Shell Bean Salad with Purslane and Cherry Tomatoes

shell bean salad with purslane and cherry tomatoes

This sturdy salad gets better as it sits, so you can prepare it at least an hour before serving, which makes it a good dish to grace your Labor Day spread.

Cranberry, cannellini, and flageolet are the varieties of fresh shell beans you’ll most likely find through October at farmers markets in the Bay Area. Curiously, they never seem to show up in grocery store produce sections, maybe because the pods tend to get soggy a couple of days after harvest. We’re especially fond of the deeply flavorful Marrow Fat shell beans from Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa, which are available for only a couple of weeks in the fall, at the CUESA farmers market at the Ferry Building.

Purslane is a thick-stemmed green with tender leaves that make for a sturdy salad that won’t wilt if assembled and dressed in advance, and purslane is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in vitamin A, antioxidants, and Omega 3 fatty acids.

We like to whisk together a caesar-like dressing with anchovy filets for salads like this. If you don’t have a jar of anchovies on hand you can substitute fish sauce, which is almost the same thing. And if fishiness is not your thing, soy sauce will suffice although it’ll lack some of that umami punch. Print

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shell bean purslane salad

Shell Bean Salad with Purslane and Cherry Tomatoes

This sturdy salad gets better as it sits, so you can prepare it at least an hour before serving, which makes it a good dish to grace your Labor Day spread. You’ll find fresh shell beans at farmers markets through October, and while you’re there, look for purslane which is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in vitamin A, antioxidants and Omega 3 fatty acids. In other words, this salad is good for you.

Photo: Bruce Cole

  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x



For the salad

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ yellow onion, sliced

1 clove garlic, sliced

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound fresh shell beans such as cannellini or cranberry beans, removed from the pods

2 cups purslane, rinsed and patted dried

2 cup cherry tomatoes

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds

Pinch chili flakes, we use Aleppo

For the vinaigrette

1 anchovy filet

1 garlic clove

Pinch coarse sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (although we default to Meyer lemon juice if there’s some ripe ones hanging from our trees)

1 teaspoon French mustard


  1. Beans: In a medium saucepan, warm the the olive oil over low heat and add the onion, garlic and salt. Cook until soft, but not brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add 4 cups water to the pan along with the beans. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes until the beans are soft. Note: keep at a simmer and do not boil the beans or they will fall apart.
  2. Tomatoes: While the beans are cooking, remove the stem ends from the cherry tomatoes and cut a small x-cross-hatch in the top where the stem was. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer and drop the cherry tomatoes in for 20 seconds. Drain, rinse with cold water and remove the peels.
  3. Sunflower Seeds: Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a small pan and add the sunflower seeds. Stir every 30 seconds or so until they start to take on a light brown color. Turn off the heat and add the chili flakes.
  4. Vinaigrette: In a mortar pestle, pound together the anchovy, garlic, salt and pepper to form a paste. Alternatively chop and mash these ingredients with the broad side of a chefs knife on a cutting board. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and mustard. Add the anchovy paste and stir to combine.
  5. Salad: In a large bowl, toss the purslane with half of the vinaigrette and spread out on a serving plate or shallow dish. Scoop out the beans from the broth (reserve the bean broth for other use) and toss with the other half of the vinaigrette. Layer the beans on top of the purslane. Add the cherry tomatoes to the same bowl with the vinaigrette (there should be some left in the bowl still) and toss gently to coat. Spread the cherry tomatoes on top of the purslane and beans.
  6. Serve: Garnish with the roasted sunflower seeds and serve.
  7. Optional: we’ve been known to shave curls of parmesan cheese over this salad, as well as finishing with fresh snipped chives.



Photo: Bruce Cole

  • Author: Bruce Cole
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: California


  • Serving Size: 4

Keywords: shell beans, purslane, cherry tomatoes, salad

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