16-ounce can cannellini beans: $1.09
Fresh rosemary: $1.49
Fresh basil: $1.50 Scallions: $0.69 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (pro-rated): $1.75 Red onion: $0.28
Pantry items: Extra virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, vinegar
Total cost: $6.80
I started off making this dish exactly the way Michelle Bernstein told me to: with left-over, rare roast beef. But I was so taken by the salad's vibrant palette of colors and flavors that I soon found myself roasting beef just so I'd have leftovers. And when it got too hot to roast much of anything at all, I'd slip shreds of rôtisserie chicken in there, or bits of duck from my favorite Chinatown roasted meats guy.
At its simplest, even a handful of crisped lardons or crumbled, fried bacon will complete the salad. You see, the vegetarian part of the dish is so rich and well-balanced on its own that the meat need only be an accent.
These rich flavors are typical of Michelle Bernstein's excellent and categorization-defying Cuisine à Latina, from which the recipe has been gently adapted. The cannellini-based salad gets sweetness from caramelized onions, brightness from heaps of scallion tops and roasted cherry tomatoes, and a woodsy complexity from its rosemary-packed dressing.
A fluid relationship with meat makes this recipe both adaptable and economical. (If you're one of the lucky ones with your own backyard or balcony herb supply—I, and my basil-loving rabbits, envy you--the cost goes down even more.) But the polished flavors ensure that no-one will ever guess you're scrimping.
Roast Beef (or Chicken or Pork or Duck) Salad
Adapted from Cuisine à Latina by Michelle Bernstein
- For the caramelized onions:
- 1 red onion, sliced very thin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- For the oven-roasted cherry tomatoes:
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 sixteen-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped
- 1 to 2 cups cooked meat, such as roast chicken or rare roast beef, torn or sliced into strips
- Rosemary-basil dressing (recipe follows)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
- 1 tablespoon finely-chopped basil
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as the onion begins to caramelize, until soft and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Don't settle for anything lighter than the onions in the photo, bottom right, or you'll miss out on that all-important, mellow sweetness.
While the onions are cooking, preheat the oven to 400F. In a bowl, pour the olive oil over the tomatoes and toss to coat. Lay tomatoes on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and roast for 10-15 minutes or until tomatoes are shriveled and collapsing. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Put the caramelized onion, roasted cherry tomatoes, roast meat, beans and scallions in a large bowl. Add the rosemary-basil dressing to the mixture, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently. Serve at room temperature.
- makes about 1/2 cup -
Mix all ingredients except the basil in a small bowl. Right before serving, stir in the basil.