Cannellini bean salad with tomato & avocado

A summery go-to salad that fills you up.
White bean, tomato & avocado salad in white bowl, seen from above
White bean, tomato & avocado salad in white bowl, seen from above
White bean, tomato & avocado salad in white bowl, seen from above
Vidar Bergum

A simple and delicious cannellini bean salad that I keep coming back to at the beginning of tomato season every single year.

This recipe was first published in my free newsletter Meze here: White bean, tomato & avocado salad

The beginning of tomato season

In the seasonal calendar of fruits and vegetables, few – if any – moments are as anticipated as the arrival of the first good tomatoes.

If you live far north, like where I grew up in Norway, the moment will be fleeting. Sometimes it never even arrives at all.

If you’re in a more temperate climate, like Istanbul, where I now live, it marks the beginning of several months of putting tomatoes into everything.

How to make the best out of tomatoes when they’re not quite perfect yet

Turkish tomatoes should be in full bloom by now. Nevertheless, their trademark vibrant red colour has returned, and the prices have halved from just a few weeks ago, telling us that the season is well underway.

Yet, they’re still quite tangy, probably a result of the cloudy and relatively cold spring we’ve had here. More flavourful than a few weeks ago for sure, but still quite a way off the sweetness and tenderness of summer tomatoes at their peak.

In times like these, cherry tomatoes are your best friend.

I don’t know if it’s because they’re smaller, or because they require less sunlight or heat, or if there’s another explanation altogether (any knowledgeable readers are welcome to pitch in in the comments!), but cherry tomatoes will help you bring forward tomato season by a few weeks.

Especially if you sprinkle them with a little salt. (A simple trick that quite frankly does wonders on even the very best of tomatoes.)

The best salad to make at the beginning of summer

At the very beginning of tomato season, I find myself coming back to a simple cannellini bean salad with tomatoes and avocado.

I first published it on my Norwegian blog in 2017, clearly inspired by the two worlds that were both still very close to me at the time.

I’d left London for Istanbul less than two years earlier, and now found myself fully immersed in Turkish cuisine. But the memory of the likes of Ottolenghi and various brunch restaurants in London was still fresh in my mind.

The inspiration: Turkish piyaz salad

The starting point was undoubtedly piyaz, a Turkish bean salad that’s usually served alongside meatballs.

There are many versions of it around Turkey, but the beans are always the main actor, with tomatoes, raw onions, vinegar and (sometimes) cucumber as supporting cast.

This salad has taken a few steps toward “urban brunch” territory (hello avocado and macerated onions, goodbye basic vinegar). Far enough of a walk to no longer be a piyaz.

Not that it really matters.

Why make this cannellini bean salad with tomato & avocado

What matters is that it’s a salad I – somewhat unexpectedly, given its apparent ordinary-ness – find myself coming back to year after year. It’s bright, filling and simple to make.

It makes me want to put on shorts and sunglasses, start off the roof terrace season.

And it’s a brilliant way to use the early season tomatoes.

A few ways to change things up

I’ve no need to change its makeup, but should you feel the need, it’s certainly open for substitutions, additions and omissions.

Skip the cucumber or substitute (Turkish) green peppers.

Use whatever onion you’ve got to hand (if it’s spring onions, no need to macerate in lemon juice).

Add olives or a hard boiled egg.

Swap the herbs for other flavourful greens, like basil, dill or rocket (aragula), but not mild greens like baby spinach, which would is too gentle in flavour and wilts too quickly.

Use more or less tomato or greens to satisfy your mood.

All I feel strongly is that the dressing should be kept as is. The simple combination of lemon juice, sumac and olive oil is what gives that sunny and summery feel to the salad.

It’s time to let the vegetables sing again!

Serving suggestion

I like this with crusty bread or a sourdough toast alongside.

If the sun’s out, a cold glass of white wine wouldn’t go amiss either, though sparkling water with a slice of lemon is (nearly) as good.

If you want a dairy element, a Turkish cacık is a delicious accompaniment. Or, if you prefer it as a drink, ayran.

White bean, tomato & avocado salad in white bowl, seen from above

Cannellini bean salad with tomatoes & avocado

Yield: 2 servings

A summery go-to salad that fills you up.

Ingredients

  • 200 g cherry tomatoes (c. 1 cup), halved or quartered
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp sumac, plus extra to garnish
  • 2–3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 medium sized Middle Eastern cucumbers (c. 100g/3½ oz), cut into 1 cm dice
  • 250 g (1⅖ cup) cooked cannellini beans*
  • a handful flat leaf parsley leaves (c. 10 g/⅓ oz), chopped
  • a handful mint leaves (c. 10 g/⅓ oz), thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 avocado, halved and cut into thin slices
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle a little salt on the cherry tomatoes. Set aside while chopping and slicing the remaining ingredients.
  2. Mix the onion, sumac and lemon juice with a little salt. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the rawness of the onion to soften a little.
  3. Add the tomatoes, onion mixture (including their juices), cucumber, cannellini beans, herbs and olive oil to a bowl. Mix gently, but well. Season to taste with salt and pepper (depending on how well salted your beans are, you may need more than you think).
  4. Divide the salat into two bowls. Top with avocado and a nice sprinkle of sumac and your favourite flaky salt. Serve immediately.

Notes

* From 1x400 g (14 oz) tin, rinsed and drained, or 100 g (½ cup) dry beans, soaked and cooked.

Vidar Bergum

Vidar Bergum

Vidar Bergum is a cookbook author and writer based in Istanbul, Turkey. He has published three books about food and food culture from Turkey and the Middle East and runs a food blog as well as a weekly newsletter on food and culture from Turkey & the Middle East.
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I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

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