Summertime Marinated Bean Salad
I’m not really much of a romantic, but every year at about this time I become obsessed with the idea of picnics. Picnics in the park, picnics by the pond or down by the ravine – the mere possibility of having a picnic is, to me, almost as much fun as actually having one. Well, possibly MORE fun, because imaginary picnics never have seething armies of ants swarming over your carefully laid blanket, the intrepid wasp that seems determined to nest inside your basket beside the fruit salad, or a gaggle of teenagers careening towards you in a game of what you can only imagine is supposed to be frisbee….but with the top of a garbage pail that they scavenged from Parks’n’Rec. Kudos to their ingenuity and all that, but when a large piece of metal comes hurtling towards my head it’s hard to look for silver linings.
Actually, I think what attracts me the most about picnics is the food. I. Love. Picnic. Food. I love salads and terrines, cold oven fried chicken, and portable sides that won’t wilt in the sun. When I think of picnic food, the classics always come to mind: potato salad, coleslaw, and marinated bean salad. Being a lover of the legume, you can guess which one is my favorite.
This ain’t your Granny’s bean salad, though. Spare me the weak kneed and sugary sweet stewed and sloppy green beans. I want none of that. If I could forever banish the kind of bean salad that comes in a plastic tub for $4.99 from your average discount supermarket, well, it would be flung into the farthest reaches of Hell in less time than it take to pucker. No sir! I want a flavorful bean salad in a bright and seasonal vinaigrette. I want a bean salad where the green beans still have some bite, tempered by the creamy richness of the shelled legumes. I want a bean salad that smacks of garlic and garden fresh herbs. In short, I’ll just make my own and spare everyone the grumps and glowers until the overcooked burgers start coming my way. What a peach, I know.
Summertime Marinated Bean Salad
Serves 6-8 as a side
- 450 g (~1 lb) green beans
- 450 g (~1 lb) yellow beans
- 2 cans (19 oz/540 mL) mixed beans *
- 1 red pepper
- 1/2 green pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 lemon ( 2 tsp lemon zest, juice of whole lemon)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp dried mint
- small bunch fresh parsley (1/3 cup chopped)
- 5-6 sprigs fresh summer savory (1.5 tbsp chopped) **
- salt and pepper to taste
* I like the beans which usually come as a 5-6 bean medley, or call themselves “Beans For Salad”…as opposed, of course, to “Bean Salad” which you CAN buy in a can, but, well, you know my feelings on that. Look for a blend that contains at least chickpeas, kidney beans and romano beans. Bonus points if it also has baby lima beans or black eyed peas!
** If you do not have summer savory, feel free to use fresh chopped oregano instead.
Mike and I have a pretty full and satisfying life, and generally it doesn’t bother me at all that the only pitter-patter of little feet on the stairs comes from the four legged beasts that we share our house with. However, once in a while I get those pangs, you know? As I stood in my kitchen popping the tops and tails off of two pounds of beans, I really wished that there were some children there to share the experience with. Oh, jeez – don’t get any ideas. It’s not because of the whole, “Creating memories and sharing the joy of a new season seen through bright young eyes.” Bah! No, it’s because children have such wee little fingers that are perfect for doing menial tasks like this, with nothing but the promise of an after-dinner ice cream cone to compel them forward. I wish that we had some children of our own to spare me such banal pursuits. Oh, or maybe we could just rent them for a couple hours here and there….Does anybody know where I can rent some children for our thankless tasks and unskilled labor? Perhaps I should just email Nike, they’d totally be able to give me a list of names…..
But back to reality. If you don’t have children to use as free kitchen labor spend quality time with, you’ll just have to top and tail those beans yourself. When they’re all done, put the beans into a steamer basket over a pot of simmering water.
Steam the beans for 5-7 minutes or until they are tender-crisp. While the beans are steaming, pour cold water into a large bowl and add in 5-10 large cubes of ice to make an ice bath. Put the steamed beans into the ice bath and swirl them around. The ice bath will shock the beans and stop the cooking process almost immediately, keeping the colors vibrant and bright.
Chop the beans up into lengths approximately 1 inch long. Put the chopped beans into a fairly large mixing or serving bowl.
Core and seed the peppers, and cut them into a relatively small dice of about 1/4 inch. Add the peppers to the fully cooled and chopped beans.
Use a microplane or fine holed grater to zest off about 2 tsp of lemon rind into a medium bowl. Press or grate the cloves of garlic in as well, add the dried mint and squeeze in the juice of your entire half naked lemon. Measure in the red wine vinegar and give it a good whisk. Continue whisking and slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream. Season the dressing liberally with salt and pepper.
Pull the leaves off of the parsley and savory stems. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the dressing as well, giving it a quick whisk to combine.
Drain the two cans of beans and give them an invigorating rinse under cold water, followed by a good shake dry. Add the legumes to your bowl with the steamed beans and the chopped peppers.
Pour the dressing over the bean salad and stir it gently (using a large wooden spoon or a spatula) to avoid breaking up the beans. Taste the salad and adjust salt and pepper as you like.
It’s so flavorful that without being overly acidic this is still far from the wussy sweet bean salads of yore. With a garlicky, lemony, bright and herbal dressing, this is a bean salad which can make itself happily at home on my BBQ buffet any time.
The best thing about this bean salad is that it only gets better with time. If you think that it tastes good on Saturday night beside your BBQ chicken breasts, oh boy – just wait for Sunday afternoon’s picnic lunch!! And hey, even if the picnic is really just sitting outside in lawn chairs, slathered in sunscreen and with a bucket of coolers between your feet, who could find fault in that? Certainly not me.