Friday, April 27, 2012

Patio Recipe: Three Bean Salad

Beans are neither fruit nor musical. – Nancy Cartwright

Delicious, crispy and colourful.
It’s definitely not patio weather today in Nova Scotia. It’s pouring rain outside. So one can only dream of the warm sunny weather that we (hopefully) soon have. And one must be prepared. What better way than to start collection recipes for your outdoor fêtes? This one’s a keeper – and I’m not even a big fan of this type of salad. 

Use fresh green beans. Photo: zoyachubby, Flickr ccl
Bean salad is a common backyard or picnic dish that – oddly enough – is composed mainly of various beans. It is almost always served in a sweet vinegar marinade. What the particular beans used are—or the number (three, four, five…)—is up to the cook.

The trick with a bean salad is to make it colourful, and fresh. If you want to go to the trouble, you can pick and shell beans. Just remember any fresh veggies should be blanched before adding. It helps the vinaigrette to be absorbed.

Personally I would opt for canned chickpeas and kidney beans. It’s just so much easier and faster. But don’t use canned green beans – blanch fresh ones. You won’t be happy with the result. Yuck… If using dried chickpeas they would have to be soaked and boiled, of course.

In case you don’t know, blanching is boiling vegetables in salted water for a few minutes. It partially cooks them but they are still crisp. It also helps them retain their fresh-picked colour. Vegetables are routinely blanched before being frozen. Keep that in the back of your mind to preserve from this coming harvest season.

Chickpeas, otherwise known as garbanzos. Photo: Mink, Flickr ccl
Pretty much any bean, or other legume, can be used in this type of salad. The decision is mostly based on how much eye-appeal you want in the end result. 

Most bean salads call for chickpeas (garbanzos), kidney beans and fresh green beans. That way you have white, red and green (the Italian flag, although I don’t think there’s supposed to be any correlation). In my recipe I also added orange in the form of carrots. Radishes, green onions, yellow beans are all potential contenders for inclusion.

I have read that bean salad has been a common picnic staple since the 1800s (on Wikipedia) but I can’t find any independent verification. Since picnicking became popular during the Victorian Age I have no real reason to dispute it.

Bean salad gained popularity on this side of the big pond in the 1950s-60s with the great desire for backyard barbecues. That was when dad cooked the meat and mom did pretty much everything else…

Bean salad is an excellent dish to serve if you have vegetarian friends. The beans are full of dietary fibre, protein, and contain several essential vitamins and minerals. So except for the sugar it’s not a bad thing to serve. It can serve as the main dish for those so inclined.

Three bean salad also seems to go a long way. The amounts in the recipe would easily serve eight folks as a side dish and I could imagine going even further.

This is a fairly big bowl. I would imagine this would servre eight easily.
Three Bean Salad
Prep: 15 min  |  Marinate: 2-24 hours  |  Serves 8-12
19oz (540 ml) can chick peas
19 oz can (540 ml) can red kidney beans
3/4 lb green beans
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 rib celery, diced
1 small onion, sliced and chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
salt to taste (see recipe)

Rinse the chick peas and kidney beans under water until the water runs clear. Place in a bowl that will hold all the assembled ingredients.

Stem the green beans and cut into thirds or quarters. Peel and cut the carrot into matchsticks about 2” long. Rinse both well and blanch in boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and add to the bowl.

Add the celery, onion and garlic to the bowl and toss well to combine.

In a small bowl combine the vinegar, honey, cayenne and black pepper. Pour over the vegetables and toss. Do not add salt at this time. (Sometimes the kidney beans and chickpeas are already salty.)

Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or for a whole day.

Just before serving, taste for salt and add if desired.


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