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story.lead_photo.caption Pinto Bean Tortilla Salad (Ten Speed Press/Aubrie Pick)

I learned that beans are great in salads from a very young age. My mom made something she called Texas Salad when I was growing up, and red kidney beans starred in it, along with iceberg lettuce, crushed Fritos, shredded cheddar and bottled French dressing. I loved it on the first day — not so much on Day 2, 3 or 4, if it lasted that long.

Many years ago, I celebrated her by updating it, using romaine, tortilla chips, feta, slow-roasted or sun-dried tomatoes, and a delectable cilantro vinaigrette. And I switched from kidney to black beans. More recently, I've been making it with pintos instead. But all along, I've known the truth: With all that other great flavor and texture going on, the kind of beans here is possibly the least important thing.

Chickpeas would be swell, white beans would be good — and any number of less-common heirloom beans would bring their own special something to this party.

Make it with what you have.

Pinto Bean Tortilla Salad

For the cilantro vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

For the salad:

½ cup peanut oil, for frying

3 (6-inch) corn tortillas

6 cups lightly packed, torn romaine lettuce leaves

1 ½ cups cooked or canned no-salt-added pinto beans (from a 15-ounce can), drained and rinsed

3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced

Make the vinaigrette: Combine the cilantro, olive and canola oils, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt in a blender; puree until smooth. Taste and add more salt as needed.

Make the salad: Line a plate with paper towels or a clean dish towel.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add 2 or 3 tortillas (or as many as will comfortably fit); fry them on each side until crisp and golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Lift each tortilla with tongs and let the excess oil drip off, then transfer it to the towel-lined plate. Working in batches if needed, repeat with the remaining tortillas. Let the tortillas cool, then break them into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl, toss the tortilla pieces with the lettuce, beans, green onions, feta, tomatoes and ¼ cup of the vinaigrette. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette, if desired, or reserve it for another use.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

Recipe adapted from Cool Beans by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press, 2020)


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