The Unbearable Lightness of Bean

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This past January, I moved to London with no acquaintances and – more importantly – no concrete housing plans. As a perpetual planner, this was a very uncharacteristic thing of me to do. The first month of my living in London was a mess of hotel hopping, a brief two-hour commute from a small English village, and almost winding up in a convent with a 9pm curfew. Exhausted, I finally came upon the dorm-style housing that would be my home for the next five months. The building was right next to a cafe that served a lovely Tuscan salad, and I fell so in love with the dish that I set out to recreate it.

One of the key themes in Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the uniqueness of a single life. The decisions we make and the experiences that come of those decisions are unable to be replicated, giving our individual lives a certain ‘lightness.’ I cannot exactly imitate the cafe’s Tuscan salad exactly, but the choices I make regarding the ingredients and their proportions achieve a different and unique dish.

This book was given to me by a very important person in my life – someone I would not have encountered were it not for my decision to ‘wing it’ with housing in my early days abroad. The novel follows four characters whose lives collide in different ways. Like the confetti of ingredients in this summer white bean salad, no single figureΒ would play the same role without the others complimenting and contrasting it. There are many textures and flavors in this dish that one would think it’d be overwhelming, but the salad achieves perfect lightness.

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Summer Salad:

5 cups baby arugula

1/2 cup cannellini beans, drained from can, chopped roughly

1 tomato, diced

6 or so scallions, sliced thinly

Parmesan cheese shavings (several shavings per serving)

4 or so slices of prosciutto, cut into thin strips

2 slices of sandwich bread

Salt and pepper

Vinaigrette:

1 lemon (juice of)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper to season

Instruction:

1. Croutons: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice bread into cubes, about 1/2 inch thick. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes.

2. Bean salad: Dice tomatoes, add salt, and let sit over a strainer to remove some moisture. Add sliced scallions and chopped white beans. Let ingredients sit in strainer for a bit to allow flavors to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Vinaigrette: Whisk chopped parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with salt to taste.

4. Assembly: Toss arugula in vinaigrette and transfer to plate. Top with bean salad, prosciutto, parmesan, and croutons.

Enjoy a summer white bean salad with Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and check in at warandpeach.com for more recipes and book reviews!

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