Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Green dinners: Wannabe Three-bean Salad

If you are of a certain age, chances are your mom made buckets of Three-bean Salad during the summers of your youth. Mine did. And I mean buckets. Three-bean Salad was ubiquitous at any and all neighborhood potlucks and family reunions my parents drug me to in the 1960s.

Visualize canned green beans, canned yellow beans, canned kidney beans and diced green (ick!) pepper floating in a vinegary, viscous sea of sweet-and-sour dressing. As I seem to recall, my mom’s salad evolved ever so slightly from one summer to the next until it also featured thinly sliced red onions and garbanzo beans. But I could’ve imagined that.

I actually really like Three-bean Salad. I still sneak a few spoonfuls at potlucks and family reunions. Well, I like it except for the kidney beans. Kidney beans creep me out. I’ve always been roundly suspicious of any legume that must be roped to be consumed

That being said, we are enjoying an unusually bountiful harvest of fresh green beans courtesy of Fresh Abundance and so, last night, I decided to recreate Three-bean Salad on my own terms

I found the original recipe in a “Better Homes and Garden Cookbook” I got as wedding shower present, say, um, about 36 years ago. One look at the ingredients and I decided to improvise. I think my version is fresher and lighter, but still has that basic three-bean feng shui.

Wannabe Three-bean Salad
(“Wannabe” because there are actually only two beans in this particular version. There could be more, though. Go ahead. Knock yourself out.

2 c fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 c fresh carrot, sliced on a diagonal
@ ½ can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained (In a perfect world, I would use garbanzo beans because they are my favorite. Unfortunately, they don’t play well in the sandbox with the Wonderfully Patient Spouse’s digestive tract, so white beans it is.)
@ ½ c thinly sliced red onion according to taste
@ 1 T rough-chopped garlic according to taste
@ 1 T chopped fresh herbs, again according to taste (I used basil this time around, but I think tarragon would transcend Three-bean Salad AWESOME-NESS. Unfortunately, the sprinkler was going full bore in the backyard at the time and I didn't feel like running a watery gauntlet to grab some from the garden. Maybe next time.)

2 T sugar
2 T cider vinegar
1/3 c canola oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together till sugar has dissolved. Taste and adjust depending on your love affair with sweet or sour, salty or peppery.

Blanch the green beans and carrots, adding half the garlic to each saucepan. Drain. (Potentially helpful hint: I usually add a pinch of sugar to my carrots. I think blanching sometimes makes carrots a little bitter.)

Side note: I should add that at this moment, the steam from two small (operative word, small) pans of boiling water set off our ├╝ber- sensitive smoke alarm, creating a brilliant moment of kitchen chaos and canine distress. Order was ultimately restored.

Add blanched green beans and carrots (along with the garlic) to bowl with white beans and red onions. Toss with dressing and chopped herbs. Chill.

One of the best things about this version of Three-bean Salad is it’s pretty enough to serve on a nice plate (maybe garnished with cherry tomatoes or feta cheese?)

and functional enough to pack away in a mundane plastic container for lunch at work.

Most important, there are no kidney beans to wrangle. For that, we are grateful.

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