I often tout the qualities of beans in my posts. I also like to mention the importance of beans in Italian cooking. The simplicity of ingredients in Italian cooking makes it the perfect cuisine for beans to shine. In fact, I can’t even imagine Italian cuisine without frequent use of them. Often you’ll see them front and center as the main course rather than as a side dish. Here you see them as the main ingredient in a seemingly simple and rustic CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD WITH FOCACCIA CROUTONS. One bite of this amazing dish and you’ll see why I have given it Recipe of the Month status. The flavor in the dish is complex with the herbs giving it an earthy essence. The Lemon Dressing adds another level of flavor without overpowering the ingredients cooked into the beans.
This salad is so hearty and tasty that you can serve it as your main course as well as a side or salad. It calls for some prosciutto, but vegetarians would be just as happy with this beautiful salad by omitting the meat. You are welcome to use dried beans which require a long cooking time, but this dish makes up well using the canned cannellini beans requiring much less time. You can make it ahead and refrigerate, but the croutons should NOT be added until you serve so that they won’t get soft.
This post is kind of a “twofer” in that you also get Focaccia and an interesting use for it in the croutons. The ROSEMARY FOCACCIA fills your kitchen with a lovely aroma. You’ll make your croutons and be happy for the leftover to eat with your meal or fried with eggs the next morning. Oh – what could be better than this?!
As an Italian, I love using all kinds of beans in cooking. However, when you make this salad, you’ll see why it is a BIG FAVORITE for me.
CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD WITH ROSEMARY FOCACCIA CROUTONS
Makes: 1 9 x 13 loaf
Prep: 3 hours
Cook: 12-15 minutes
1 C. lukewarm water
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1 1/2 Tsp. Honey
2 1/2 C. All Purpose Flour divided 1 C. and 1 1/2 C.
1/4 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp. Kosher Salt
3 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves + a little more for top
Coarse Salt for top of bread
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
Mix the cup of water with the yeast and honey. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, and then add 1 cup of flour and the 1/4 C. oil. Mix together with a spoon and let it sit another 5 minutes.
Now add the 1 1/2 C. Flour, salt, and Rosemary.
Mix together with clean hands and knead just a few minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle with a little flour if sticky.
Set the ball in an oiled bowl and rub the outside of the dough with the oil on your hands.
Cover and let rise in a warm place about an hour and a half.
Place the dough in an oiled pan 13 x 9 and stretch it to fit the inside of the pan. Push on it with your fingers and just keep working it into the rectangular shape to fill it. Put a little flour on your fingers if sticky. Then dimple the dough with a floured finger (making dents with your fingers)
Put it aside, covered loosely with a warm towel, in a warm place to rise again in the pan for about another 30 minutes. The 2nd rise will not be as great as the first.
Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and some Rosemary.
Bake in a 450 oven for about 12-15 minutes until the top is golden.
Drizzle again with Extra Virgin Olive Oil as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let the focaccia cool – then cut into the amount of croutons you’d like to use. Slice the rest to eat or freeze. The croutons freeze well also.
THE BEAN SALAD
Prep: 1 hour
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Garlic Clove – chopped finely
1/2 Onion – chopped
1 C. Chopped Prosciutto
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 Tsp. Dried Oregano
2 Cans Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped
2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1 1/2 C. Chicken Broth
2 C. Fresh Arugula
Lemon Dressing (see recipe below)
Shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese
Cook the onion, garlic, prosciutto, red pepper, and oregano in the oil on Medium High for a couple of minutes.
Add the beans, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
Drain and discard liquid along with the Bay Leaf.
Add the arugula to the beans, and toss gently.
Add the lemon dressing to the arugula and beans, and toss again gently.
Garnish with Focaccia Croutons and Cheese shavings.
(Note: if you make the salad ahead, do not add the croutons until serving time – so they won’t soften.)
1/2 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Use a nice one for this
1 Tbsp. Wine Vinegar
1/4 C. Fresh Lemon Juice
Kosher Salt and Fresh Black Pepper to taste – use enough salt to bring out the flavors!
Mix the ingredients for the dressing together and set aside for the salad.
This CANNELLINI BEAN SALAD WITH ROSEMARY FOCACCIA CROUTONS is so lovely, it will be a favorite year round. It has so much flavor and interest and is a perfect choice for lent, summer dining on the patio, or anytime! Taste it, and you will see why it is the Recipe of the Month!
PARLA COME MANGI!
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