Summer White Bean Salad


My mom gave me this spoon — we had it all through my childhood.  I’ve always loved it; it’s full of good family ju-ju; it was our mashed-potato spoon; it went camping with us every year; it was always on our picnic table; I painted it for the cover of my Summer Book; and now I use it for every summer salad.

And speaking of summer salads… a salad that would go with everything from the grill . . . I made a Bean Salad yesterday that turned out so gorgeous and tasted so good, I thought, Yup, good enough to go on the blog! (Loving blog power). Anyway, here’s the finished product:

Summer in a dish…redolent (a word I love as it rolls off the tongue) of fresh herbs, sweet red onion, kalamata olives, garlicky oil and balsamic vinegar.

To make it, the first thing you do is break cauliflower florets into bite-sized pieces and cook them until tender-crisp.

“Bite sized pieces” reminds me; some know about this, some are just starting out in cooking world, like my Daring Girls, so ignore me if this is old news.  I want to talk about the cutting up of things.

Most of you know how much better food is if there’s attention to the descriptive words every recipe uses: chop, or coarsely chop, mince, dice, or cut in “bite sized pieces.” The dish will taste, look, and feel different in your mouth depending upon how you cut things up!  For example, let’s say you’re eating this salad.  If the cauliflower isn’t bite-sized, you might have to cut it to eat it. That would be bad. Much too disruptive in the quest of getting food to mouth.  And the best bite of this salad is when at least two or three of the ingredients fit on the fork at the same time. You wouldn’t, however, want to mince everything either; the salad wouldn’t be as pretty; it would lose its character.  This is why I hardly ever use the food processor, never to be exact, to cut up vegetables.  I want my diced red pepper to be little squares, not raggedy bits of vegetable. OK, end of this edition of Cooking 101. 

Back to the bean salad. . . While the cauliflower was cooking, I emptied canned cannellini beans into a colander, rinsed them well and let them drain while I did everything else.

Does it matter if the beans are canned or made from scratch?  Honestly, everything matters. Homemade beans can be cooked “tender crisp” so they keep their shape and their “bite” — they won’t be quite as mushy as a canned bean is.  But it’s not imperative in this recipe.

What’s more important is that you get to the playing part of this summer day.

So, after I diced the celery and red onion — I scooped it into a large skillet with some extra virgin olive oil and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and then sauteed everything very quickly until it was wilted and fragrant.

Then I put the cute little cauliflower florets and sauteed vegetables in a large serving bowl with a little more olive oil and added the rinsed and drained beans.

Next came the chopped olives, fresh flat-leaf parsley, and fresh sage; it adds prettiness if you want to save a few whole leaves of fresh herbs to decorate.

The olives are roughly chopped, a little smaller than bite-sized, but not finely chopped or minced. 🙂






This is exactly what’s nice about having a garden; time out from cooking and out to the garden I go to get the parsley and sage; fresh air, sunshine, nose-in-rose, back to kitchen with bounty which gets roughly chopped. Almost done!


Some freshly ground pepper, some grinds of sea salt, and stir gently.



V O I L A !

Aren’t the colors beautiful?  It was delicious! Can you not reach right into that for a bite?  Get a spoon!  See how many of the little bits and pieces will fit on your spoon at the same time.

We had it with a watercress salad and grilled, island-caught swordfish from our favorite fish market.

And Joe made his garlic bread….







And that’s it… hope you enjoyed this little trip through our kitchen. The recipe is at the bottom of this page.

