Have you ever opened the fridge only to find the empty shelves staring back at you, the sad neon light blinking reproachfully? Most nights, that's my signal to pick up the phone and make a hasty call for some pad thai. Usually by the time I get to the point where I'm poking my nose in the fridge, it's too late for dinner creativity anyway, much less concocting something edible out or this and that, mad scientist fashion.
On the other hand, sometimes the grocery money is spent, the slush fund is spent, and it's too late at night to make a call for pad thai anyway. Which is how this salad was born. And may I say that it's crazy good? Maybe I should play mad scientist for often. Because really, this salad is one happy accident, and it's staying in my recipe book FOREVER.
One of the nice things about this "salad" is that it's so hearty: it really is a meal in and of itself, and it makes a great lunch. I also love the fresh asparagus. After a long winter (haha! I know, I know, I can hardly complain about "winter") of potatoes and rice and cheese and meat, it's so nice to eat something fresh and new.
Sometimes I put tomatoes in this... and sometimes I don't. Usually, this time of year, I don't. All the tomatoes you can get are mealy and white and totally disgusting. However, I had a box of them from Mexico, and they were really ripe and sweet, so... I put them in. They were delicious, by the way.
Beck's Favorite White Bean Salad with Asparagus, Feta, and Bacon
Feeds 2 for lunch, or up to 6 as an appetizer
There are three things that really "make" this salad. The first is the dressing. Without the dressing, this is not a salad, just a bowl of beans and asparagus. The other two things are the bacon and the feta cheese. They play off of each-other, and the beans, and the asparagus, and everything else. The whole really is greater than a sum of the parts. Please don't skip the bacon. Nate would be sad.
• 1 can white beans packed in water, thoroughly rinsed in a colander
• 1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
• 1/3 cup black beluga lentils (they have these at Trader Joe's pre-cooked, I imagine they probably have them at Whole foods and regular markets as well)
• 2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, drained on a paper towel, and chopped
• 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (but if they're not in season and you can't get them, just skip them, OR maybe use sun-dried tomatoes, those are good too)
• 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (I like sun-dried tomato flavor)
• 1 tbs white balsamic vinegar, or white wine vinegar
• 3 tbs virgin olive oil
• Kosher salt
• cracked black pepper
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Chop asparagus into 1" pieces, and blanch in the boiling water until just tender and bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander.
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, some black pepper, and a pinch of salt, until salt is dissolved. One tablespoon at a time, add olive oil, whisking constantly, until all is combined. Add a little more oil or vinegar as necessary, until it tastes delicious and you want to drink the whole bowl. Pour over the bean mixture. Toss to combine. Enjoy!