I have a confession to make. In the depths of winter, after hiking through the snow to get home for dinner, I don’t crave lettuce. I know, there’s a narrative in our culture in which anybody who is skipping meat must live on rabbit food. But, really, it’s universal human nature to want something warm and hearty for dinner in the wintertime, with as little effort as possible. That’s where this Warm White Bean and Broccoli Salad With Beets comes in handy.
January is the month to mix it up a little. There’s no lettuce in sight, but a warm and colorful plateful of crisp broccoli, tender beans and tangy beets becomes a salad, with the addition of tangy-sweet balsamic vinaigrette.
In this easy recipe, I’ve devised a simple trick to warm your meal without much fuss. You may have already met the “wilted” spinach salad, in which ingredients are sautéed in fat, then tossed with spinach to slightly warm and soften the greens.
In this recipe, instead of sautéeing, you simply steam the beans and broccoli to warm them and cook the broccoli a little bit, then dress it with a beet-infused balsamic dressing. I used my little collapsible steamer, and it worked like a charm, and was easy to rinse clean.
The other big time saver in this recipe is the use of canned beets. Yes, there are times when only a fresh vegetable will do, but in this case, canned is absolutely fine. Beets are one of the vegetables that hold their texture, flavor and nutrients well through the canning process. The sturdy beet stays firm and brilliant, and most people won’t be able to tell it was canned, unlike, say, asparagus or green beans. Once you bathe the beets in a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, they taste almost as fresh as the day they were pulled from the ground.
By marinating the beets in the dressing, even for just a few minutes, you’ll pull ruby red pigments into the vinaigrette. Drizzling the dressing over pale white beans gives them a pink tint, as well as a boost in flavor.
Crisp broccoli is a lovely counterpoint to the tender beans, and steaming it to crisp-tender makes it more digestible and easy to enjoy. Broccoli has been pushed aside in recent years, as people have romanced the kales and cauliflowers, and broccoli deserves a place at the table, too.
So warm up your salad and call it a meal.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.