Right this moment, the rain is coming down hard… we haven’t had rain in a couple of weeks . . . it’s soaking everything, giving a good wash to the dusty blueberry bushes that grow wild along the dirt road where we walk everyday . . . they’re almost ripe and it looks like there’s going to be a huge crop this year. We don’t have to worry about watering this morning! The windows are all open, it’s cool breezes blowing the curtains here in my studio; it’s just getting light out…the island is very quiet, but every so often, a car goes by out front, the wheels whap-whap on the rainy road.  Time for my second cup of tea and then into my chair with my book for one hour of pure reading happiness. Have a wonderful day, take a deep breath, and think:


  • 2 – 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 c. cauliflower florets in bite-sized pieces
  • ¼ c. + ¼ c. olive oil
  • 1 c. diced red onion
  • 1 c. diced celery
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1/3 c. white wine vinegar
  • ½ c. roughly chopped kalamata olives
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (keep a few leaves whole)
  • 6 leaves fresh sage, keep 2 or 3 whole, chop the others finely
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse and drain beans well.  Put cauliflower in small saucepan, add water just to cover, and cook until tender-crisp. Rinse in cold water and drain.  In a large skillet, heat first quarter cup of olive oil; add onion and celery, stir, cooking for 2 min; add garlic, cook and stir another minute.  Pour into large salad bowl along with cauliflower and stir in vinegar. Add the beans, the other quarter cup of olive oil, the olives, parsley, and sage.  Salt and pepper to taste; stir gently until well combined.  Add the whole leaves of herb.  Serve at room temperature. 

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60 Responses to Summer White Bean Salad

  1. Jane says:

    Thank you, thank you, for this recipe! I’m always on the quest for vegan recipes and yours certainly fills the bill. Excellent advice for the young cooks also!

  2. Doreen Strain says:

    Thanks for the recipe Susan! I think I’ll pick up the fixins for this salad today at the farm stand and give it a try. Enjoy the sound of the rain as you sip your tea and indulge in the reading of your book.What are you currently reading. I’m coming towards the end of..Sister’s of the Quilt”. I have a Kindle and bought the trilogy all at once so I’m just about finished with the third book. I have enjoyed it and have learned alot about the Amish. It’s raining here in Florida too so I’m going to spend my day in my quilting room making mug rugs! I have 50 of them to make by August 17th.! Well, happy Saturday! Just think of how happy the ducks are today on MV. LOL !

  3. Sheryle Towle says:

    Good morning, Susan….. I can’t even begin to tell you just how much I enjoy you & all you do! For years now, I have collected your books; I have 4 of your framed prints on my kitchen wall; my daughter gives me your calendar every Christmas. This blog is great. Last week, as I was looking at your garden, my husband walked by & stated that it looked like our home! Chuckling, I reminded him that our home & garden have always been inspired by you! Therefore, I am so pleased that he noticed! Guess that means that I am doing a good job copying you! Thank you, Susan, for sharing. You are a “gift”.
    Love from your Maine fan!

  4. Jeanette says:

    I’m hungry for dinner and haven’t even finished my coffee! Thanks for sharing a delish recipe with wonderful photos!

    I absolutely LoVE following your blog, it’s like a gift every day, from you to us!
    Hope your weekend is splendid and enchanting!

  5. Good Morning and Happy Saturday! This looks like one yummy salad and I will be serving it soon. I love cannellini beans and often serve them with diced red onion, crushed garlic, olive oil, and chopped Italian parsley, served over a bed of arugula. Regarding your comment about the food processor, I was cleaning my kitchen counter yesterday and looked at the Cuisinart and thought ~ I seldom use it. Have a great weekend and enjoy your book!

    Susan and Bentley

  6. Judy C in NC says:

    I love to have my coffee in the morning and see what you have been up to. It is so wonderful to read a blog with such a joyful spirit. Thank you for sharing all that you do with us. The salad will definitely be made just as soon as we company to help eat it all. Sending much happinees along your today journey, Judy C in NC

  7. Pom Pom says:

    I remember the bean salads of my youth. I failed to appreciate the color-combo beauty then. Now bean salad reminds me of Cowboy Caviar. Yum. Swordfish.

  8. Betty says:

    Looks mouthwatering. I bet it smells good too. Joe’s bread looks delicious.
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. Lin says:

    Looks yummy! Love waking up to your posts!

