Recipe: Cranberry Bean Salad with Basil, Mint and Feta

This past weekend I was led astray from my usual, predictable purchases at the farmers market. The culprit? Beautiful Borlotti Beans (or Cranberry Beans) and the promise of a great early fall salad.

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Cranberry beans have beige and red pods that house darker, speckled beans. While the shell is inedible, the beans inside are incredibly nutty in flavor with an almost creamy texture.

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I had leftover mint and basil at home, and I picked up some mild goat's milk feta. I had a plan that would carry over for a few lunchtime meals this week. In fact, this salad also rounds out a hearty vegetarian dinner. I've stuffed sweet potatoes with the Cranberry Bean Salad and served them alongside roasted greens; it is, quite possibly, one of the more satisfying meals I've had in a long time.

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This salad is simple and forgiving: if you prefer to use other herbs you have on hand, please do. If you'd rather leave out the feta, no problem. Also, if you have trouble finding fresh Borlotti Beans, dried varieties are easy to come by year-round. Just soak them overnight and drain before using.

Cranberry Bean Salad with Basil, Mint and Feta
Serves: 4 as a small side dish

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound fresh cranberry beans, shelled (will yield 1 1/4 cups of actual beans)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup mild feta cheese, crumbled

Over medium-low heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and add the garlic. Stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add beans and stir until they're just coated in oil. Cover the beans with about 2 inches of water and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Simmer, covered, until beans are soft but are not losing their shape, about 30 minutes. Remove pot from heat, and use a slotted spoon to transfer beans into medium bowl. Allow to cool completely. Reserve 2 teaspoons of the cooking water.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, mustard and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the beans and gently stir to combine.

Add 2 teaspoons of the cooking liquid. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil, mint and feta and allow the salad to stand for twenty minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Related: Ingredient Spotlight: Christmas Lima Beans

(Images: Megan Gordon)

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