Cannellini beans (Recipe: cannellini vinaigrette)
In 1988, the City of Boston, Massachusetts, unveiled Scheme Z, a series of bridges designed to cross the Charles River as part of a major highway relocation through the center of the city.
Whoever decided to call the bridge Scheme Z -- scheme anything -- was no marketing genius. Scheme Z became the rallying point for every community group that opposed the construction project. Nobody liked the implication that somehow the government was scheming to push through this design.
Today, the beautiful and architecturally distinctive Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, carrying the new roadway across the river, defines the Boston skyline.
What's in a name?
White bean doesn't really get me going.
Cannellini bean sounds exotic, interesting, and... well, romantic.
The mild-flavored cannellini, shaped like a kidney bean, is native to Mexico, and cultivated in three of the most romantic countries on Earth: Greece, Italy and France.
Cannellini beans are my all-purpose white bean. I use them interchangeably with Great Northern or navy beans, or flageolets. In dishes that depend on the texture of the ingredients, I start with dry beans, and cook for 15 hours in the slow cooker (if I had a pressure cooker, I could soak the beans overnight, and then cook them in under an hour), but if I'm making a dish in which the beans will be smashed -- a dip, or soup, or salad, or bruschetta -- I prefer canned beans.
If you're starting with canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse them (to "refresh" them and remove any excess salt), though some recipes call for a bit of the reserved liquid to be added as a thickener. Canned beans are fully cooked, so should be added to most dishes close to the end of the cooking time.
I always have a few cans in my cupboard, for a romantic dinner of cannellini bean and sausage stew, white bean and roasted shrimp salad, cannellini bean dip, chicken and white bean chili, and the justly famous Italian soup, pasta e fagioli.
Adapted from Perfect Tapas, this salad would be perfect for a picnic, too. It comes together in five minutes, and no cooking required. Serves 4-6.
15-oz can cannellini beans
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 gherkin pickle, finely chopped
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Pinch of sugar substitute, agave nectar or sugar, to taste
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
Snipped fresh chives, for garnish
Drain and rinse the beans under cold water. Drain again, and add to a mixing bowl with the celery and pickle. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, parsley and sugar substitute. Shake well to emulsify the dressing, and pour it over the beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to a serving dish. Serve at room temperature or cover and chill before serving. At the last moment, garnish with snipped chives.