Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Weekend Three Bean Salad

Beans are neither fruit nor musical. – Nancy Cartwright

Delicious, crisp and colourful.

I’m preempting today’s scheduled broadcast to bring you this timely recipe. I was going to post Tuscan Chicken, but that will just have to wait.

Instead, I’m bringing back a favourite. I believe I am going to start a tradition of reposting this recipe every year. The warmer weather brings out the barbecues and this is perfect for with steak, chicken, hot dogs or hamburgers. It is hands-down THE best three bean salad I have ever had.

I dislike most three bean salads. When you buy it at the store you get a usually soggy, vinegary, sugary mess. Who would like that?

This ain’t no store-bought three bean. Make lots of it. It will keep in jars for a while, like a week or two. But you won’t have to worry. You’ll be amazed at how fast it disappears.

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.

Use 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 or beans they would have to be soaked and boiled, of course.

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. That’s a bit of news I’ll have to remember when our garden grows...

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans). 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 connection). 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 advent of the suburban expansive backyard and barbecue entertaining. That was when dad cooked the meat and mom did pretty much everything else… Anyone remember that?

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. It can serve as a main dish for those so inclined.

Three bean salad usually seems to go a long way. The amounts in the recipe would supposedly serve eight folks as a side dish. I have a funny feeling that it’s not the case with this recipe.

This is good. Really good.

This is supposed to be enough salad for 8.
Yeah.. right.
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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