I usually see beans as belonging in stews and soups, mostly because I can't for the life of me cook them to perfection. Beans turn mushy, this is a fact of life, and mushiness in salads is generally frowned upon. Imagine my joy when I noticed, in a recent issue of Ruoka & viini, a recipe for a bean salad where you overcooked the beans on purpose. (This was part of a Georgian - the country, not the state - menu with several other dishes I've been meaning to try out - there's a cheese pie that sounds divine.)
Then, of course, I forgot about it for over a month until one day while grocery shopping I thought I remembered the details well enough to wing it. I didn't, as it happened, and wound up having to improvise a bit. It's not a very pretty dish - the pecans are ground together with spices and herbs, the browned onions are kind of the same color as the mushy beans - but there's a nice piquant edge to the thing, where the sharpness of the vinegar is cut by earthy, cinnamon-dominated spiciness.
White Bean & Pecan Salad
serves 4 as a light lunch/starter; adapted from Glorian ruoka & viini 2/2007
150 g dry white beans (cannellini or navy)
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
150 ml pecans, lightly toasted
a bunch of fresh basil
a bunch of fresh parsley
½ tsp each ground coriander and cinnamon
¼ tsp each ground cloves and nutmeg
1 tsp Maldon salt
(the original used walnuts instead of pecans and dill and cilantro instead of parsley, among other things)
Soak the beans in plenty of water overnight. Drain and cover with fresh water in a largeish pan. Cook for about an hour, until just slightly overcooked. Drain and set aside.
Fry the onions in the oil until nicely browned. Reduce the heat, add the minced garlic and stir until the garlic's cooked through. Add the beans and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a blender, grind the pecans, basil, parsley and spices. Mix with the vinegar, add salt and blend with the beans. Let stand at room temperature for about half an hour.
Toss with a few handfuls of greens just before serving.