  10. Nellie says:

    What a treat this morning, Susan, to have a recipe from you! It is a keeper for sure around here. Our vegetarian daughter will enjoy it, and it’s good to have another recipe for her in the collection.:-)

    Our blueberries have been ripening for a couple of weeks. We have more than one variety, and there will be ripe blueberries for at least another month. I’ve baked a pie, but we have frozen most of them at this point.

    Enjoy your Saturday!

  11. This looks so incredibly good! And I’m all about bite size. I cut my green salad fixin’s into bite size pieces. No one likes to shove a half a carrot or lettuce leaf in their mouth. LOL!
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I’m going to print it off right now.

  12. Mischelle says:

    Thank you for the recipe! Off to get all of the ingredients shortly – I know my family will love it!

    Loving your blog – reading it feels like a visit with a dear friend!

  13. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Mornin’! Bean salad is a perfect recipe for lunch Tues, when my dear friend Diane comes to quilt with me! I haven’t used watercress in years – do you have a recipe for that salad you can share? Salad 101 w/great pics was a super treat, MmMm, mouth-watering now, and I think we need scratch & sniff for the garlic bread, another MmMm. Many thanks! xo

  14. Kimi says:

    This salad is not only good to look at but also good for you! The spoon story was touching Susan. I have a few old spoons from my Nonna every time I look at them it takes me back to her kitchen making the best pasta and sauce! Cookies too!

  15. Gert says:

    Oh my gosh Susan…this looks sooooo enticing, I really think I should grab my spoon and have a mouth full! ~smile~ That being said…I probably should print this recipe to enjoy many mouth fulls this summer… thank you so much for this wonderful ‘summer salad’!!

    And that spoon….wow…does that ever bring back memories… Mom had the same one…that ‘red wooden handle’ just sparked great memories…

    Thank you so much…have a blessed weekend.

    xoxo Gert

  16. karen saunders says:

    Hey lady… I just have to say we are “two-peas-in-a-pod”. When my Mommy died, the first thing I did was go out to her house and take the things I grew up with in the kitchen. A slotted spoon just like yours with a blue melamine handle. A potato peeler that could peel the skin off a NASA rocket and a ladle that Grandma used to scoop ice tea out of a kettle. They represented a comfy childhood and I wanted to make sure the memory-makers would not be discarded because my Dad was not a cook.
    By the way…. I have to comment on what good pictures you take. You are an artist through and through. (You go girl!! )
    I’ve been with you when you told us all about your life and growing up. And now you’re writing about the here and now with Joe. You’re such a great writer we’re here for whatever you have to say. I started a blog because of you.
    I have one follower…. I am burnin’ up the internet, “Yeah baby!!” It’s It’s a start…… Karen

  17. Evelyn says:

    Sounds lovely at your house. I’m sitting on my back patio,listening to the birds singing, the leaves of my big maple trees rustling in the breeze, watching the clouds rolling by in the beautiful blue sky…pretty close to heaven on earth. Just got done trimming my forsythia bushes that were getting wild looking. Beautiful, perfect day here in Pennsylvania. Looking forward to something yummy to eat later too…your bean salad looks great.
    Icing on the cake is soothing Hawaiian music playing on my iPod…on Pandora radio. And I have 2 more days of vacation left. Feeling grateful.

  18. Doreen Strain says:

    Ok, my bean salad is made. It really does look pretty. I’m going to hold off on the sea salt because my olives are making it taste salty already. Boy Susan…this one is a keeper. I like the way it tastes already and it hasn’t even had the chance to sit in the fridge and have the flavors meld yet! Thanks again!

