potluck mixed bean salad

by Stevie on February 10, 2011

I frequently make this bean salad when we’ve unexpected company and I need to pull something together last-minute, or to bring to work for potluck. Like most people, the folks with whom I work are meat-oriented. That’s cool, but for potluck can be a challenge for me. I like this salad as it’s simple to make, easy to transport on my bicycle, it’s healthy and I know that I can eat it. As an added bonus, it is popular among my colleagues, too.

potluck mixed bean salad

potluck mixed bean salad

I’ve made this in many different ways, and all the ingredients are essentially “optional.” What you put into it is more about your personal philosophy of the kitchen than anything else. Usually I mix-and-match from what we have at hand. Most recently, the majority of the ingredients were green so the final dish looks that color. I’ve made this before with more red things, black, white, whatever. It is kind of fun having the same salad with different looks, sort of like repainting your dining room depending on your mood.

I think that the key is to adequately salt it. Beans tolerate a fair amount. Olive oil is de rigueur. Also, I really like lemon zest and olives and/or capers. The first gives the dish a lovely citrus aroma and the brine from the second livens up the taste. I’ve tried adding lemon juice but it doesn’t really work that well. It sort of wilts the herbs and any greens, thus making the dish appear unappetizing.

potluck mixed bean salad


Use about a cup each of any of these: garbanzo, kidney, butter (lima), black, edamame, French green, peas, etc. If they’re canned, rinse well. If frozen, cook per package directions. For fresh, after you’ve rehydrated them, cook until done but still firm then rinse. Typically, to add interest, I add three or four kinds.


Use about a quarter cup each of herbs like cilantro, basil, parsley, mint, or whatever you prefer. I try to have at least two kinds. If you have spinach, kale or other leafy greens, simply clean, chop coarsely and sauté with a clove of garlic and a bit of salt in olive oil until just slightly wilted. Sometimes I have kale stems or similar. Chop those finely and either sauté like for spinach above, until just tender, or blanch.

Preserved ingredients:

I like adding a few tablespoons of olives and/or capers with a bit of brine. It is good with sun-dried tomatoes, too. I’ve added frozen or canned corn before. Also, sautéed frozen artichoke hearts are great (fresh is better if you have the time and energy). Rehydrated mushrooms work nicely, too (again, fresh sautéed is better.) If you’re feeling tropical, try adding Brazilian heart of palm. Of course, ample olive oil is a requirement for all variations.

Other fresh goodies:

Various kinds of peppers can be diced and tossed in raw or sautéed first. Whole cherry or grape tomatoes work great. Avoid cutting them as the dish will get too wet. Sometimes, I’ll toast about a quarter cup of pepitas or toss in a few walnuts.

Secret ingredient:

Lemon zest. The zest adds a subtle citrus note that is really nice.


Usually I just stick to salt and black pepper with a bit of crushed red pepper for some heat. Use your imagination here.

Simply sauté the things that you want to sauté. If you’re using frozen stuff, cook it as directed. Toss everything together in a bowl. It tastes better after sitting a while. That’s all.

For the mixed bean salad in the picture, I used edamame, French beans, butter beans, sautéed artichoke hearts, olives, capers, red bell pepper, parsley, cilantro and basil with olive oil, lemon zest, salt and black pepper. Easy.


This recipe was adapted from VegNews, a vegan magazine I got for free at the 26th Toronto vegetarian food fair Steven and I attended recently on a trip to Canada. It attracted my attention because it uses healthy ingredients that I happen to love: bulgur, black-eyed-peas and kale. It also requires a homemade spice mix which I enjoy preparing. Toasting, mixing, and grinding spices fill the house with magical aromas.

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

The original recipe calls for a coarser bulgur than I had. Since I didn’t want to go shopping for that special bulgur last minute, I made do with what was there. The dish tasted great though it didn’t turn out as fluffy as I expected. I’m sure that’s due to the bulgur. When you try this recipe use the coarser type. The VegNews recipe doesn’t call for toasting the spices, but I did as I think that toasting brings out the flavors. The spice blend is called baharat and many countries in the Mediterranean have their own version. This one is sort of Lebanese inspired.

