Thursday, July 7, 2011

White Bean and Tuna Salad - A Guest Post by Katie Lerum Zeller of Thyme for Cooking

Lot-et-Garonne, a department in southwestern France named for two rivers, is a provincial plain abundant in nature, history, and food. Known for its brilliant fields of sunflowers, tight clusters of fortified medieval villages, and imposing chateaux, it is also a place supremely renowned for its dedication to dining as an art form. Blessed with the celebrated Agen plum and the superbly potable Armagnac, to live in Lot-et-Garonne is to hint at what Heaven will be like.

It is here that American expatriates Katie Lerum Zeller and her husband have laid down their roots as they take up the challenge of restoring an extraordinary farmhouse to its former glory. Days commence early and full, with Katie's "mon mari" hauling and hammering, while she procures local ingredients to plan her lovely menus. The chronicles of their always exhilarating and often exasperating endeavors are hilariously written on Katie's fun and long-running site, Thyme for Cooking, each lively anecdote punctuated by a delicious recipe nuanced with flavor and innovation, yet never intimidating to create in your own kitchen. When the hammering is over, the meal is served, and the wine has been poured, the only sound heard is of happy little pups who could not have been adopted into a better home. Life is good.

I am very happy that Katie found the time in her hectic life to share one of her wonderful recipes as a guest blogger on The Well-Seasoned Cook in celebration of My Legume Love Affair - Kicking Off Year 4. Thanks, Katie!

The following writing, recipe, and photography are owned by Katie Lerum Zeller and protected by copyright. All Rights Reserved. 2011. All materials appear here by permission and courtesy.


I am the proud, albeit recent, owner of a pressure cooker.

I've wanted one for yonks, but only recently convinced myself that I could justify it....

That and it was on sale.

Anyway, I now have my pressure cooker.

Naturally, the first thing I did was buy a pressure cooker cook book.

Well, two, actually.

My mother had the kind that regularly blew it's top so I was / am a bit careful of it.

One of the things I wanted it for was to cook dried beans. My friend, who lives in the mountains in Spain, swears by his. Because of where he lives he keeps a good supply of a variety of dried beans (as well as rices and pastas) on hand and swears by his old, decrepit pressure cooker.

But the instruction book that came with mine said not to use it for beans.... Something about them boiling up and clogging the thingy on top.

One of my cook books advised great caution for cooking beans; the other implied no problem, but to be mindful.

When family visited recently I had a request for cassoulet.

Sure, no problem. I'll use my new pressure cooker for the beans.

For those not familiar with pressure cookers there are two main ways of releasing the pressure so one can open it after the food is cooked. One, used for things that cook quickly, is to run cold water over the lid; the other, for things that cook slowly, is to do nothing and let it gradually cool and lose pressure on it's own.

For beans, one uses the latter method.

I put the beans in the pressure cooker, no pre-soaking required, and cooked them for the required time.

I turned them off, as instructed by my cook book, and waited.... And waited.

I had everything else ready for the cassoulet, but I needed the beans.

As is typical of me, I ran out of patience and decided they had sat long enough, easily twice as long as the book said they needed to.

I took the pressure cooker to the sink and ran cold water over the lid.

It immediately lost pressure, broke the seal and spewed hot bean liquid out the top.

Now, had I been smart and used potholders, as one always should when handling very hot kitchen equipment, that wouldn't have presented a problem.

Yes, my fingers were burned.

Yes, it was very painful.

And yes, I will continue to use my pressure cooker to cook beans. I just won't try to rush the process.....

But cassoulet, to me, is winter food.

It's summer.

In summer we eat salads - this is one of our favorites.


White Bean and Tuna Salad

1 1/2 cups (15oz, 450gr) white beans, drained and rinsed if using canned
9oz (270gr) tuna
2/3 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup sliced olives
1 tbs fresh chives, snipped
1 tbs fresh oregano, snipped
3oz (90gr) salad greens

1 tbs Dijon-style mustard
1 tbs white balsamic vinegar
3 tbs salad olive oil

Combine tuna, beans, celery, herbs and olives in medium bowl. Combine mustard and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk together. Slowly add olive oil, whisking constantly to emulsify. Add to tuna / bean and mix gently. Allow to sit a bit for flavors to blend, 30 minutes or so. Spoon on top of salad greens to serve.