  19. Lorie says:

    Thanks, Susan, for the wonderful recipe…we are going to a cookout this afternoon and I’m going in right now to make….have a great rest of the day…

  20. deezie says:

    Yummy is all I can say!!! this salad sounds and looks so delish, I love beans. I love all the ingredients. I will be making this one. Thanks for the recipe.
    Yes a beautiful day here in Ct too. Just got home from going out on the boat
    happy Saturday Susan

  21. Linda Pintarell says:

    That definitely looks yummie – have already printed it off and will make for my vegetarian friends…and those not vegetarian. I’m heading off next weekend from San Diego to your old stomp’in grounds, Susan. With two girlfriends, heading up to Big Sur River Inn – spending a night in Pismo Beach to see other friends. Never got there to see your store in Arroyo Grande BUT bought my first Susan book (HOTH)in SLO in 1986. Looking forward to the sojourn!

  22. Vickie T. says:

    I have been wanting to try this recipe since I first saw it in your book. It looks so delicious in your pictures! Joe’s bread looks amazing too 🙂

    • Vickie T. says:

      I made this for last night’s dinner – so delicious! I looked at the white bean salad recipe in your Summer book and see that this one is a little different. Thanks for sharing such a delicious recipe!

  23. {oc cottage} says:

    It’s hotter than Hades, dry as a bone, and one brush fire after another here in So. Cali…so I just took those last few paragraphs and lived in them for a few minutes…ahhhhhhhhh…much better…thx!

    m ^..^

  24. Paula B. says:

    I love how you write Susan, I feel as if I’m right there in the kitchen with you, or in the garden! And, I’m so glad that you are doing this blog, it’s just amazing that we can visit with you so often. I like all your fans too, they have such interesting comments – makes for good reading also.

  25. Judith B. says:

    I think you might be an Angel walking amongst us…you have such a radiant and caring aura…it shines through in your writing. You are so “real” – no pretense…it seems everything comes so natural and true from you. I so appreciate your work and look forward to your blog entries. Thanks for this salad recipe; I love beans and vegetables and it’s on my menu docket already. Your Mom’s spoon is a treasure – thanks for sharing its story.

  26. bj says:

    O, that salad looks soooo good and with garlic bread…OMGosh.

  27. Lesley Kemp says:

    Susan, I made your Summer Bean Salad today. I used my abundance of zucchini from my garden instead of the cauliflower. Very yummy and healthy too. Thanks for sharing. All the step-by-step instructions and pictures were such a help. Makes me want to join you in the kitchen.

  28. F. says:

    Send the rain our way, our grass is brown! 🙁 If Joe is willing to make a guest appearance on your blog, I would love his recipe for garlic bread. Sounds silly, but I have the hardest time getting mine to turn out right. Sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to do.

    • sbranch says:

      Joe’s Garlic Bread: He turns the oven to 400 degrees. In a small saucepan on top of the stove, he melts butter and olive oil together, about half and half; the amount just depends on how much bread he’s making. He salts and peppers the butter mixture, adds lots of minced garlic, and cooks it for a minute or two; takes it off the fire and throws in a handful of minced parsley. He cuts a long loaf of French bread in 1 inch slices, almost all the way through, but not quite. Then he uses a spoon to go between each slice and slather on the butter. He wraps the whole kit and kaboodle in aluminum foil and puts it into the oven until it’s piping hot, about 10 min. And that’s it!

  29. Gumbo Lily says:

    Your summer bean salad sounds just perfect. It could be a meal in itself, couldn’t it? Especially with that garlic bread! Thanks for sharing your good things.

    I like old spoons like yours. They are deeper than the new ones.

  30. Pat Mofjeld says:

    Yummm, sounds really good! Will have to try it soon. 🙂 Good protein, low-calorie, colorful, and crunchy! I have never seen anyone butter a loaf of french bread the way Joe is doing in the photo..does he use sliced garlic? The whole meal sounds wonderful…you would have been welcome to bring dinner over to the deck tonight, we had supper out there. It was a perfect evening weather-wise and we sat out there until after dark… 🙂

  31. Jacqui G says:

    Hi Susan! I’m on the last leg of my journey home from vacay, and when I get home this afternoon from my travels, I plan to have this for supper! Thanks so much- LOVE this blog…

  32. Pamela Rossi says:

    Hi Susan,
    We had the same spoon too! Or at least I think we did. Ours had a red wooden handle.
    Summer salads are the best. I have one that is made with arborio rice as the main ingredient. Then there is goat cheese and cumin and a bit of cloves, corn, scallions and diced red and yellow peppers. The goat cheese just melts into the warm rice. It is something I make every summer – a summer ritual! Just like your bean salad for you.
    Thank you for sharing.

