Borlotti beans, also known as cranberry beans, are native to Italy and can charm any number of dishes with their smooth texture; mild, sweetish flavour; and versatility. Cook as per instructions below and use in soups, salads, or stews. Satisfyingly delicious. Switch out tuna with organic boneless chicken breasts, if preferred.
The bigger the beans, the longer the soaking and cooking time. Cover with enough cold water to extend above beans by 2 in (5 cm). Set aside at room temperature overnight for no longer than 12 hours. For a shorter soak, place beans in a pan of cold water with 2 in (5 cm) to spare. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for 1 hour. Thoroughly drain and use as per recipe.
Dried beans will keep for 6 to 9 months in a lightly sealed container at room temperature. To have beans ready to go for quick dinner plans, soak and cook up a generous-sized pot. Strain and cool. Then store in small containers and freeze. Simply add frozen to soups and stews or thaw and toss into salads or stir-fries.
1 cup (250 mL) dried borlotti, kidney, or pinto beans, soaked overnight (see Tip)
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, smashed
Small sprig of fresh thyme or rosemary
1/4 cup (60 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 mL) chopped Italian parsley
1 Tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh dill
1 Tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh chives
2 tsp (10 mL) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 mL) honey
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt, plus extra, if desired
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups (1 L) lightly packed baby spinach leaves, rinsed and spun dry
1/4 sweet onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1 cup (250 mL) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small unpeeled English cucumber
1 lb (450 g) albacore tuna loin, trimmed
1/2 tsp (2 mL) fennel seed
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp (10 mL) minced fresh dill
1 tsp (5 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
Place soaked and drained beans in large saucepan. Cover with water and 1 in (2.5 cm) to spare. Add bay leaves, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook, with lid ajar, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until beans are tender but still a bit firm. Do not add salt, as it will toughen the beans. Beans can be soaked and cooked ahead. Remove bay leaves and herbs. Then drain and refrigerate for up to a couple of days. Or freeze for up to a month.
While beans are simmering, place dressing ingredients in mini blender. Whirl until emulsified. Set aside. On large serving platter, arrange spinach, onion, and cherry tomato halves. Shave cucumber into long, thin strips and add along with cooked beans. Set aside.
Combine fennel seed, salt, and generous gratings of pepper in mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder. Stir in dill. Sprinkle on cutting board and press tuna loin into seasonings to lightly coat on all sides.
Preheat barbecue or dry grill pan until very hot. Sear whole loin for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes on both sides, just until lightly golden on the outside but still raw in the centre. Set aside on cutting board to rest. Drizzle with a few drops of olive oil and rub in.
To serve, cut tuna crosswise into slices. Arrange overtop salad ingredients. Dot with dressing and serve.