Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Remember three bean salad? In my house, growing up, it was a staple. Especially when we made ‘Mexican’ food. Which of course amounted to buying the kit which included 8 taco shells, a can of salsa and that little packet of magic seasoning which went into the pound of ground beef.
Three bean salad was the side dish of choice. Even easier than the tacos since it didn’t involve any fresh ingredients whatsoever. A can of string beans, a can of yellow wax beans and - because they were really exotic - a can of dark red kidney beans. What made this an acceptable Mexican side dish is beyond me. (I’m sure my mother will chime in below, so you can ask her).
I was thinking about this dish the other day as I made my Umbrian version of bean salad. Fresh cranberry beans from my local fruttivendolo, along with a good helping of barely cooked green beans straight from the garden. While I could have almost left well enough alone, dressing the salad with a bit of salt and olive oil, I decided to add a hefty dose of garlic and anchovies for no special reason at all except I really like hefty doses of both.
A couple of colorful bell peppers were mostly just for show. But since it is summer, and they are magnificently in season, they did much more than just act pretty.
While I could have probably added a third bean to the mix, I didn’t have any. And by the way, does anyone know the origin of three bean salad? Why three beans? Or was my family’s fascination with this dish peculiar to us?
In any case, two beans will do you just fine. Especially when it’s summer, the beans are fresh and you are playing with garlic and anchovies.
garlicky two bean salad
6 cups of cooked beans
3 cups of string beans
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 small chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/3 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
8 chopped anchovies
1/4 cup lemon juice
If you can find fresh beans, still in their pods, buy them immediately. They are the best! I’ve used cranberry beans (borlotti) in this recipe. And while they lose their lovely pink mottled appearance during cooking, they are delicious. Fresh beans only take about 25 minutes to cook up. If you can’t find fresh, use dried, soaking them the night before, and then cooking them until just tender in salted water.
Cut the string beans into 2 inch pieces, and steam until just tender.
In a bowl large enough to hold everything pour the oil and crush the garlic directly into it. If you have time to let it sit for an hour, this give the garlic time to really flavor the oil. Then add the chopped anchovies, mushing them up with a wooden spoon. Add the lemon juice and stir.
Add the beans (still warm if possible), peppers and onion and stir. Add the herbs, stir and then add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Let the salad sit for an hour before serving. If you make this the day before, make sure you let the salad come to room temperature before serving.