  33. Carol says:

    The photos of the Summer Bean Salad and french bread are so, so beautiful! It looks so delicious and healthy. I’m making it this week. You are a great photographer, along with everything else. Keep those photos coming!!!

  34. Trece says:

    OMG – I used to have one of those spoons!! Killed me when it broke; lotta memories there.

  35. Angie(Tink!) says:

    Happy Sunday Sweet Sue & Joe & Kitty….White Bean Salad On a Lovely Summer’s Day…Pure Yumminess & Your Mommy’s Spoon…ahhhhhhhhh…..I still Have My Grand~Ma’s Potato~Masher Thingy…I do Believe whenever I use it The Potatos come Out More Scrumptious! Thanks Sweet Sue….xoxo Poof! 🙂

  36. Mary Lou says:

    I am anxious to fix this salad for lunch tomorrow! I love the bits of music I hear in the background of your videos. How about a blog of your fav music?

  37. Debbie says:

    Hi Susan, thank you so much for the recipe. Just got back from the farmer’s market here in Valencia, CA. with all the fixins for the salad. Plan on making it this evening to go along with our grilled burgers. Just love your blog. Makes me smile everytime. Thank you for all that you do.

  38. Heather Smith says:

    I’ve never seen garlic bread made that way….please share this recipe/technique!!! 🙂

  39. Sandy says:

    Delicious looking recipe! I am going to pick blueberries early in the morning with my 2 kids and saw that you were close to picking blueberries too. Do you have any simple recipes for blueberries?

  40. Pat says:

    My husband and I love bean salads!I often cook some tri colore rotini and add it to the bean mix to make a complete meal. It ‘s so easy to make and nice and cool for the summer. .I love the addition of cauliflower in your salad!

  41. natalie jo says:

    Many thanks for the quick escape! I’ve got unexpected company en route for lunch and was flabbergasted as to what I might serve. Your salad will more than do the trick! Minus the sage I’ve got the goods on hands….what luck is that! You are such an inspiration!!!

  42. Diane says:

    I have that same spoon!! I have a collection of my mother’s kitchen things on top of my refrigerator and that spoon is one of them! I am afraid to use them, afraid they will wear out and fall apart, and be gone. I have already lost her, I have to hang on to some of her things.

    A year and a half ago my husband and I moved our empty nest to what I consider my dream home out in the country in Maryland. There, waiting for me, was a white-picketed wanna-be-again garden! With some white paint and landscaping around the outside, it may soon resemble your beautiful garden. I am so delighted to have the garden of my dreams, don’t know why I am so blessed!

    Thanks for all the delights you share with us! It helps me slow down and appreciate them, things I would hardly take time to notice if I weren’t careful, life is so busy. That is a tremendous gift to all of us.

  43. Yvonne Harvey says:

    Susan, you make everything look so good! I just adore your charming blog about every day living. It makes me so happy to pull up your blog each morning/afternoon to see that you’ve posted something new. (If you don’t post in the a.m., I pull it up again in the p.m. … that’s how addicted I am to your blog) :o) Normally, I’m not a huge fan of bean salad, but this looks absolutely delicious, so I’m going to try it. Thanks for inspiring me to step out of my box and try new things. By the way, I just purchased “The Original Snail Mail Willards” from your website. LOVE it!!! Your beautiful artwork and words make my heart smile. Thank you for adding such sunshine to my world.

  44. Carla Meredith says:

    VIOLA! That’s hysterical! …and the salad looks perfect for tonight. Thanks for the chuckle! ~Carla

  45. Lori says:

    Happy one month anniversary! May your blog keep blogging …

  46. Emily says:

    I have a service auction on Tuesday and signed up for a salad I think this is what I’ll make Yeah!!! thanks for the great idea.