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

1 cup bulgur (preferably the coarser type)
1 cup warm water or vegetable broth
1 large white onion, cut into tiny cubes
1 bunch kale or collard greens, rinsed and chopped fine
½ bunch whole scallions, chopped into thin rounds
4 tbsp olive oil
3 sweet Nantes carrots, cubed
2 cups cooked black-eyed-peas
4 tsp baharat spice mix (see below)
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
A few squirts of lemon or lime juice
2 ears sweet corn, cooked and broken into small pieces
several Kalamata olives

baharat spice mix

1tbsp black pepper
1½ tbsp coriander seeds
1½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek
5 cardamom pods
1 tbsp ground ginger

Soak bulgur in liquid for about a half hour.

Add all spices for baharat mix, except ginger, to a skillet and toast for a minute to bring out their aromas. Pour spices into a grinder and pulse until powdered. Add ground ginger and pulse again. Set aside.

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a large pan. Add onion and cook until browned a bit. Add kale, carrot, scallion and sauté until kale has wilted. Add black-eyed peas, baharat mix and bulgur. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes to warm through. Adjust flavors by adding more baharat, salt and perhaps a bit more black pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with sweet corn and olives. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Squeeze lemon over everything.

I served this with quibebe clássico or savory winter squash with garlic and olive oil.


My original idea for this recipe wasn’t Southwest at all. I was reading this cool food blog, bitchin’Camero, and got super excited by Mel’s recipe for smoked salmon, goat cheese and spinach empanadas.

Southwest inspired homemade empanadas

My folks had just gone on an Alaskan cruise and brought us some smoked salmon as a gift. Perfect! I made the dish more-or-less the way described, but I tried to be ambitious and make my own dough. I should have read between the lines when Mel gave hints on buying pre-made empanada shells at a local grocer or even on-line. Will I ever learn? The filling for the salmon etc. empanada (I made one large pie instead of hand-held ones) tasted great. The crust, not so good: sort of brick-like.

this smoked salmon, goat cheese and spinach empanada looks great but the dough didn't work

Not to be deterred by such a minor setback, I tried again: this time with a different crust recipe and a new filling. I’d already used up the salmon so improvised here with a Mediterranean-meets-Southwest style stuffing. The empanada dough recipe comes from about.com. The dough was easy to make and turned out very well. I ended up sprinkling some sea salt on the finished empanadas before popping them into the oven, which might have been overkill. Otherwise, this was fantastic.

some key ingredients for Southwest inspired homemade empanadas

Southwest inspired homemade empanadas

For the filling:

½ cup olives, pitted (I used kalamata and stuffed Spanish)
3 fillets anchovy
4 sundried tomatoes
6 cloves garlic
12 small dried mild chiles (I used chile puya)
2 small onions, peeled and cut in halves
¼ cup pepitas, briefly dry pan roasted
8 spring onions, chopped
Goat cheese to taste
Salt to taste

For dough:

Follow the link above or take Mel’s excellent advice and try frozen shells. Making the dough yourself brings a real sense of satisfaction if it comes out right. Plus the empanadas can take on irregular and exciting shapes, which make them seem more unique and fun.

To prepare the filling:

Using a cast iron pan on high heat, roast the garlic and onion until blackened a bit. At the same time, roast the chile peppers for about 20 to 30 seconds on each side. Immediately toss them into a small pot of boiling water. Boil, covered, for five minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest, covered, for another fifteen minutes. (This is the same preparation that I used for smoky ancho salsa but with a different chili pepper.) Remove chiles from water. Carefully remove and discard stems, seeds and inner ribs. Place peppers in food processor.

