This salad has much more than an assortment of flavors and textures. The beans and eggs can be cooked ahead, while the vinaigrette can be made several days in advance, leaving assembly of the salad for the last minute. It's lovely for lunch or as the anchor to dinner. Dress the beans in advance of eating to absorb the flavors of the vinaigrette.
In a large bowl, combine the white beans, fennel, onions, celery, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice. Add about two-thirds of the vinaigrette and toss lightly. Let sit while you prepare the eggs.
Put the eggs in a small saucepan, cover with room temperature water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook for exactly 5 1/2 minutes. Pour off the hot water, transfer the eggs to a bowl filled with ice water, and leave to chill for 20 minutes.
To serve, season the beans to taste with salt and black pepper. Peel the eggs and cut them in half. Cut the grilled bread slices in half and arrange two halves on each plate. Spoon the bean salad over the bread and top with two egg halves. Drizzle some of the remaining vinaigrette around the plate and sprinkle the eggs with salt and pepper. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil over the eggs.
Put the olives, vinegar, mustard, anchovies, and shallots in a blender. Pulse a few times to combine, and then slowly drizzle in the olive oil with the machine running. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.
Reprinted with permission from The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook: Chefs Collaborative and Ellen Jackson, © 2013, The Taunton Press.
Darra Goldstein is editor in chief of The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, an 888-page reference guide to all things sweet. "The book is really a compendium of human desires, a cultural history of desire for things that are sweet and what it has caused in the world, in both the realm of pleasure and also of pain," she says.