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Lemony Asparagus-Bean Salad

Part two of the Ode to the Bean trilogy recipe is an asparagus-bean salad with lemon vinaigrette. Its crispy lemon-panko topping is pretty special, if I don't say so myself. It makes a great side dish, but we ate it as our main course and loved it.

To bring you up to speed, last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans. My objective was to create three unique recipes that wouldn't having us hating beans by the end of the week. The three recipes-- today's lemony asparagus-bean salad, along with pasta with beans and mushrooms, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl-- resulted in three distinct, tasty success stories.

pot of beans cooking
Cooking the pot of beans with aromatic celery, shallot, garlic, and bay leaf

What's so exciting about starting with dried beans?

I waxed on about the joys of beans in the first post, so today, let's talk size.

Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes-- each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with. There's a bean for every liking and situation.

The huge Corona weighs the same as 19 wee Alubia Blancas

In case you're wondering, it takes 19 Alubia Blancas to reach the weight of one Corona bean, which happens to be 3 grams. These are the kind of things I nerd out on!

I'll say it again-- it's hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.

Growers + Makers Wine Notes:

A favorite of ours, Artisanal Wine Cellars 2013 Adams Old Vine Reserve is a graceful representative of Oregon Pinot Noir. This wine was grown in the Chehalem Mountains, and is a food-friendly delight as much as it is an ethereal sipper. Notes of mineral, forest floor, and soft cherry carry through.

The soft tannins in this wine work just fine with the raw asparagus. I would think twice about putting it together with cooked asparagus.

For the Lemony-Asparagus-Bean Salad, you'll start with a pot of cooked beans. No one can describe how to do this easy, basic step better than the folks at Rancho Gordo, so allow me to make that introduction. "Rancho Gordo, meet my friend. Friend. . . Rancho Gordo."

Ingredients you'll need

This almost no-cook dish comes together in minutes. (The panko topping is quickly crisped up in a skillet in about 5 minutes.) Here's where the value of cooking the beans earlier in the week comes! It's not often you run across ideas for raw asparagus, and I'm not sure why-- it's a perfect salad ingredient. Gluten-free and dairy-free options are noted in the recipe.

Next up we'll wrap up the Ode to Beans trilogy with the Beans, Greens, and Pork recipe. Be well, friends.

asparagus bean salad on black plate

Lemony Asparagus-Bean Salad with Crispy Lemon Topping

Course: Main Dish, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Evergreen (April - July), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Vegetarian
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4
Crunchy thinly-sliced raw asparagus and creamy white beans in a simple lemon vinaigrette, with crispy panko and sharp Parmesan curls, on the table in 15 minutes.
Print Recipe


For the Salad

  • 3 cups cooked white beans
  • 1 bunch asparagus, thick stems peeled, thinly sliced on a sharp diagonal
  • 1 green onion or green garlic stalk, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Crispy Lemon Topping

  • ½ cup panko, regular of gluten-free
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • zest of one lemon (reserved from above)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 ounces shaved Parmesan (omit for dairy-free option)


For the Salad

  • Prep the asparagus, the green onion or green garlic, and the chives. In a mixing bowl, combine the prepared vegetables, white beans, and herbs with the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Place in serving bowl or platter.

For the Crispy Lemon Topping

  • Heat the olive oil to medium-high heat in a small skillet. Add the panko and stir to coat it evenly with the oil. (It will absorb the oil, leaving very little at all in the pan.) Flatten the panko out across the bottom of the pan, and leave it to toast for about 45-60 seconds before stirring. Repeat until the crumbs are thoroughly toasted to a medium brown, being careful not to burn the crumbs. This should take 5 minutes or less.
  • Place the crumbs in a small bowl. Stir for a minute or two to cool them slightly. Add a pinch of salt and the grated lemon zest, stirring to incorporate the zest throughout. The slight warmth of the crumbs will make the zest very fragrant.
  • Spoon the crispy lemon topping over the salad. Shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler, and place the Parmesan curls over the salad to serve.


Make it Your Own:
Try fresh mint or other herbs instead of or with the chives.
Humble Beans

I can think of no other food that radiates humble, simple elegance like the bean. Beans are easy to cook, fit into most dietary lifestyles, and are seasonless-- they make a hearty wintertime stew or a chilled summery salad with equal aplomb.

Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms

Last week I cooked up one pound of Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca beans, and made a little game of seeing what I could do with them throughout the week that wouldn't grow wearisome. The pasta with beans and mushrooms, lemony asparagus-bean salad, and brothy beans-and-greens bowl were each distinct, and each a success.

The true miracle of it is that only four ounces of meat were used to season just one of the dishes, and yet meat was not missed. Beans are tasty, protein-rich, loaded with fiber, and when used with other flavorful ingredients are totally satisfying.