  47. Sandra says:

    My family is coming for a visit this week and this will be served; thanks!

  48. laurie says:

    I’m still just thrilled to bits that you have a blog,, your books sit on my kitchen shelf and i’ve looked at them and used them so much the pages are lovely and soft.I had to special order your boks,,our small town doesn’t always have the best stock, and your books always brightened my day while going through a very real health scare and difficult ime.I will always thank you for that,, I’ve used many of your recipes and its because of you I’m now an artist.My family would always ask is this another of Susan’s recipes?, you have a special gift, actually you have a number of gifts, thankyou for being you,

    • sbranch says:

      I’m so touched by your comments. This blog has been a true blessing, allowing me to hear from so many wonderful people, and for them to know of each other. I’m as inspired by the letters I receive from people as you’ve been — it’s really all a great big wonderful circle! Have a great day Laurie! Thanks for saying all of that. xoxo

  49. Barbie Tabb says:

    I have all the ingred on hand except for the cauliflower. I plan to make it for a potluck luncheon we’re having at work next week! Sounds so yummy and is pretty too! Can’t wait 🙂 I am loving this new blog, nice to read everyone’s comments too. oh…and the spoon? I don’t have one like that BUT I have a potato masher of my mom’s with a red spoon (what’s left of the paint!) and I love it! who needs to use a mixer? not me 🙂

  50. Carol Lichwala (gramz) says:

    This white bean salad is delish! I made it exactly how you did and it came out perfect. I put a little feta cheese in mine. Thanks so much for your wonderful recipes. We are always looking for new salads in the summer. I am definitely passing it on to my friends.

  51. Ann Y says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I made it ( along with Chicken Caesar Sandwiches and Fruit Salad) as lunch for all my college girlfriends. We call ourselves “The Kutztown Girls” as we all graduated from Kutztown State College in 1977…met when we all were assigned to dorm rooms on the same hall. We figure there were no computers then, so an angel must have picked our names and put us all together. Through thick and thin for all these years, we are still friends ! EVERYONE loved your salad and the recipe went home with all. Thanks for your great blog, wonderful recipes, and your encouragement to enjoy life !

  52. Claudia Jan says:

    The Farmers Market photos are so wonderful. Everything looks supremely taken care of and loved! What a treat to see what you see! Thank you, Susan. This is the first blog I’ve ever attended! I worked in my “garden” today and keep waiting for the first of everything we’ve planted. Late start this year!
    Thanks again!

  53. Joy Hall says:

    Such inspiration found here! Your writing, ART and photos are delightful and just “draws” me in.

    Thank you!

  54. lani says:

    As a first grade teacher in today’s teaching world with more stress than I could ever have imagined 20 years ago-your website helps me keep a balance. You provide such a beautiful outlook on our world that I so appreciate. I too love wallpaper, old china, linens, cooking, and gardening. I have my mother-in-laws crystal glasses as seen in the Cary Grant movie (love him too) as do you. This is just to thank you for making my world even more wonderful than it is. I love my first grades- I just don’t love what they WANT me to teach. So I sneak in my love of children’s literacy and my goal is to teach them to fall in love with books. My room has a window seat my husband and I built with pillows made from vintage style fabric. We have table lamps and cozy places to read. You inspire and motivate me my friend. Thank You!!!!!!!!

    • sbranch says:

      I just have to thank you right back. You are SO needed and so necessary, and so appreciated! ♥

  55. Jean DiMaria says:

    Susan: This salad looks amazing and the garlic bread is the perfect finishing touch. My two young sons were just asking me the other day at the grocery store what cauliflower tasted like. I told them would we buy it next time (shame on me for not just buying it). I think I will have them help make this and let them experience their first cauliflower your way. Yummy! Thanks for the tips, the blog, and the inspiration. I have been a fan for years but this is my first comment.

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