I bought a single bunch of bushy-topped carrots the other day. At first glance it was a good looking cluster - bright orange in color with vibrant greens still attached. But it was on second glance that I noticed the tiny carrots nestled beside their larger brothers and sisters. Some of the smallest carrots were no thicker than a knitting needle, not much longer than my pinky finger. I snacked on those after a quick rinse. The bigger guys I put to work in this skillet-tossed, herb-flecked white bean salad.
A Simple Skillet Bean Salad
This recipe isn't complicated. Warm, coin-shaped slices of golden, pan-fried carrots, white beans and chopped herbs are tossed with a tangy-sweet lemon shallot dressing. It tastes good the day you make it, even better the day after. And although it's certainly not as pretty, in my opinion, it might taste best on day three as the shallots infused the beans and the lemon mellowed.
- Carrots: When shopping for carrots, look for young carrots with their greens still attached. This is one way you can get a good sense of whether the bunch is fresh or not. Can you use standard grocery store carrots? Sure! Look for bunches with smaller carrots if possible. Or if those aren't available, trim your carrot coins into half moons.
- Beans: On the bean front, I tend to cook the beans from scratch. I like a creamy, smallish white bean for this salad. Alubia beans, Peruano beans, and cannellini beans have all worked great. And yes! You can use well-drained canned white beans if you want to throw this together on a whim. Also, heads up, I included this recipe in my list of best bean recipes, so be sure to browse it if you're looking for more bean-centric inspiration.
- Herbs: I starting making this bean salad with dill. I like how dill is always a bit unexpected, and it works beautifully to cut the creaminess of the white beans, while maintaining an ability to stand up to the shallots and lemon juice. Basil is a nice alternative if you're out of dill. Cilantro is great. I mean it's hard to go wrong with your herb component. Use what you have.
Make a Meal of It
This recipe has now been in our repertoire for a few years. One of my favorite things to do is make a double batch. It can hang out in the refrigerator for a couple days, no problem, and makes a great side to many meals. That said, I often turn it into a favorite dinner. Tossing the bean salad with any short pasta like penne, radiatore, or rigatoni and a bit of goat cheese is fantastic. To get a bolt of green into in the mix I often add broccoli florets, or asparagus segments to the pasta water at the last minute. Re-season with salt and lemon juice if needed.
There are so many different ways to re-mix this bean salad. Once you have the base of skillet beans and carrots, playing around with the dressing can take it in dramatically different directions. For example, you can skip the lemony-shallot dressing and use a thinned out pesto instead. The crushed walnut sauce I use here is another option. I've also done a roasted red pepper puree thinned out with olive oil and boosted with cayenne for another twist.
Rachel D. mentioned in the comments, "...I added fava beans that I found at the UN Plaza farmers market (I thought fava season was over but I guess not!) and some preserved lemon. Also added less than the 2 tb sugar and it was sweet enough." Love this idea.
Carrot, Dill & White Bean Salad Recipe
I like to buy young carrots at the farmers' market - slice them slightly thicker than a banana chip for this salad. And if you don't have dill, use whatever favorite herbs you have - basil, cilantro, lemon verbena, chives, and marjoram all work great.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- more olive oil (or ghee) for cooking
- 2 cups sliced carrots, cut 1/4-inch thick on deep bias
- 3 cups cooked white beans
- scant 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (or basil)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey)
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and shallots in a small bowl. Stir and set aside.
In your largest skillet over medium high heat, toss the carrots with a splash of olive oil or a spoonful of ghee (I love ghee with carrots). Let them cook in a single layer - they'll give off a bit of water at first. Keep cooking, tossing gently every three or four minutes until the carrots are deeply browned. All told, about twelve minutes.
Add the beans and dill to the skillet and cook for another five minutes, or until the beans as well heated through. If you are using beans that weren't canned you can allow them to brown a bit as well (just cook a bit longer, and stir less frequently) - they can handle this in a way that most canned beans can't. If you need to add a bit more olive oil to the pan - do so.
Place the contents of the skillet in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with the brown sugar and pour the 3/4 of the lemon-olive oil mixture over the top. Toss gently. Let sit for ten minutes. Toss gently once again, taste and adjust with more salt or sugar or lemon juice if needed to balance the flavors.
Serve warm or at room temperature and finish by sprinkling with the almonds just before serving. If you have any herb flowers add them now too.
Serves 6 as a side.