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White Bean and Green Olive Salad with Feta Cheese and Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette

Salad:

1 lb. dried small white (navy) beans, soaked overnight
1 tbsp. salt
1 ½ cups chopped green olives, pitted and drained of any juices
1 cup red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup preserved lemon, finely diced
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
½ tsp. pepper, or to taste
1 large clove garlic, very finely minced
2/3 cup good olive oil (extra virgin is best here)
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped


Drain the soaked white beans in a large colander and place them in a large 6 quart soup pot. Fill pot with water until it covers the beans by about an inch. Add the salt and turn flame to high. Once the beans begin to boil, turn flame to lowest setting and simmer gently until they are tender but not falling apart, about 20 to 30 minutes. (I love to use my crock-pot for this step! It takes longer but cooks the beans perfectly.) Drain the cooked beans in a large colander and rinse them with cold water. Allow the beans to drain well and cool to room temperature.

Place all the ingredients for the vinaigrette into the pitcher of a blender. Blend until the vinaigrette is mixed completely and slightly thickened. Set vinaigrette aside.

Place the beans in a large mixing bowl and add the olives, red onion, preserved lemon, feta cheese and parsley. Gently mix the salad so the ingredients are evenly distributed then pour in some of the vinaigrette. Use a large rubber spatula to gently mix the salad and the vinaigrette together. Check the salad for seasonings, adding more vinaigrette if desired. Serve at room temperature for best flavor. This salad keeps well for 3 or 4 days when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Serving suggestions: as a stuffing for large, ripe tomatoes, as a side dish with grilled tuna or chicken, with arugula as a summery first course salad.

Wine pairing suggestion: Chardonnay, Carneros

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