White Bean Salad


This beautiful salad is a feast for the senses, it’s pretty, smells like heaven, tastes delicious, and goes well with everything.

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 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….


Melted butter & parsley, wrapped in foil, and put in 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

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


  • 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. 

43 Responses to White Bean Salad

  1. Mary says:

    That looks so yummy, will have to make this weekend.

  2. mary spring says:

    ..this does look so good…will try it…Happy fourth of July !!…..

  3. Gert says:

    Yumm..this truly does look like a summer salad! Thank you so much for sharing… I will add this to my summer salads !


  4. Jerri says:

    Wow, this looks so GOOD and FRESH!!! I am going to add the ingredients to my shopping list for today and prepare both the Bean Salad and the French Bread and add Herb-Panko Breaded Tilapia to the menu. HEALTHY!!

    Happy 4th of July!!!

  5. This looks oh so good. I followed the link from the post about your favorite new word. I can feel how glad and relieved you are to be ‘heafed’ to your home sweet home.

    Your holiday abroad and the one you are having today sound oh so good.

    FlowerLady Lorraine

  6. Vita says:

    This looks Great! Do you ever have to cook the canned beans at all? I was making a kidney bean salad with canned beans and they were too hard, so I put them in some water and boiled them a little bit. I used a generic brand of beans though, what brand did you use? Thanks

  7. patti frain says:

    Happy 4th of July Ms. Susan Branch. This blog brought me to tears. You have the most wonderful life. It’s like a fairy tale and right now there is such sadness in mine I only hope I start to feel better. I love the East Coast and Maine and Cats and all of your stories. Glad you are home and had a wonderful trip. Patti

    • sbranch says:

      I am very lucky, but not always has everything been wonderful, sometimes I’ve been where you are, so you should know that nothing ever stays the same. xoxo

      • Terrie in Atlanta says:

        What a kind reply! Sue, you always seem to know just what to say ~ sweetly and succinctly. And Patti, you are never alone now that you’re one of the “girlfriends” … hope today brings a little piece of happiness your way. Xoxo Terrie

  8. Millie Ray says:

    This sounds so good, and summery too. I love things you can make ahead of time, like this. We are having some company next week, and I think I’ll try it out then. Thanks for sharing

  9. Joann says:

    I will definitely be trying this one—we have some vegans in the family, along with vegetarians—fits both! Thank you and hope your 4th was fantastic!!


  10. starr miller says:

    welcome home…….thanks for sharing your world and your talents.

  11. Stephanie says:

    Welcome home. I had a great stacation with you and Joe in England. I love your little quips. The salad looks yummy, I will have to try it this weekend. Thank you for sharing and being part of all your girlfriends lives.

  12. Toni Moriarty says:

    Sooo glad you’re home safe and sound. Like you, there’s always a tinney-weeney thought in my mind about not coming back the way I left(not alive):-(((
    Your house and flowers are so beautiful…what a paradise on this little part of God’s earth. You deserve it:-))))))))))
    Toni Moriarty

  13. Kathie says:

    Oh, thank you for that recipe. It looks just delicious. We’re short of a few of the ingredients out here on the prairie but I can make some substitutions. I’ve got the fresh parsley and sage in the garden, though the swordfish will be tough to find! Isn’t life interesting? Isn’t it great to be home again? I’m just beginning to straighten out, finally, after all that folding and unfolding and folding again. Bye for now. Kathie, in Odessa, WA

    • sbranch says:

      What no swordfish in the river? 🙂

      • Kathie says:

        No RIVER….just Crab Creek, the longest creek in North America, which is drying up right now (actually, it will run under ground until the next heavy rains next spring). Seriously, we live in a very semi-arid part of Washington State surrounded by “channeled scablands” (doesn’t that sound great?). You can see pictures of them (spectacular) on my blog at prairiecottagecorner.blogspot.com….just search for “scablands”. These geological formations were made eons ago by a combination of faults, fires and floods. Yes, we have a serious lack of Swordfish….er….ANY fish, except canned tuna and salmon. Gladys Taber has some great recipes for pantry items like canned fish. I’m reading ESPECIALLY FATHER, right now.

  14. Teresa says:

    I love new recipes and this looks so yummy, summery and beautiful! Can’t wait to try it! I have enjoyed my trip through England with you! You are my inspiration! Thank you for sharing your love of life so wonderfully!!
    So heart warming to see and hear of your love for our HOME, America! God bless her! XOXO

  15. Sylvia Watkins says:

    I made this bean cauliflower salad for some Scrabble playing friends Saturday night and it was a big hit. I love it. Thanks for sharing it. Next I’ll try the rice dish.

