Summertime Marinated Bean Salad

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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.

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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.

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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.  

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Chop the beans up into lengths approximately 1 inch long.  Put the chopped beans into a fairly large mixing or serving bowl.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.   

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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.

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  • Veronica B.

    Just made this for tomorrow night’s dinner. (Sounded like it would taste best if allowed to marinate for 36 hours.) It SMELLS delicious – can’t wait to taste it once the flavors have blended properly.

    Question for those with more cooking experience than I: I lost half my zest and garlic in the little nobules of my grater. What’s the best way to extract them?

    Oh, and word to the wise? Make sure that if you have to buy canned yellow beans because your small-town grocery store doesn’t carry fresh ones, DON’T accidentally by the French style ones.

    I mean, that happened to someone I know…

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Veronica – thank you so much for checking out our site! Please let us know what you think about the salad after you eat it!!

      Now then, let’s talk about your grater. On a typical box grater each side corresponds to a different sized hole for various grating needs. The holes are usually punched out which means that there is a sharp lip protruding from each hole and when you drag your food item along the exterior peels away in a long shred. I know, you asked an honest question and I’m rambling, but there is a point to all this!! In older graters most of the holes are fashioned by good honest protrusion, which means that the holes are generally rounded (particularly for the smaller grate size) and the metal is often sharply popped out in ways that are not always uniform. The smallest holes are fine for grating really firm substances, like nutmeg, but softer foods or citrus zest will tend to gum up. If I have to use one of the older box graters for zest I usually turn to the just slightly larger hole and zest in small, fast, light strokes. If that’s the kind of box grater that you have though (which I’m guessing by the ‘little nobules’), a better option is just to buy a new grater….I know, I know, but bear with me here for a minute.

      Modern graters are usually fashioned in the microplane style. When the holes are cut they’re rectangular shaped – flat across the top and with a razor sharp edge which is just slightly angled outwards. A microplane style grater tends to get less gummed up, produces an even shred, and has much more affinity for fine a fine zest or grate (like the garlic). The same principles for why paper cuts are so common is similarly why microplane graters are so awesome. They’re just as common now as the old style graters, and only slightly higher in price.

      Finally, my ABSOLUTE AND ALL TIME FAVORITE tool for grating up a fine zest, making a quick puree of garlic, and adding some spice to my sauce, is the rasp. I LOVE my microplane rasp. The kitchen rasp is fashioned the same way as the finer holed part of a microplane zester, but it’s long and narrow which offers you more control and means that whatever you’re giving a fine grate to can just sluff itself out the bottom (instead of a box grater where you usually have to reach up and scoop it out). And they’re also quite affordable – really! There’s no need to go to Williams Sonoma or a specialty store, and in fact this is my favorite rasp…it came from a garden and tool store. For less than $15 it is far and above the most frequently used tool in my kitchen, ranking right up there with ye good ole wooden spoon.

      Okay, but what if you don’t WANT to get a new grater? I get that. So we already spoke about how you might have better luck using a light, short stroke on the slightly larger hole. Not always, however. So if your box grater is all gummed up with nowhere to go, these are my top 3 recommendations:
      – Use a toothpick to poke through each hole (ugh, I know, right?). Reach into the grater and scoop out as much of the zest as you can from the inside. On the outside, use the toothpick to flick off as much remaining zest as you can. This is easier said than done.
      – Are you zesting for a marinade or dressing? Scoop out as much as you can from the inside of the grater first, and then pour the measured liquid that you’ll be using down the front of the grater. This will dislodge some of the peel. Again, it’s not perfect, but you do what you can. Oh, and this works for vinegars, water, etc…oil is viscous and picks up just as much, but you’ll lose a fair bit via greasy coating on your grater.
      – After scooping out from the inside, angle your grater forward so that the side with zest is at about a 45 degree to the counter (facing down). Rap it firmly on the counter several times and some of the looser zest will dislodge. But not much. Sorry, but it’s true.

      Did that help at all? Maybe?

      PS – I shouldn’t be admitting this in public, but I have an absolute adoration for canned French cut beans. Seriously. It’s alarming. I could quite happily sit down with a tin of French cut green beans, a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and call that dinner. Jeez, these are the shameful secrets that I shouldn’t admit on the internet. But you’re right, they might be…uh…..less effective in this recipe!!

      Thanks again for checking out our site, and please let us know your thoughts on the salad!!

      • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Mike

        That is more information than I even knew was available about the topic of graters.

        And now I finally understand why we have five of them.

        • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

          Seriously. Why am I like this? I could have just said, “The zest is gone. Give up and get a new grater.” But ooooh no, I write a saga. At least I don’t know how to put pictures in comments…..yet…..

