In spite of what the dried bean truthers might tell you, making a great bean salad doesn’t hinge on sourcing the finest dried heirloom beans, or using the priciest olive oil and choicest vinegars. In fact, the secret is quite accessible, pedestrian even: Grab a can of beans and nuke them in the microwave. (Just make sure to take them out of the can first.)“

Ready your beans for maximum flavor absorption

It’s a trick from our newest cookbook Milk Street 365: The All-Purpose Cookbook for Every Day of the Year. As cooking school director Rosie Gill explains over on Instagram, nuking your beans primes them to accept whatever seasonings and dressings you apply to them. For our take on a Greek Bean Salad, we grab four cans of cannellini beans, drain them, rinse them, and season them with salt, then pop them in the microwave for three minutes, stirring halfway through. The heat swells the beans, effectively “opening up their pores,” and priming them for maximum flavor absorption.

Once they’re nice and hot, we toss them with garlic, onion, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. The beans absorb the dressing as they cool, which infuses them with flavor.

Residual heat tempers the harsh bite of alliums

But the hot bean benefits don’t start and stop with flavor absorption. Tossing aromatics like red onion and garlic with the piping hot beans tempers their harshness. The residual heat softens them ever so slightly, toning down the allium-y bite, while preserving the majority of their fresh texture. The onion and garlic don’t taste cooked, exactly, more like their sharp edges have been filed down.

Add finishing touches once cooled

The waiting really is the hardest part when making this salad, but giving your beans a mere half hour to cool and absorb their flavorful friends makes all the difference. Once at room-temperature, it’s time to add your more delicate ingredients. This is when you stir in your avocado and add handfuls of fresh parsley and dill—warm, slimy avocado and limp, wilted herbs are not welcome in this salad.

For maximum flavor contrast, we finish this salad with a final burst of fresh lemon, both juice and zest. The former brings a bracing hit of brightening acid; the latter gives the dish a heady, floral aroma that primes your palate for a surprisingly exciting bean salad experience all from a few humble cans.

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