Summer arrived in an instant here in Toronto. Earlier this month we saw snow and now we’re waking up to temps in the mid-teens (Celcius) and comfortably reaching daily highs in the mid-20s. And with the sudden appearance of, dare I say, summer, comes a radical shift in the palette. Gone is the desire for soups, stews, and hearty meat-riddled pasta. In its stead is the nagging need for salads, popsicles, and various grilled vegetables and meats. And today I’m feeding one of those seasonal cravings with this Tortellini White Bean Salad.
Quarantine Hero – Packaged Tortellini
Let’s give it up for store-bought tortellini. This may seem like an odd thing for a person like me to say, but I’m seriously digging this small piece of convenience. Thus far I’ve billed myself as what I’m sure is an occasionally intolerant food snob…at least I hope it’s occasional. So, for me to sing the praises of store-bought anything may seem a bit off. But I think its time for me to acknowledge the ways in which quarantine has changed me.
Since lockdown began, I have cooked dinner almost every night. I mean, I cooked a lot before the pandemic but I always had an out. If I felt tired, I could always grab my coat and snag a seat at one of the many restaurants near my house. This isn’t likely to be an option again anytime soon and when it is, I doubt I’ll be making this choice as flippantly as I once did. Sure, there’s takeout but even that seems a little fraught. The exchange can be stressful, and if you’re even a little paranoid, it’s hard not to give the packaging the side eye.
So yeah, most nights we make dinner at home and as a result, I have been feeling a little burnt out. Of course, bae has been pitching in and leftovers have bought me a few nights of peace. But I’ve never had to rely on my cooking in such a real way. And now that I do, I find myself appreciating a few more convenience foods, such as packaged tortellini, more and more.
Versatile Convenience Foods FTW
Now, I’m still me, so you won’t find a box of Hot Pockets in my freezer anytime soon. But blank slate, premade sort of deals? Absolutely. Packaged tortellini is such a gift because it can carry any sort of sauce and play host to any mix-in you may need to use up. And tortellini is, of course, delicious piping hot but they are also good cold. Case in point: this Tortellini White Bean Salad.
Tortellini White Bean Salad
If the white beans in this salad look familiar, it’s because they are. You saw them recently in a certain Kale Caesar. I have been making these marinated beans constantly throughout the pandemic. They are just so easy to make, store, and dole out when needed. They are also dynamite on toast and I do measure the perfection of any food largely based on its compatibility with toast. The point is these beans deserve a reappearance because they are pretty much keeping me alive at this point.
The rest of this salad is odds and ends found in my fridge. In terms of fresh produce, you have cucumber ribbons, because nothing screams summer like cucumber in a cold pasta salad, shaved red onion lightly pickled with a sprinkle of salt, and a ton of fresh, raw garlic. There are many opinions out there in regards to the use of raw garlic. Many profess to hate the “bite” of raw garlic. I am not one of those people. But if you are, just saute the garlic called for in this recipe – it’ll keep things nice and mellow for you.
I rounded the salad out with hunks of feta cheese and briny banana peppers because I almost always have both in my fridge. I’m not entirely sure of why that is, it’s just an observation I made. Sometimes it takes frequent visits to your fridge to really see what you truly care about. And in my case, apparently, it’s feta cheese and banana peppers. Who knew?
Chilled Dish Golden Rule – Shake on the Salt
Now, a word about dishes served chilled or even at room temperature. Always taste your dish when it is at the temperature you intend to serve it at. Colder dishes tend to lose flavor, particularly when it comes to salt. To counteract this, add a little more salt than you normally would to a hot pasta dish. You may feel a little edgy about this, particularly given the addition feta, but fear not, sprinkle away and everything will be fine.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Tortellini White Bean Salad. It’s simple to make and it pairs beautifully with any chop, burger or rack of ribs you care to throw on the grill. In other words, this salad tastes like summer.
Tortellini White Bean Salad
- 227g (8oz) dried white beans
- 4 cups cold water
- 3 ½ tsp salt divided
- 4 cloves garlic divided
- 2 bay leaves I used fresh
- ¼ large red onion sliced thin
- 700g (1.5 lb) cheese tortellini
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ banana peppers drained
- 150g (5oz) feta cheese crumbled
- 2 Persian cucumbers sliced into ribbons
- ¼ cup fresh mint torn
- ¼ cup pea shoots
- Fresh ground pepper
- Place the beans, water and two teaspoons of the salt in a large bowl and cover. Let soak for 8 hours or overnight.
- Once the beans have soaked, pour the beans and they're soaking liquid into a saucepan. Crush two cloves of the garlic and add them to the pot. Toss in the two bay leaves and place the pan over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the beans until tender and creamy, about 35 minutes.
- Remove and discard the garlic cloves and the bay leaves. Drain the beans and transfer them to a bowl. Set aside to cool.
- While the beans are cooling, place the onion in a small bowl and add ½ teaspoon of the remaining salt. Toss to evenly disperse the salt and set the onions aside.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then add a generous sprinkling of salt. Toss in the tortellini and cook them according to the package's direction. Drain and rinse the tortellini and set aside.
- Mince the remaining cloves of garlic and place them in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and the remaining salt. Whisk to combine.
- Place the beans, tortellini, onions, feta, banana peppers, and cucumbers in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over top and toss to coat. Garnish the salad with mint leaves and pea shoots. Serve immediately.