White Bean Salad with Tarragon

June 26, 2013

If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.

Today: Tarragon gets the credit it deserves.

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Until recently, I thought of tarragon as a small, confusing, dusty jar in the back of my mother's spice cabinet. If you'd asked, I'd have no descriptors for you other than stale and green.

But I have finally come around, and begun to think of fresh herbs as ingredients worthy of attention, as friends to get to know for their own merits rather than just an obligatory plus-one to bring to a party. It first started with parsley, which tastes so flat when it's not fresh but screams for you to add its wide leaves to everything when it's vibrant and new. 

Eager to add more fresh herbs to my circle of friends, I awaited tarragon's arrival with a sort of optimistic suspense. Our first encounter this spring was a happy one: its flavors reminded me of fennel, but sweeter, and it had a strength that didn't overwhelm other ingredients -- I learned that I could use it in not just pinches, but handfuls. 

For a lunch-or-dinner salad, I paired it with soft white beans, parsley (of course), crunchy radishes, wisps of red onion, lemon, and a whole lot of really great olive oil. You could easily mix in a grain -- something resilient and chewy, like farro or wheatberries -- but I'm a sucker for a crusty loaf of bread to sop everything up, a starch and a utensil all in one. Turn your leftover baguette into cubes, toast them, and tomorrow you'll have a panzanella. Because this whole thing came about in the spring -- and, after all, spring is a time for rebirth.

White Bean Salad with Tarragon

Serves 2-4

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans
1/4 cup tarragon, finely chopped (one medium-sized bunch)
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped (one small bunch, or half of a large one)
1/2 small red onion, mandolined in half-moons
4 to 5 radishes (I used breakfast), sliced in half moons
Juice of one large lemon
1/3 cup good olive oil
Generous sprinkle of flaky salt

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Photos by Eric Moran

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • Phyllis Grant
    Phyllis Grant
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
  • JanetFL
  • Marian Bull
    Marian Bull
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



AntoniaJames June 26, 2013
Can't remember where I learned this, but did you know that the flavor of tarragon is much more robust if you slice (don't chop) the leaves carefully with a razor sharp knife into no more than three pieces per leaf? It's amazing, the difference. Something about the cell structure . . . . ;o) P.S. Also, slice and add it at the very last minute. Incidentally, I make something similar using fresh (winter) savory. I also cook the beans with savory and a carrot. And use Korean plum vinegar in the salad.
JanetFL June 26, 2013
Interesting! I didn't know this - I have always sliced tarragon rather than chopped it. No wonder I love it!
Phyllis G. June 26, 2013
yes. yum. so up my alley. tarragon is a new addition to my life as well. and the evolution into a next-day panzanella situation is brilliant.
Marian B. June 27, 2013
oh, you!
Kenzi W. June 26, 2013
Love this salad -- and it travels insanely well if you cut the radishes just a little thicker than you normally would. Let's have a picnic?
Marian B. June 29, 2013
Let's have a picnic and then after that let's have a kiki.