  16. Janis Hueftle says:

    Just made this Susan! Looks and tastes delish! Serving with some nice fresh turkey burgers for a lovely summertime supper. I posted the picture on the FOSB Facebook page for those who might like to see it! Thanks for a wonderful recipe! One of hundreds I have made of yours : )

  17. Nikki says:

    Have been reading everything you’ve written since your first book and I have a major girl-crush on you!

    Every season I break out my SB cookbooks and read them laying on my bed with my own girl kitty (Lucy Brown is her name) right beside me. I’ve made dozens of your recipes, read many of the books you’ve quoted from and have my own special place like you have the Vineyard (mine is P-town).

    Your blog is a wonderful read in its own right but the trip to England is beyond charming, I’ve spent the last few hours enjoying it. And then to cap it off (thought I was gonna plotz at Jane Austen’s house OMG) here is this totally rockin’ recipe (and the rice salad looks great too) which I will be making tonight.

    You are da bomb, girl. Thanks for sharing your life, loves, family, art and recipes for all these years (since I was a newlywed – your first two books were wedding gifts).

    And welcome HOME to the colonies!

  18. Ann Solomon says:

    I’ve been to England numerous times, and to Europe. The one thing, though, that I’ve always wanted to do is to take a trip like yours. How I loved going along with you on your trip. It’s the closest I’ll come to that of my own.

  19. Nettie says:

    Tis blog came just in time as we are planning our Cape get away…now I must add the Vineyard to our list…you make me feel welcome

  20. Carol C says:

    this looks so fresh and delicious….well, except for the cannellini beans which we don’t eat. I’ll have to think of something to sub for that. And this would be wonderful with some good Texas BBQ!

    • sbranch says:

      How about black beans, or white beans? Could they work, or is it all beans? Kidney beans and white beans maybe.

  21. Joy Pence from Ohio says:

    Oh my goodness. Just took a bite of this salad. It is soooooo good. Thank you for sharing! I used great northern beans.
    , yum yum

  22. Sherry says:

    Can’t wait to make your bean salad!!!!!!!!!!

  23. roberta says:

    My mom has been making a bean salad forever! She’s almost 94! Very Italian! We mix up a can of every kind I can find, olive and vinegar, red onions, olives, basil, sometimes tomato. I used yellow onion a few days ago, was told to use red! I’ve never cooked veg first, I will next time.
    Thanks for recipe and Blog!

  24. Joann says:

    This looks fantastic—oh my goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!! AND, it looks like Spring, even though it would work all year long. It looks crisp and fresh….and also savory and filling. It is probably on my list of things to do this week….

    I needed some inspiration….thank you!!!
    Joann in FROZEN Colorado—just a visual for you. We have a car that must remain outside all through the year. It had so many icicles on it today!!! Rod drove it off to make sure it still runs and I stood on the front porch listening to the icicles falling off of it as he sped away (actually, he was going slowly). It’s 18F right now at a little after 3 in the afternoon. I don’t think it’s going to make it to the predicted high of 30. But, Thursday…..now Thursday is looking better! It’s looking like bean salad!

  25. EsSuzy (from South Carolina) says:

    Hey Susan, do you ever make this salad ahead, like the day before you are going to a Memorial Day cookout maybe? Is it just as good as freshly made? Or would you prefer to make it that morning if possible? I’m just making plans. I favorited laurabjenkins’ tweet where she mentioned this salad so I could find it again. I think it might be in one of your books on my shelf, but I know it’s here!
    Roses and lilies blooming here in beautiful South Carolina,
    Susan L

    • sbranch says:

      Yes, just as good even three days later. If it lasts that long. This particular recipe isn’t in any of the books yet.

  26. Lynn Cooper says:

    I love your menu for the dinner party. I will look up the mango salad recipe in my Girlfriends book….can’t wait to make it.

    • sbranch says:

      Mangos are a little bit of trouble to cut up. They’re big, but oddly enough, the seed is probably bigger than the fruit you get from it. You don’t peel it, you cut it and scoop the fruit from the peel like you do an avocado. Just Google “How to cut up a Mango” before you do it, I’m sure there a lots of people out there that show you how. It’s not hard when you know how and it’s easy once you know what to expect.

  27. Pam Butterick says:

    Yum! I can taste it from here!!!😍🇺🇸😍

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