Picnic Grail: Mediterranean white bean salad

Spring has sprung! Or so they tell me; I haven’t had much opportunity to get away from my desk of late. What little I have seen, however, makes me desperate to put on some sandals and get me to the park with a picnic and a paperback. Seriously. It’s an explosion of cherry blossoms and greenery around here! Crocuses and fresh asparagus! Magnolias! Hay fever! All kinds of things that make me want to slap on some sunscreen and abuse some exclamation points! And, as I mentioned above, pack up a picnic and go to the damn park.


Which, of course, begs the eternal question: what to bring on the picnic?

Now, in my mind, there are two major criteria to consider when planning a dish for a picnic: 1. it needs to be able to languish happily in the sun without creeping risk of salmonella poisoning, and 2. it needs to be simple to make–bonus points if 95% of the cooking means throwing everything in a bowl. If you can also achieve bonus criterion number three (it gets better the longer it sits in a bowl marinating, which means you can make it a few days ahead of time), then you have stumbled across Picnic Grail.

And that’s what this dish is. Mediterranean white bean salad=Picnic Grail. It’s mayonnaise-free, ludicrously simple to make, and gets better the longer it sits in your fridge–it’s amazing. It’s also fantastic on toast or tossed in some pasta–but really it’s best when inhaled directly from the bowl. And it really couldn’t be easier–silky white beans tossed with seared asparagus, cubes of fresh mozzarella and grape tomatoes, woken up with a bright rosemary-garlic-lemon dressing. I personally tend to make my dressing kind of lethal–the garlic is raw, and I use lots of it. Those of you with a more delicate palate (and all you vampires out there) might want to dial back the amount you use–and you adventurers may want to add more! Just mess with it until it tastes the way you want it to. It’s light, bright, and perfect for a searing hot Saturday picnic.

Just add sunshine.

Mediterranean White Bean Salad

3c white cannellini beans, cooked (I used Rancho Gordo’s Runner Cannellinis–which are totally worth the hype they get, btw–but you could also canned. Just be sure to rinse and drain well before making the salad)
1 lb of the freshest asparagus you can find, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

For the dressing:
4 cloves raw garlic, finely (FINELY) minced
2-3 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
juice and zest of one lemon
coarse salt
Olive oil

  1. In a heavy skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil over extremely high heat. Flash-cook the asparagus until it starts to char on the outside–don’t stir it often, just 2 or 3 times, to get a nice, subtle blackening on all sides–this should take no more than three minutes. Your asparagus should be bright green and still crunchy, with some nice charring on the outside.
  2. In a small bowl, make your dressing–I didn’t include measurements for the olive oil, because i think it’s a matter of personal taste. Tinker until it tastes right.
  3. In a large bowl, throw everything together and stir. Ideally, let it marinate overnight.
  4. Eat it with gusto. Play havoc with your local vampire.
In beans, garlic, sides

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