White Bean Salad

A few years ago, I insanely volunteered to cater a friend’s wedding. With no kitchen at the venue, I had to find a crowd-pleaser that could sit out for a while. Beans are filling, delicious and fairly inexpensive (the bride and groom were paying for their wedding, so they appreciated that).

Since not all beans are equal, check the date on the bag. Dried beans do not age well; if they’re cracked or shriveled, they’ve been on the shelf too long. They do require some forethought. Soak them overnight, then boil them until tender. Drain and add the remaining ingredients - red onion, capers, celery, green beans, fresh herbs, and a sherry vinegar dressing. If you want to use canned beans, you’ll need three 15 ounce cans. For a heftier dish, add canned tuna or shredded smoked trout.

1 pound dried cannellini or great northern beans (about 6 cups cooked beans)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig sage (optional)
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
¼ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup finely diced red onions (about 1 small onion)
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup capers, rinsed and drained
1½ cups celery (3 to 4 stalks)
1½ cups sliced and blanched green beans (about 6 ounces)
¼ cup finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
¼ cup finely chopped parsley

1. The night before cooking, place the beans in a large bowl and add enough water to cover them by two inches. Let them sit out overnight.
2. The next day, drain and rinse the beans well and transfer them to a large pot. Add enough water to the pot to cover the beans by two inches. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the sage (if using), garlic and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt and cook until just tender, 15 to 30 minutes more. Drain. Toss in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season to taste with salt. Let cool slightly, then transfer to a large bowl.
3. Meanwhile, place the vinegar and red onions in a medium bowl. Let the red onions macerate in the vinegar for 5 to 10 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, and then the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil, in a slow and steady stream. Add two pinches of salt and one of pepper. Pour the mixture over the beans. Add the capers, celery, green beans and the chopped herbs. Toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 8. –Jill Santopietro for The Boston Globe.