My mom and I discovered gigante beans years ago, in a garlicky, vinegary side salad that we talk about to this day. We can't remember where it was from, or what was really even in it other than the huge creamy white beans that stole the show. They're statement pieces, these gigante beans. They cook up to almost double in size and their firm, meaty texture makes them ideal for soups and salads.
In this salad, I use butter lettuce, creamy gigante beans, crunchy fennel and peppery salami for a hearty spring salad.
The beans take center stage and fill your mouth with their smooth texture, while the bright vinaigrette and buttery pine nuts pull everything together. Now, I do understand it's sort of a pain to go through the whole bean soaking and cooking process just for a salad, and you can totally just use canned cannellini beans if you're in a pinch, but I really think you should give these gigante beans a chance. I always just cook up a big pot and toss the extras in a really good olive oil, sprinkle them with flaky salt and snack on them straight out of the tupperware. It’s one of my favorite one handed, baby holding meals. That being said, the salad is pretty good too.
notes on these magical gigante beans:
- my first time hunting these down, I ordered them on Amazon and they arrived chipped and split and almost all of the skins came off after soaking. Apparently, this is a sign of old beans, and after that terrible experience I ordered a similar type (Royal Corona) from the amazing Rancho Gordo Beans. They specialize in heirloom varieties, have reasonable prices and ship just as fast as Amazon. The only caveat was I had to buy 12 pounds of beans for free shipping, but that wasn't really a problem. Hiding the evidence from my husband so he doesn't find out his wife is a weird heirloom bean hoarder is a little more complicated, but I'm managing.
- while the recipe only uses 3 cups of cooked beans, I recommend just making a whole pound. You won't have a hard time figuring out how to use the extras!
- extra cooked beans can also be frozen in their cooking liquid, for a quick and easy addition to soups or salads in the future
- If you don't have gigante beans, you want to make this salad today, or you just don't feel like cooking up a pot of beans, you can use canned cannellini or great northern beans instead. Just drain and rinse well before using.
- other large bean substitutes are royal corona beans and/or butter beans
gigante bean, salami and butter lettuce salad
serves 6-8 people
1 lbs dried large beans, such as Gigante or Royal Corona
2 bay leaves
1/2 onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
red wine vinaigrette (makes about 2/3 cup dressing)
1 tbsp minced shallots
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
gigante bean and salami salad (makes about 10 cups of salad)
2 heads butter lettuce, rinsed, patted dry and chopped
3 cups cooked large beans (gigante, royal corona), recipe above
3 oz salami, sliced into 1/4" matchsticks, about 3/4 cup (thick cut if possible)
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup pecorino romano, shaved, plus more for serving
red wine vinaigrette, recipe above
1. Cover the beans with a few inches of water and soak overnight in the refrigerator.
2. Transfer beans to a large pot, add more water so beans are submerged by about 3 inches, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer, add the bay leaves, onion and garlic and cook until beans are tender but not falling apart, about an hour and a half (may be longer depending on the age of your beans). Season with salt and cool the beans in their cooking liquid. Store beans in the liquid until ready to use, up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
red wine vinaigrette
1. Macerate the shallot in the red wine vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Dip a piece of lettuce into the dressing, taste and adjust salt or acid if needed.
gigante bean and salami salad
1. In a large salad bowl, combine lettuce, gigante beans, salami, fennel, pine nuts and pecorino shavings. Toss with two-thirds of the red wine vinaigrette, taste, and add more vinaigrette if needed.
2. Top with extra pecorino shavings and serve immediately.