Lemony Asparagus Bean Salad

This post includes the recipe for the pasta, bean, and mushroom dish. Recipes for the other two dishes will come in quick succession in separate posts. An Ode to the Bean trilogy, if you will.

In the third post, we'll address the elephant in the room-- the Magical Fruit Effect.

Why go to the trouble of cooking dried beans?

Let's talk about the advantage of using dried beans rather than canned, not that there's anything wrong with that! The texture of beans cooked from scratch is more toothsome, less waterlogged, and texturally more interesting. There are nearly infinite varieties of dried beans, each having their own unique flavor, too. Some are clean with an almost mineral slate-like flavor (the Alubia Blanca is an example), some are slightly smoky flavored, some are nutty, and some are meaty.

Some beans are tiny and others are huge. Think of beans like you think of all the different pasta shapes-- each one holds a special charm depending on what it is you want to prepare or serve them with.

Brothy Beans, Greens, and Pancetta

A pound of beans cooks up into ten full-sized servings-- likely more when used with other ingredients-- making them a definite proletariat choice.

In their brilliant display of versatility, beans eagerly accept the flavors of the ingredients they are put with. The humble bean grows in most climates, and people from most cultures use beans in some way in their cooking. There's just so much to love about the unassuming bean.

It's hard to be bored when you have a world of beans to explore.

Grower's + Makers Wine Notes:

With the Pasta, Bean, and Mushrooms dish we served RoxyAnn Winery 2017 Claret. This Bordeaux-style blend, grown in warm Southern Oregon, is rich and soft and great with these mushrooms. It's a good value, too.

Things you'll need for Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms

To start with, you'll need a cooked pot of beans. No one can describe how to do this easy, basic step better than the folks at Rancho Gordo, so allow me to make that introduction. "Rancho Gordo, meet my friend. Friend. . . Rancho Gordo."

If you like this recipe, please give it a star rating, and leave any comments letting me know what you think!

Be well, friends.

Humble Pasta with Beans and Mushrooms

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Pacific Northwest
Season: Bounty (August - October), Mist (November - March)
Dietary: Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan
Preparation: Fast + Easy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
There are so many fantastic things to do with a pot of freshly cooked beans, and this is one of them! Humble and unintentionally vegan, full of herbs and earthy mushroom and bean flavor, chewy pasta, and loaded with energy-giving protein, it's a dish fit for a queen.
Print Recipe


  • 3 cups white beans, cooked or canned white beans
  • ½ pound pasta, your choice orecchiette is nice- it holds the little beans!
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, any kind (these are chestnut mushrooms)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped chives
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 cup bean cooking liquid, or reserved pasta water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 1 lemon, zested and squeezed
  • ground black pepper to taste


  • Put a pot of water with a palmful of salt (about 3 Tablespoons) on to boil. Boil pasta according to package directions until almost al dente. (It will finish cooking later.) If you don't have any reserved bean cooking liquid, reserve a cup of the cooking water and drain. Set the pasta and pasta water aside.
  • While the water comes to a boil, clean and trim the mushrooms. If using button mushrooms cut them into quarters. Zest the lemon and squeeze it of its juice. Set them aside.
  • Mix together the chopped oregano, chives, and parsley and set them aside on your cutting board.
  • Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, mushrooms, shallot, and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Cook, leaving the mushrooms in place to brown a bit before stirring. Repeat, leaving the mushrooms undisturbed for a few minutes before stirring until they are cooked through and have a slight browned color. Adjust your temperature if the shallots are browning too quickly. Remove about ½ of the mushrooms from the pan and reserve for serving.
  • To the mushrooms in the skillet add the beans, pasta, and bean cooking liquid or pasta water, scraping up any mushroom juices. Stir, and season with remaining salt and pepper. Stir in about half the mixed herbs and the lemon juice. Allow the cooking liquid to reduce about ½, leaving some moisture in the pan.
  • Spoon the pasta, beans and mushrooms into a a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Spoon any pan juices over the top. Place the reserved mushrooms on top, along with a healthy sprinkling of fresh herbs and lemon zest.


Make It Your Own:
There is no shame in using canned beans- I keep them in my pantry at all times for quick and easy meals. The beans will be mushier, so handle them a little more gently.
Experiment with different types of beans, different pasta shapes, whatever mushrooms are seasonal, and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand. 
If you don't have a lemon on hand, add 2 or 3 teaspoons white or red wine vinegar instead. 

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You’re in the right place!  I’m Pam Spettel, home cooking expert and guide, and I’m here to show you how to break up with cooking and hospitality anxiety, learn how to use recipes as guides rather than strict rules, and let your cooking intuition and confidence soar.

Superpower: Dreaming up recipes that work, serving them to my friends and family, and writing little stories about how cooking them well is the same as loving well.

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