Cannellini beans (Recipe: no-cook summer antipasto)
Could there be a more "foods of the world" can in my pantry?
In Italian: cannellini beans. In Spanish, alubias.
Nowhere does it say white kidney beans, and yet I bought this at the market in my small town, which really is more of a white kidney bean kind of place.
Are canned beans just a convenience, a lesser substitute for dry beans? Yes, and no. Of course they are a convenience; when I've forgotten to pre-soak my dry beans, or just don't have enough time to cook, canned beans are right there in the pantry, ready for action. Mostly, though, I think of canned beans as an entirely different food product. In dishes that depend on the texture of the beans, I start with dry beans, soak them overnight, and cook them until just soft, but if I'm making a dish in which the beans will be smashed -- a dip, or soup, or salad, or bruschetta -- I prefer to start with canned beans.
Cannellini, so popular in Tuscany that the Tuscan people have been nicknamed mangiafagiole, or "beaneaters", originally were cultivated in Argentina, and now are grown in Greece, France and central Italy. During the 16th Century, due to Catherine de Medici's attempts to "refine" Italian cuisine, beans were seldom eaten except by the peasant class. However, because of their nutritious (high in fiber, iron, magnesium and folate) and economical benefits, beans slowly returned to favor in Italian cooking, and their popularity spread throughout the northern Mediterranean cuisines.
The mild-flavored cannellini bean, shaped like (and closely related to) a kidney bean, can be used interchangeably with Great Northern or navy beans in most recipes. You'll want to drain and rinse the beans, which will "refresh" them and remove any excess salt, though some recipes use a bit of the reserved liquid as a thickener. Canned beans are fully cooked, so should be added to most dishes close to the end of the cooking time.
No-cook summer antipasto
Antipasto isn't an exact science; the more people you have, the more food you pile on the platter. Use your imagination and your painter's eye; combine colors and textures, and have plenty of good crusty bread on hand. Add meat and cheese, if you wish. This recipe -- more a method than a recipe -- is a pantry lover's dream. Serves 8-10.
Arrange on a platter, any way you wish, in a design or scattered as the base of the antipasto:
1 cup mesclun salad mix, or romaine lettuce
1-2 blood oranges or other seedless oranges, peeled and sliced crosswise
1 large red (sweet) pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 large plum tomatoes (or other tomatoes, in season), cut into large chunks
1 large cucumber or English cuke, peeled, cut lengthwise,
then into half-rounds
3-4 radishes, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces1 sweet white onion, sliced into half-rounds
1 fennel bulb (anise), sliced thin (save the leafy tops for garnish)
1 16-oz can black pitted olives (large or colossal)
6-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 3-3/8 oz jar green Spanish olives with red pimientos
1 8-1/4 oz can whole beets
1 3-oz can Italian tuna in oil
1 small can cannellini beans, drained
For the dressing:
1/4 cup vinegar (red wine or balsamic)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Arrange the salad ingredients on a platter.
In a jar, shake the dressing ingredients until well-mixed, and pour over the antipasto.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Everything-in-the-pantry bean soup