Butter bean and red onion salad

The first day of 2012 was the kind of gorgeous day that reminded me why I love living in LA in spite of all its occasional irritations (like, for instance, the minor issue of my neighborhood being on fire at the moment) and inspired me to make this Bottega Louie inspired salad for lunch.  When I worked in downtown, I loved having this simple, refreshing cold salad.  There are two problems for me with getting it now; I work in Westwood and, more seriously, it’s no longer on the menu as far as I can tell, so I decided to try to copy it.  I’m not sure it’s exactly the same, but it’s still pretty good.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Salad

  • 1 can (15 oz) butter beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 small or 1/3 medium red onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped (leaves only)

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, preferably fresh
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 small shallot, chopped very fine
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed

(Things pictured here that you will not need: champagne vinegar, charging cell phone)

In figuring this out, I decided to try 3 different oil to vinegar ratios.  3:1 is the traditional vinaigrette, but I thought I’d bracket that with a tarter 1:1 and a Julia Child inspired 5:1.  (My other reason for the 5:1–the “secret” to restaurant dishes is depressingly often some combination of more fat, salt and/or sugar than you’d normally use as a home cook.)  I started with champagne vinegar, which just didn’t work, so I switched to sherry vinegar.

My initial test was swirling a bean through the dressing.  1:1 was a clear loser right off the bat; way too tart and assertive.  I couldn’t quite decide between 3:1 and 5:1, and I realized that both were a little flat.  I tried doubling the amount of lemon juice (originally, I’d had half the amount of lemon juice as vinegar), and that made the dressing pop, so I put a couple of spoons of the whole salad mix in each bowl of 3:1 and 5:1.  I shouldn’t have been surprised that 5:1 was the winner.

Putting this together couldn’t be simpler.  Mix your salad ingredients in a medium glass or plastic bowl (vinaigrettes can pick up a metallic taste from metal bowls.)  Put all your dressing ingredients in a container with a tightly fitting lid and shake, shake, shake your groove thing until the dressing is creamy, like so:

You won’t need all the dressing for this salad; I’d recommend starting with pouring about 1/3 of the dressing over the salad mix and seeing how it looks.  You want it well coated, but not drenched.  (The leftover dressing will work over greens, or you could add a spoon of mustard and make a French-style potato salad with boiled-until-just-barely-done fresh green beans and baby potatoes.) Chill in the refrigerator for at least a half hour to overnight.  Will serve 2-3.


Here it is after chilling, with a little more fresh pepper on top and a slice of crusty bread smeared with goat cheese on the side. Finally, while this is meat-free since the original was (this is one of those dishes that I think of as “accidentally” vegan), it would probably be lovely with a can of drained tuna tossed in if you must be a carnivore. Either way, hope you enjoy!

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