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Italian rice salad with cranberry beans

(Food styling/karoline boehm goodnick; wiqan ang for the boston globe)
September 17, 2008
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Serves 4

Traditionally used for risotto, arborio rice also makes a splendid underpinning for a main course salad. In this recipe dried beans supply the protein; they're mixed with the fluffy, aromatic rice, fragrant lemon, sauteed onion, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, fruity olive oil, and a sprinkle of parsley. Preparing the salad requires thinking ahead. After simmering the beans for 2 minutes, you need to let them sit for an hour. When it's time to toss the salad, handle it gently; heavy mixing makes mushy rice. If you're in a hurry, use a can of pinto beans (drain and rinse them first), but the rich, earthy, sweet flavor, and pleasantly mealy texture of dried cranberry beans is worth the extra effort. Serve the salad at room temperature on a bed of spicy Italian greens such as arugula. Add a side dish of melon slices. This year, peaches taste especially good, so you might want to cut those up as well. Meat-eaters in the family may appreciate this substantial dish; if not, indulge them with a few slices of turkey or chicken breast.

3/4 cup dried cranberry beans
7 cups cold water
2 cups arborio rice
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup capers, drained
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes (packed in oil), drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. In a saucepan, bring the beans and 4 cups of the water to boil. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the pot stand, covered, for 1 hour. Drain the beans into a colander and rinse with cold water.

2. Return the beans to the saucepan with 2 inches of cold water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook the beans for 35 to 45 minutes or until they are tender.

3. Meanwhile, rinse the rice.

4. In a large flameproof casserole, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When oil is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until it softens. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes or until the grains become opaque.

5. Add the remaining 3 cups water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water evaporates. Remove from the heat and let the rice stand for 15 minutes.

6. Turn the rice out into large bowl. Gently break up any lumps. Add the lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss gently. Set aside to cool.

7. Add the capers, tomatoes, parsley, beans, and pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if you like. - Allison Boomer

Notes:

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