When in Montana in summer 2013, we spent a couple days in Missoula and ate lunch one day at the Good Food Store. It’s like Whole Foods except way better. Not exaggerating, it had the biggest and best bulk food section I’ve ever been in. I told Nik that the bulk food section alone was [almost] enough to get me to move to Missoula. Anyway, this salad was so good that we saved the label so I could reverse engineer it.
White Bean and Fig Salad
recipe invented by Laura, as inspired by the Good Food Store
serves 6 as a main dish (approximately) (we like to eat it for dinner with our sourdough rolls and roasted vegetables)
I know this recipe looks like it has a lot of steps but the overall prep time (not counting the bean cooking time) is only around an hour or so, especially if you don’t have children helping you! Fig cutting is a great job for little hands who know how to use knives. Even Mark could do it with his butter knife.
1 pound giant white beans (see sourcing explanation below)
Soak the beans overnight (between 12-24 hours) in warm water. Discard any beans continue to float after soaking. Simmer in thoroughly salted water until soft but with a bit of bite still left in the bean. This will probably take 1-2 hours (maybe more) depending on the age of your beans. It’s tricky to cook them enough but still leave them with enough structure to not disintegrate into the salad. I err on the side of too soft (because who wants to eat a crunchy bean, right?) After cooling, remove the skins from the beans. They’ll usually pop off quite easily if you press on one end of the bean. This is a bit tedious but dramatically improves the texture of the final dish, because the skins are so tough. Plus you’ll end up with a creepy cool pile of skins, like this!
1 C almonds, roughly chopped
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Mix well. You should think that there is too much paprika and oil (because it will eventually be part of the dressing.) So if it doesn’t look like a lot, add more of either or both. Roast in a 400-degree oven until toasty and delicious. Watch them carefully. I usually start checking and stirring after five minutes. When done, set aside to cool.
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 and 1/2 T red wine vinegar
2 T honey
zest from one lemon (orange zest is good too)
15 grinds of black pepper (probably around 1/4 tsp?)
3/4 tsp salt (start with less if you want and add more if needed)
Whisk dressing together and set aside.
1/2 of a medium red onion, finely diced (shallots would be fine too)
1-2 C of quartered black mission figs, depending on how much you like dried figs (we buy ours at Trader Joe’s and use the whole 14-oz container)
1/2 C grated Pecorino Romano cheese, grated on the small holes of a box grater (so the pieces are a bit bigger)
In a large bowl, combine onion, figs, cheese, beans, almonds (being sure to scrape in all the extra paprika and oil), and dressing. Taste and add more oil, honey, salt, pepper, or vinegar as needed.
Serve at room temperature. It’s also delicious eaten for several days afterwards, straight from the refrigerator.
We buy our giant white beans at our local Greek store but you can also get them on Amazon (that’s the brand we buy). There’s really something special about these giant white beans but if you can’t find any, then I suppose you could use a smaller white bean. The texture of the salad will be different but the rest of the flavors will still be delicious.
Someday, I hope to actually blog about that trip to Montana because it was amazing.