A few months ago, my husband and I traveled to Italy to visit our younger daughter who was spending a semester “studying” in Florence. While of course she was “studying”, there was also quite a bit of weekend travel on her agenda. Our daughter thankfully was able to experience the best of both as she engaged in her classes, lived with a fantastic Italian family and traveled near and far, making her parents quite envious from time to time!
While in Florence and later in the Tuscan and Umbrian countryside, we partook of the local diet as much as possible which in that particular part of Italy means a lot of meat. Beef, wild boar, pork, cured meats and of course, many varieties of pecorino cheese. While in the countryside, we stayed in an agriturismo so we ate bountiful breakfasts and dinners. Our nightly feasts usually included a pasta first course that often included a meat sauce, followed by a second course including meat, vegetables and salad followed by dessert. We loved every bite and thankfully we were walking miles and miles each day so we felt good despite the indulgence.
On the way home, I casually mentioned to my husband that we might benefit from temporarily embracing a vegan diet. Maybe a couple of weeks abstaining from meat and dairy might be a way to reset our bodies. Honestly, the meat isn’t a problem because we eat a very balanced diet including a lot of vegetarian meals, but dairy, especially cheese is a weakness. He wasn’t that interested in my idea, but I did make an effort for a short period and it was interesting to see how much we depend on animal protein and dairy products in our diet. It was also a good way to experiment with alternative sources of protein and fiber and we both happen to really enjoy beans so those made it into my menus.
This White Bean “Tabbouleh” was born from that time post trip when I was trying to create some colorful dishes that would be nutritious, appealing and filling. The tabbouleh idea was driven by clean flavors, color on the plate and texture. The avocado dressing was something I actually caught on the Today Show, but I tweaked it to work with this recipe. I didn’t want the dish to completely mirror a traditional tabbouleh.
My friends Leslie and Kate tested the recipe for me (many thanks ladies) and with their comments, I tweaked my original recipe further. It was a big hit at a luncheon I recently gave for a friend with a few guests asking for the recipe. Here it is at last!
Creamy white beans (I used canned cannellini) are combined with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion and chopped Italian parsley, the key elements of a tabbouleh (minus the bulgur). The dressing is avocado that is whirred in a mini chop with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, some garlic and a little bit of water to thin it out. You will not need all the dressing for the beans, but it keeps in the fridge for several days and can be used for dipping vegetables or as a dressing for greens.
What’s great about this vegetarian and vegan salad is that it is delicious whether or not you follow any special diet. It can be served as a main dish thanks to the beans or as a side dish alongside either fish or meat. You can absolutely deviate from the tabbouleh concept and add diced avocado to amp up the fiber, or if you aren’t vegan you could add some feta cheese. The recipe also easily doubles for larger crowds. And, it can sit out because it doesn’t have any dairy.
I hope you make this and if you do, please let me know how you enjoyed it. Or snap a picture and send it to me! I’d love to see what you are cooking from the blog.
Until next week…