Add olives, roasted garlic and onion, sundried tomatoes and anchovies to chiles. Pulse until a thick paste is formed. Transfer to a bowl.

Mix pepitas and spring onions with blended chile filling.

Southwest inspired homemade empanada close up

To stuff empanadas:

Place a large spoon of filling in the center of each piece of dough. Top with a chunk of goat cheese. Close dough per recipe directions and bake. Allow to cool on wire racks and serve. These would be great for a picnic to wine country!


I love this dish. Hegui likes it even more than I do. As a result, I make it about once a week (and on that rare occasion, twice). It takes about twenty minutes to throw together, so it’s perfect on an evening when you’re harried or it’s late in the week and you’ve run out of fresh ingredients but want something delicious fast.

spaghetti with Roman style tomato sauce

Actually, I published essentially the same recipe over a year ago, but with another name that made it hard to search for on the blog. Plus, I love this dish so much that it deserves to get promoted periodically. If you’re already making this, then you can skip it here. Otherwise, get with the program! You’ll thank me later.

Thank you for the original recipe, Kristen. I hope that you don’t mind my modifications.

spaghetti with Roman style tomato sauce

28oz can of diced peeled tomatoes
3 to 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 to 5 fillets anchovies or two to three sardines (optional)
3 peeled fresh garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
2 to 3 dry red pepperoncini or chile de arbol, broken (or crushed red pepper to taste)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
salt to taste
1 tsp dried oregano or basil; 1 tbs if fresh
12 kalamata or similar olives, pitted and cut in halves
1 package spaghetti or other long pasta, cooked al dente
grated parmigiano reggiano cheese to taste (optional)

key ingredient for spaghetti with Roman style tomato sauce: Andy Warhol style cans

Start boiling water for pasta.

While water is heating, in separate pan, add olive oil, garlic and anchovies or sardines. I generally use anchovy. (If you prefer more chunks of fish, add it towards the end with the olives. Leave this out for vegetarian version.) Once oil is hot and garlic starts to cook (about one minute) add tomato, peppers, salt, bay leaves and dry herbs (if using). Simmer for about 15 to 20 min covered. Stir occasionally.

During simmering process, cook pasta per package directions.

Just before serving use tongs to discard garlic cloves, bay leaves and large pieces of pepperoncini, if using.

Add olives and herbs (if using fresh). Toss pasta with sauce.

Serve on individual plates or in large serving bowl. Add parmigiano. Makes about four large or six small servings.


tuna rottele pasta Niçoise

This salad is a take on Niçoise salad. I bought an expensive jar of tuna chunks packed in extra virgin olive oil and herbs the other day at “whole paycheck” in our hood. At home we had beautiful fresh organic heirloom carrots (Nantes, maybe?), French green beans, Dijon mustard you get the picture right? So we had another Mediterranean style meal in our lives! Woohoo!!! It tasted scrumptious.

tuna rottele pasta Niçoise

Pasta salad:

½ box of rottele
½ lb fresh haricots verts
1 heirloom tomato, quartered
4 small to medium carrots, peeled and quartered into long strips
10 kalamata or Niçoise olives, pitted and halved
1 pickled artichoke heart, cut into bite sized pieces
4 sprigs parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
1 jar of good quality tuna chunks packed in olive oil


1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp olive oil from tuna jar
1 tbsp water
¼ tsp sugar
½ anchovy fillet, rinsed in running water and minced fine
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing:

Place all ingredients in a jar, close the lid and give a vigorous shake. The dressing will emulsify. Add a bit more olive oil and shake again if dressing is not thick enough. Adjust flavors if necessary.

To prepare dish:

Cook pasta, al dente, per package instructions. Towards the last 4 minutes of cooking add raw sliced carrot and haricots verts. Drain, and transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool a bit. Add 1/3 of dressing to pasta then toss well. Decorate the top of the pasta with remaining ingredients and drizzle with more dressing.

This dish is healthy, refreshing and nutritious. You get a good dose of protein, complex carbs, and omega 3 fats and so on.

