Food & Drink

Cook to honor our mothers

A bean salad recipe loved by Fred Thompson’s late mother.
A bean salad recipe loved by Fred Thompson’s late mother. Fred Thompson

This is the second Mother’s Day without my mom. The sting of her passing is still strong.

She would say the best way to remember her is to cook something. Sounds like a plan.

The recipe below is one I introduced to her later in her life, and she loved it. I want to share it with you because it is so versatile and is just the right flavor for spring and into the summer.

I’ve used asparagus for this version because asparagus is in its moment right now. I’m amazed at the number of local farmers who now sell asparagus, making it easy to find at the farmers markets. When green beans bear later this year, I’ll use them in place of the asparagus, especially when I can find some young and tender ones. As tomatoes start to come in, I’ll use a mix of heirlooms for that full-fledged pop of summer. And of course, being the field pea fanatic that I am, some Dixie Lee or pinkeye peas could replace the cannellini beans. If you’re not a cilantro fan, then use another herb; flat-leaf parsley will always work.

I can think of no entree that will fill our plates for spring and summer that this side won’t complement. This dish is useful for potlucks and picnics. With grilled fish or shrimp, it just makes me happy. If fried chicken is in your future, then think of this recipe. With this one simple dressing you can create whatever strikes you as fresh and in season. Play with this recipe and have some fun.

I’ve got a bunch of mothers in my life. When it is my turn to feed them, I’ll think about my mom’s favorite dishes and their mom’s favorites and have some hodgepodge of a meal that will honor and remember them all. For me, the best way to celebrate Mother’s Day is to stand facing the stove, feeding folks the way that they feed us.

Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. His latest cookbook is “The Kamado Grill Cookbook.” Reach him at

Cannellini Beans, Asparagus and Tomato Salad

1 cup asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, parsley or tarragon

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fruity olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a 2-quart saucepan filled halfway with water over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus pieces and blanch until bright green. Drain and rinse the asparagus in cold water. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add beans and tomatoes. Toss to combine.

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, cilantro and onions. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Toss the dressing with the beans and vegetables. You can serve it now, but the flavor will improve with a rest in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or up to 12 hours.

Yield: 4-6 servings.