went with already-crumbled feta. It’s not as good as feta from that market, but it’s certainly satisfactory.

Milk Street, in addition to fresh dill, used fresh mint to season their salad. I’m only a fan of fresh mint in iced tea, so I omitted it. They used two heads of Romaine cut into 1-inch pieces. Instead, I served my bean salad version over beautiful farmers market leaf lettuce.

Finally, Milk Street placed the drained canned cannellini beans in a microwave-safe glass bowl, with some salt, and heated them for two minutes on high, stirring them halfway through. Once they exited the microwave, the olive oil, lemon juice (I substituted that balsamic brine), onion, dill, and additional salt plus pepper were stirred in.

This seemed like a genius idea; the heated beans would quickly absorb all those flavors as they cooled.

I assembled my version and immediately tasted it. Perfect, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.

Give my version a try.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write to him at


Cannellini Bean with Feta Salad

2 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans (organic preferred), drained

1 teaspoon (Diamond Crystal) kosher salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup liquid from kalamata olive bottle

½ small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

¼ cup (packed) fresh dill, washed, spun dry and chopped

½ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper, or to taste

1 cup multicolored cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup pitted kalamata olives (in a balsamic vinegar brine), chopped

Transfer the drained cannellini beans to a large, microwave-safe glass bowl, and stir in the kosher salt. Cover and microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the microwave and gently stir in the olive oil, liquid from the kalamata olive bottle, onion, dill and pepper to combine. Set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

When cooled, add the tomatoes, feta and olives, stirring together until combined. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.

Serves 8 as a side salad.

Nutrition values per serving: 232 calories (53.5% from fat), 13.8 g fat (4.1 g saturated fat), 19.3 g carbohydrates (14.7 net carbs), 1.6 g sugars, 4.6 g fiber, 7.3 g protein, 17 mg cholesterol, 607 mg sodium.

Suggestion: Canned organic navy or great northern beans may be substituted for the cannellini beans.

SaltSense: One-third of the sodium comes from the Feta cheese.

Adapted from Milk Street/Tuesday Nights cookbook

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