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white bean salad with za’atar labneh balls

adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook

Ingredients

for the pickled red onions:

  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly (240g)
  • 1/2 cup water (115g)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar (115g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (9g)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (5g)

for the salad:

  • 3 14-oz cans white beans (1200g total, any combination of black eyed peas, navy, cannellini, or butter beans)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (40g)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (30g)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed through a press (5g)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (1g)
  • 1/4 cup basil, chiffonade (10g)
  • 2 tablespoons dill, coarsely chopped (5g)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4.5oz (about 1/2 cup) extra-thick strained labneh (125g)**
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar (15g)
  • 1/4 cup strained pickled red onions (35g)

Instructions

  1. Pickle the onions:* Place the thinly sliced red onion in a clean jar. Combine the water, 1/2 cup vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Once the salt and sugar dissolve, remove from heat and pour over the onions. Tamp them down a bit with a fork, cover loosely with a lid, let them come to room temperature, screw the lid on, and stash in the refrigerator for at least a few hours (they’ll last for weeks, and are best after 24 hours).
  2. Make the salad: Strain and rinse the white beans, and place in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, garlic, black pepper, basil, dill, and salt to taste. Toss together and set aside.
  3. Roll the labneh into about 20-25 small balls, and roll each ball in za’atar to coat it completely. Chill them for a few minutes so they don’t fall apart. Add the labneh balls and pickled red onions (reserve some for garnish) to the white beans, and gently fold them in.
  4. Garnish with the red onions you set aside, and serve.

Notes

* If you don’t have time to let the onions pickle, make a quickle: simply top a heaping 1/4 cup of thinly sliced red onions with vinegar, salt them to taste, let them sit for 30 minutes, and then strain and use in the salad. They’ll be crunchier and a bit harsher, so use them sparingly. These will only last a couple days in the fridge.

** Feel free to use chèvre instead, for a different flavor. If you’re using store-bought labneh, you will probably need to strain it further for a couple hours. If you’re making homemade labneh, let it strain until it’s the consistency of cream cheese (at least 16 hours). And again, if you’re making it from scratch, make sure you start with plain unstrained yogurt (preferably an Indian or Arabic brand), and not Greek yogurt. Chèvre works great in this recipe, as it has a similar consistency to extra-thick labneh, but obviously a completely different flavor. Delicious either way!

To make this ahead and store it: The white beans can marinate with the dressing and herbs in the refrigerator for a day or two, but the pickled red onions should be added to the salad at the last minute before serving, or their color will start to fade. The onions are best pickled overnight, so I like to make both components the day before, store them separately, and then throw them both together when it’s serving time. But leftovers are super delicious and keep well in the fridge for a few days. You will have extra pickled red onions leftover after throwing some on the salad, but they last for a couple weeks in the refrigerator, and you’ll want to start putting them on absolutely everything.