The pilot series of the Healthy Cooking on a Tight Budget Program has been completed!  One purpose of the classes was to provide recipes using ingredients that are commonly turned down at the Food Bank because people don’t know how to use them.  The first item on that list was dried beans.  On my first day at the food bank the director handed me a couple bags of dried beans and I stared at them with a similar apprehension.  I know how to use them in soups and comforting winter time recipes, but what about in the summer?  Fortunately my friend Elise had the perfect recipe to try.

The first time I made this I wasn’t all that excited about it.  I didn’t think it was flavorful enough, so I stuck it in the fridge and decided to pawn it off on my husband for lunch the next day.  Imagine my surprise the next day when he raved about how awesome the salad was, so I tried it and…WOW!  Each bite was filled a smooth combo of garlic, parmesan and lemon; the beans were tender and the tomatoes sweetly ripe.

I determined that this was a MUST for the cooking class, but there needed to be a few adaptations.  Most people going to the Food Bank for help don’t have a food processor, in fact we don’t have one due to a kitchen fire accident!  So I used minced garlic that could just be mixed into the paste instead of whole cloves.  Although lemons are pretty affordable, big bottles of lemon juice are even cheaper, so I left out the lemon zest.

Because the whole point was using dried beans, I just followed the directions on a bag of White Northern Beans to cook them.  Once the beans were cooked I drained them in a colander and let them cool.  You could also use canned white beans that have been drained.

As far as aesthetics go, halved cherry or grape tomatoes are the prettiest, but just chopping up one whole tomato works fine, and the Food Bank gets them a lot.  Of course it’s even better if you can grow your own!  I see a lot of houses in the section 8 neighborhoods growing their own tomatoes and other vegetables and think that’s awesome.

I made up a batch of the salad the night before my last class, then made another one in class to demonstrate.  Everyone tried the salad I made the night before, and two lucky raffle winners got to take home the one we made in class to share with their families.

Do you have any favorite dried bean recipes?  Do you cook yours in a pot, crockpot, soak them overnight?

White Beans and Cherry Tomato Salad Recipe

serves 6-8


1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 large tomato chopped
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley
Dressing ingredients
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 3-inch sprig of fresh rosemary
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup of lemon juice


Start by making the dressing. Put the garlic and rosemary in olive oil in a small saucepan. Heat on medium until the rosemary begins to sizzle. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 20 minutes, allowing the rosemary and garlic to infuse in the oil.  Remove rosemary sprig from the oil, discard.

Use a fork or slotted spoon to remove the garlic from the oil, reserving the oil. Put the garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Use a fork to mash into a paste.

In a medium bowl, gently fold the garlic mixture in with the beans until they are well coated. Let sit for a few minutes for the beans to absorb. Gently mix in the reserved olive oil, tomatoes, and parsley.

Salad can by served immediately but is so much better if you let it sit in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Approximate cost/serving: Beans are cheap so I used a good quality parmesan to really add flavor.  It still only cost me $1.20 to make this dish (parsley and rosemary were from my garden) so just 15 cents a serving!
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes to both.

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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.