This will serve four as a first course salad or two for a light lunch.


  1. We've been using pressure cookers for yonks, Kate, and there is still the occasional accident where the lentils go in with too little water or cook too long! One of mine, the bottom fell off because of the extreme heat!

    I never knew there were pressure cookers that couldn't use beans - if they are dry beans, we soak them overnight or for about 7-8 hours, drain that water and set them to cook with fresh water.

    Nice post as always, and the salad looks really summery!

  2. That salad looks absolutely wonderful and so scrumptious! Yummy.

    Thyme for cooking is a nice blog.



  3. Thanks for the beautiful intro, Susan. I love the way you've chosen to kick-off Year 4 of this great event.

  4. Nice post. Till I migrated to U.S, I thought pressure cooker is a staple in every home. It is in India. First thing any mother buys for her daughter when the daughter is getting married is pressure cooker. I have not one, but 4 pressure cookers. Don't ask me why.

  5. What Sra and Champa said.
    In India, pressure cookers are used on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day. With separator pans inside, one can cook rice, lentils/ beans and spuds, all at the same time. Indian pressure cookers come with whistles and depending on what is in them, one varies the no, of whistles it takes to cook them. Although, if one is not used to the whistles it is quite a shock the first time you hear it.
    Bet you didn't think you will get so many tips on pressure cooking hun?
    BTW, love the salad and your house is beautiful.

  6. I've used pressure for more than yonks, I even cook split peas in it. (are yonks tasty?) You control the foaming that can clog the top by adding a little oil when you put everything in.

    I love the salad, Thank You for sharing.

  7. Katie, Champa, I have five pressure cookers and three sets of separator pans. And Champa, I know how I use all of them - one for idlis, one for biriyani, and the two smaller ones for rice and dal. I just unpacked the fifth one after remembering it had sat in the loft for a decade! :-D

  8. All the pressure cooker info is useful to me too. I got my pressure cooker a little while ago: I had wanted one for ages, like Kathy. I didn't buy any cookbooks for it, though. Honestly, I am still not sure I know how to operate it properly. Kathy, maybe you and I ought to get together and work on our pressure cooker anxiety syndrome ;) Very nice salad! Your recipe reminded me that I have some fresh cannellini in the freezer. I wonder...

  9. Thanq susan i m soujanya winner of MLLA 36..
    voww...salad looks absolutely fresh..and yummy...
    Thank you susan..for the lovely event ..all the time...

  10. I am so sorry to hear about your pressure cooker bean failure... I don't have a pressure cooker but find it easy (just longer) to cook them on the stovetop.

    I am sure you will try again, hopefully without burnt fingers, and until then, enjoy your beans any way you can! Bring on the summer salads!~

  11. Sra, thanks, makes me feel better! I don't think the problem is ever the pressure cooker, just the impatient cook (like me)

    Rosa, thanks... for both ;-))

    Champa, they stopped using them in the US because they were so poorly made after WWII - or so I googled...Still common here.

    Desisoccermom, whistles? How cool. Love the idea of multiple uses. Most explore...

    Anthony, a little oil... thanks for the tip.

    Sra, separator pans? yes, definitely must explore... 5 pressure cookers ;-))

    Simona, we could do that... I'm slowly getting over it. The books helped...

    Soujanya, thanks....

    Janet, I'll keep using it.... and learn from my mistakes (I hope)

  12. What a lovely post! I love your wit and your adventurous spirit:) My mother still has the ancient pressure cooker that she used since we were kids, and I remember how much I hates to wash the beast! That's the only reason I am reluctant to get one, but when I hear that some households have four or five (!) of these steam-dragons, I have to wonder if I am missing out on some magic:)
    The salad sounds very light and refreshing. My husband is on a diet and does not eat any carbs, but I love beans in any form and this would be a great break from Latin American dishes that I have been eating lately.