Left over dressing will keep for about 5 days in the fridge.


I never know what to do with the extra firm high-protein tofu. It feels like a rubber brick and doesn’t really taste that much better either. We had two blocks of the stuff sitting around for a while and I wanted to make something before they reached their expiration dates.

Mediterranean lemon tofu with artichokes, olives and herbs

I used to make something like this dish with chicken breasts. I’d only use capers, olives, herbs, sometimes artichoke hearts and lemon juice, all sautéed in olive oil with salt and pepper. The chicken lent the dish a great flavor that was highlighted by the flour mixture on the outside. But those days are long gone…

I still like the recipe. The problem with tofu is its lack of flavor. Here I’ve tried to intensify it with a briny bath, anchovies and wine with lemon juice. We liked it. I’m going to try a similar preparation for “tofu parmesan” or perhaps tofu with mushrooms and cream sauce sometime soon. Yum!

Mediterranean lemon tofu with artichokes, olives and herbs

16 oz package high-protein or extra firm tofu
Kosher salt
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp Italian bread crumbs
2 tsp parmesan cheese (optional)
¼ tsp pasilla chili powder or similar
¼ tsp dried basil
Black pepper to taste
5 anchovy fillets
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp. live oil
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of half lemon
½ cup mixed green and black olives, sliced
½ cup fresh herbs like thyme, basil, parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, shredded into 1 inch strips
Lemon slices
2/3 cup frozen artichoke hearts (optional)
½ red bell pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
1 Anaheim pepper, sliced thinly (optional)
1/3 cup edamame, cooked per package directions (optional)
2 tbsp. capers with some brine (optional)
Crushed red pepper to taste (optional)

Slice tofu across the longest direction into about 1 cm thick slices. Cut each rectangular slice into two triangles. Place triangles in a small bowl with a tablespoon of salt. Fill with warm water and let sit for 30 minutes. The brine will infuse some flavor into the tofu.

Meanwhile, if using artichoke hearts, sauté with salt, olive oil and a clove of garlic until heated through and slightly caramelized. Discard garlic clove and set aside.

If using fresh peppers, sauté them with some salt and olive oil until just tender. Set aside.

Mix flour, bread crumbs, cheese, pasilla powder, dried basil, black pepper and some salt together in a large dish. Drain and rinse soaking tofu. Let drip dry then toss in flour mixture.

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add anchovies then tofu slices. Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove from pan. Add garlic and sauté for a minute until fragrant. Add artichoke hearts, edamame and peppers if using. Mix with garlic. Return tofu to pan and fold gently. Cook for a few minutes then add white wine. Allow to cook on medium until liquid reduces. Fold in olives, fresh herbs, spring onion, lemon slices, and capers. Squeeze lemon juice over everything. Adjust salt. Add crushed red pepper and more black pepper if desired.

Serve with white rice or perhaps potatoes.


Açai isn’t just a fruit caught up in a massive health and diet food craze. The heart of this tropical palm is also marvelously tasty. And though this dish may not reduce your weight, it will certainly help you enjoy life even more.

a piece of Brazilian açai palm heart pie

My sister Ana has been making açai palm heart flavored “pie” for years. Whenever I’m visiting Brazil, I make sure I always eat plenty. I write pie in quotes as this doesn’t have a crust in the sense that Americans mean when they think of “mom and apple pie.” Actually, Steven and I have been debating on the right term to use for the dish. He thinks that it’s sort of like a soufflé. I’m not sure. There’s definitely a dough, though it’s more airy and light than most; almost like a cake, a challah bread or perhaps a focaccia. Whatever you call it, the thing is good!

This recipe has been passed down to everyone in my family. On my last visit, I enjoyed my other sister, Tinha’s version. I loved it but Ana claims that hers is better. Thinha humbly agrees. Ana is an expert with this dish, but I don’t know. I’d love them to have a cook-off on my next visit with me the judge 😉 That way, I win whatever the outcome!

