From drizzles of vinegar to citrus juice, Kenji spills canned beans to create vibrant, summery salads.
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Q: Can I make picnic-worthy salad from canned beans?

A: These are my secrets to transforming a few basic ingredients and a couple of cans of beans into a side dish that's not just worth eating but may well become a menu staple.

1.  Use good beans. For common types like black beans, cannellini beans, and chickpeas, Goya is consistently top-notch. It's worth seeking out imported beans in Italian or Spanish markets. I'm particularly fond of judiones, a type of large Spanish runner bean.

2.  Rinse beans well. Canned-bean liquid is packed with excess starch and sodium. Rinse under cold running water, and drain well.

3.  Use five flavors: Vegetables, spices, herbs, oils, and vinegar. A mix of crunchy veggies like bell peppers, celery, and green onions adds texture. Spices like smoked paprika or cumin add deep flavor. Herbs like parsley, mint, or cilantro add freshness. Oil brings a taste of its own while spreading other flavors through the salad. Vinegar or citrus juice adds bright tang.

4.  Warm the beans, and dress while warm. Dressings, seasonings, and spices will stick to your beans better while they're warm and will get lightly absorbed as the beans cool down.

5.  Let it rest for at least an hour or, even better, overnight. How many other salads are actually better when you make them a day ahead?