photograph by Matt Hulsman

Yield: 8 servings.

½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
1 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup canola oil

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can crowder peas, drained and rinsed
3 stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 pound Monterey Jack cheese, cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
4 large pita pockets, halved (optional)

For the dressing: In a glass mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, pepper, mustard, and vinegar until sugar and salt have dissolved. Slowly add canola oil, whisking until dressing thickens.

For the salad: Place beans and peas in a large glass bowl. Add celery, onion, bell pepper, and cheese cubes. Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and toss until all ingredients are well coated and combined. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Toss salad every 30 minutes.

Before serving, toss parsley into the salad. Fill each pita pocket with bean mixture or enjoy as a side dish with sliced pita bread.

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Lynn Wells is a personal chef with more than 20 years of experience in the food and hospitality industry and a degree in Nutrition Management from UNCG.