Like I wrote the other day, baking is sort of experimental for me. I tried to follow Ana’s recipe almost verbatim. But who ever really does that? I used soy milk instead of cow’s, for the simple reason that we had the former and not the later. Also the baking dishes that my sibs have are enormous compared to what I have at home. Since this made a lot of filling and dough, I ended up with a large 9 by 13 tray and a smaller loaf of the Brazilian açai palm heart pie at the end. Next time I’m going to try cutting the ingredients by half so it’s easier to manage.

some key ingredients for Brazilian açai palm heart pie

This treat is a bit high in cholesterol compared to our usual home cooked dinners. I don’t mind once in a while. It turned out outstandingly!

Brazilian Açai Palm Heart Pie

Filling ingredients:

2 cans (400g each) Brazilian açai palm heart, drained and cut into ¼ inch rounds
1 cup frozen garden peas
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives, halved
6 ripe plum tomatoes, skin and seed discarded, chopped
½ medium sized jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Sauté garlic in olive oil for a minute or so in a heavy bottomed pan. Add jalapeño pepper and continue sautéing for another minute. Add tomatoes, palm hearts and cook on high heat with pan uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Filling will be ready when palm hearts begin to dissolve and most of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated. Remove from heat then add olives, salt and pepper, and frozen peas. Taste it and add a bit of salt if necessary. Let cool down to room temperature.

press the filling into the dough before baking

Dough ingredients:

5 eggs
2 ½ cups milk
1 cup cooking oil (canola or walnut)
¾ cups flour (12 tbsp)
7 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Dash of salt
1 tbsp baking powder

Pre heat your oven to 350F.

Grease a large baking pan and dust with flour (It might take two). Set aside

Beat eggs in a blender for about 3-4 minutes at high speed. Add milk and oil then blend for another minute. Pulse flour into egg mixture, two table spoons at time, making sure it gets incorporated into the dough. Pulse in cheese and salt then, lastly, the baking powder. The finished dough is a little runny. I ended up with slightly more than a ¼ gallon.

Pour the dough into the prepared baking dish. Then scatter the filling on top of dough, making sure it is at least partially covered by the dough. If using more than one dish, divide accordingly and fill each dish in a one part dough one part filling ratio.

Bake for 35 to 45minutes until it becomes golden brown. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, the pie is ready. Remove from oven and cool completely.

To serve, cut into large squares and place on a serving dish. It’s very good with a simple green salad in vinaigrette.

my extra Brazilian açai palm heart pie


Spring is the time to eat fresh asparagus. We’ve been seeing this delicate and often misunderstood vegetable everywhere lately: at the supermarket and specialty food shops, in farmers’ markets and discount grocers; even at Costco. This is one of those foods that children turn their noses up at (at least that’s what I used to do when I was young.) Perhaps the issue is the unusual shape? Or, maybe it’s the flavor, which is very distinct, though yummy, that takes some people time to adjust to. Whatever it is, now’s the time to get over it!

fresh asparagus with kalamata olives and Meyer lemon zest

I threw this dish together the other day while preparing Roman tomato pasta, one of my perennial favorites. It’s handy to make the two together because you can use the boiling water for pasta to cook the asparagus. Thus you save a pot and more clean up.

The lemon zest makes this especially aromatic without distracting from the asparagus-ness of the dish.

Fresh Asparagus with Kalamata Olives and Meyer Lemon Zest

1 large handful fresh asparagus
12 kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
Zest form one Meyer lemon
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Olive oil to taste

If asparagus has woody bases, remove these before cooking. If they are thick, using a potato peeler, remove some of the outer layers at the base of each stalk.

To blanch, first boil asparagus until just tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, then immediately throw in an ice water bath. This stops cooking and keeps both the texture right and the color fresh.

Toss with the other ingredients and serve at room temperature as a salad, appetizer or side dish.


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