Friday, August 6, 2010

Marinated Bean Salad Stands Up to Summer's Heat

Kendra Bailey Morris
I suppose it's the searing temperatures that have left me with cold salads on the brain -- cider slaw, potato salad, pasta salad. Not only are these summery dishes easy to make, but they're just made to stand beside a platter of pulled pork barbecue or a freshly grilled burger. And, when it comes to hosting an afternoon picnic, cold salads are not only super-portable, but they get better with age, making them an ideal do-ahead food.

One of my all-time favorite cold salad dishes is bean salad. It's refreshingly piquant and healthy.

Whether you prefer your bean salad as a three-way or five-way, this is a side dish that not only keeps the whole gang happy, but has a lasting shelf life and gets better with time. From beachside barbecues to family reunions, a big bowl of marinated bean salad is built to satisfy and last.

The jury is still out on how many beans actually make for a classic bean salad. The Internet runs amok with three-bean salads using red pinto beans, yellow wax beans and green beans. Others prefer a four or five-bean salad with the addition of black beans, cannellini beans or chickpeas. Debates further continue between those who insist on using fresh green beans versus canned and drained. Toss in a difference of opinion when it comes to herbs and spices (dill versus basil versus cilantro) and you're faced with an overwhelming surplus of options.
Kendra Bailey Morris
I prefer to go classic with a mixture of green, wax and pinto beans. But the many other variations that make their way onto the dinner table shouldn't be discounted.

A Mexican bean salad is a great alternative to the traditional and makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled steak fajitas or fish tacos. Often including freshly shucked corn, black beans, minced cilantro and lime juice (instead of or in addition to vinegar), a Mexican bean salad is well worth the effort.

Black-eyed pea salads are another way to use those beans. This gem is made with onion, celery and bell peppers and gets plenty of spunk from the addition of cayenne pepper. All you need is a piece of freshly grilled catfish and some sweetened cornbread to complete this comforting meal.

And we can't leave off Italy. White bean salad is another favorite. Made from cannellini beans (a large white bean), red onion, red wine vinegar, fresh parsley and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil, this side can easily be turned into a full-fledged entrée. Just add a piece of grilled tuna or some canned white tuna packed in olive oil.

Because most bean salads are simple to make and tend to involve similar ingredients (beans, oil, vinegar and/or sugar) much of your success lies in the little things. Here are a few tips to make the most of your next bean salad.

If you decide to use fresh green or wax beans instead of canned, be sure to lightly blanch them in salted water for just a minute or two (once they hit the marinade, they will soften even more). Be sure to plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking process.

When it comes to canned beans, instead of using the lid of the can to drain (which will smash them in no time), drain the beans in a colander, running them under water to remove as much of the bean "goo" as you can.

If you're watching your sugar and/or calories, simply use less sugar and oil and more fresh herbs, garlic or onions. Adding a couple tablespoons of honey instead of sugar is another way to add a touch of sweetness without the refined sugar factor.

Finally, this salad is meant to be marinated for a long time -- at least 24 hours -- so plan ahead. I make mine at least two days ahead since it will keep for up to a week and simply get better with time. Also, be sure to stir the bean mixture periodically (at least every several hours) so the marinade permeates as much of the salad ingredients as possible.
Kendra Bailey Morris

KB's Summertime Five-Bean Salad
Makes 8 to 10 servings.

One 15-ounce can cut green beans, drained
One 15-ounce can yellow wax beans, drained
One 15-ounce garbanzo beans, drained
One 15-ounce black beans, rinsed and drained
One 15-ounce kidney beans, rinsed and drained
One large green bell pepper, diced
One large onion, sliced thin
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar (cider vinegar works well, too)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Freshly chopped dill, to taste

In a large bowl, mix beans, green pepper and onions. In a separate bowl, whisk sugar, vinegar, oil, garlic salt and black pepper until the sugar is dissolved. Pour dressing over beans and toss well. Cover and store in the fridge at least 24 hours. Stir bean mixture from time to time during this period to make sure the dressing evenly coats the salad. -- Kendra Bailey Morris

Note: This article originally appeared in The Richmond Times Dispatch  as part of Kendra's weekly food and cooking column The Accidental Chef. Kendra Bailey Morris is a Richmond-based food writer, culinary instructor and author of "White Trash Gatherings: From-Scratch Cooking for Down-Home Entertaining" (Ten Speed Press). Send ideas, tips or culinary questions to or chime in on

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all the information. Now I know a heck of a lot about bean salads! Now to try it by myself... what I really wanted to know was how long does bean salad last in the fridge, in general.


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