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com lo

    I’m now craving a picnic.
    And bean salad.
    And porta-pepper-steak.
    And I’m exhausted from thinking about all that info on graters. I definitely concur with regard to the rasp… greatest tool ever invented.

    OK, I think it’s time for bed. 🙂

  • Veronica B.

    Tina – I never expected a treatise on the subject of graters, but thanks! 😉 Seriously though, for $15 I’ll save myself the future aggro and just buy a decent rasp. Thanks for the advice. I’d never even ~heard of a rasp. (Go easy on me – I just started teaching myself how to cook a year ago.)

    Anyway, the salad was AMAZING. Even my strictly steak-and-potatoes boyfriend had not just seconds but thirds.

    Everyone? MAKE THIS SALAD. Chopping up two pounds of beans is a pain, but it’s TOTALLY worth it. Also, make sure the bean mix includes chickpeas – they add a wonderful heft and nuttiness.

  • Rebecca

    I’m so looking forward to trying this for a Memorial Day picnic. And all the comments are making it sound even better!

  • http://kopiaste.org Ivy

    What a lovely salad. I am craving some of this salad right now.

  • Michelle

    I made this salad and it was beautiful and delicious! The only comment I have to make, was that it was A LOT of bean salad. The recipe says it makes enough for 6-8 people as a side. I was supposed to provide a salad for 10, so bought extra. When I got home and started chopping, I thought it was making more than enough, so actually cut the amount of each colour of bean back to 340 g each, rather than the 450g called for in the recipe. It still completely filled a 3 litre container (or almost 13 cups). I had bean salad for a week! It was delicious though, but I’m wondering, are all of your recipes that generous for serving sizes? I would like to try a couple more!

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Michelle – I’m so glad that you liked the salad! Well, at least the taste, if not the size :S
      A 3 liter container is certainly a lot of salad, I agree! For us, the recipe made about a good size bowl full – what you see in the picture is actually the sum total of our salad. It is most definitely generously proportioned, but I always struggle with the whole ‘serving size’ issue when it comes to side dishes. I’m the type of person to eat a half a chicken breast with a big plate full of vegetable sides, so if you had ‘a Tina portion’ it would probably serve about 8. That said, if it was a Thanksgiving side (ie served with a lot of other things) and people just took the polite spoonful, well, jeepers I think it would probably serve closer to 20!!!! I guess that what I’m saying is that yes, our side dishes tend to be more generous on the serving sizes……which helps me to feed Mike like a trucker, in the desperate hope that he’ll one day start to put on a bit of weight.

      If you were looking for a…uh….slightly smaller side salad which is always really popular, try the tomato, chickpea and bocconcini salad. Really. Or for some of my other favorites which do NOT serve a crowd, there’s the curried chickpea and roasted red pepper salad, Grand Marnier shrimp, Israeli couscous salad, Thai mango salad, summertime orzo salad, garlicky cucumber salad with yoghurt and mint, apple and beet salad, tabouli, etc. ‘Big sides’ are the Moros y Cristianos, Pulla, asparagus lasagne, kibbeh, sausages (any of them!), soups (again, most of them), and chili. If you DO try something else from the site, please let me know what you think! You can email me at tina@choosy-beggars.com

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  • Wendy

    Hiya, I made this bean salad as one of 4 salads for my 40th buffet, loved the sound of all the fresh ingredients. I modified a bit; fresh mint, no green pepper (yuk!), no summer savoury (what is summer savoury?), no yellow beans (couldn’t find them but added a tin of corn kernels to make up for the lack of colour) and I reduced the oil by half. The first thing I noticed was that it smelled wonderful but on the finger suck, I immediately felt it needed some sweetness so added 1 teaspoon of super fine sugar, stirred it through and hoped for a good result. I made it a day in advance for marinating purposes and stirred it a couple of times, The result was fabulous – next time I will add a little more fresh mint than I did (wasn’t sure of the ratio to swap from dried to fresh). We had some leftovers today for lunch and yes, it definitely was even better so could do 2 days in advance for sure. Thanxs for getting me started with your inspiring recipe.

  • Joscelin

    Mmmmm!!
    I didn’t quite have all the ingredients, left out mint. I also didnt find wax beans but I’m sure they’ll be available soon. I added extra lemon juice as well just because I love lemons.
    It’s in the fridge marinating now and I’ve been stirring it every couple if hours because all of the dressing goes to the bottom. I couldn’t resist sampling some even tho it needs more time… And OMG it’s delicious!! I can’t wait until tomorrow. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe and it will be my go to for a lot of meals.

    • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

      Joscelin – thank you so much! We are glad that you like this salad, and I think it’s great that you adapted it to your taste with the extra lemon juice. Thank you kindly for the comment!