Sunday, August 8, 2021

Three Bean Salad

Serving of Three Bean Salad
Retro Salad Still Popular at Potlucks

Recipe by Robin

Childhood memories are slippery. What one person remembers about someone else can be 180 degrees different from what a sibling or cousin remembers. Yet certain people’s distinctions are indisputable. For example, my Auntie Vel was universally known as our family’s best cook. She was most creative and nuanced, plus knew how to throw one helluva party. Three bean salad was one of her summer staples. Nobody else’s recipe came close to the perfect sweet-sour flavor of her dressing and combination of soft beans and crunchy veggies. But this recipe is darn close. “When are we going to have that again?” asked my husband when I said I was blogging it.

Freshly Made Three bean salad in Serving Dish
While the magic is in the balance of soft and crunchy, and sweet and sour, you can vary the recipe to accommodate quantities on hand. I’d stick with celery and green bell pepper for the subtle flavors they add. Auntie’s dressing was more on the sweet side, maybe 5 tbsp. sugar as opposed to my 3-4. Try using apple cider vinegar if you prefer its mellow taste, or all white vinegar for a sharper note. Play around with fine tuning the dressing before adding it to the salad, if mine isn’t a perfect fit for you and yours.

Soaking and patting the onion dry are important steps if you’re marinating overnight before serving, or you anticipate leftovers. This prevents onion juice from overwhelming the other flavors in the marinade.

When I first saw Auntie’s three bean salad as a kid, I thought it was the weirdest concoction ever. But once I tasted it I was hooked. Hope you enjoy the recipe she inspired!

Three Bean Salad in Serving BowlThree Bean Salad
serves ~16

  • 1 can chickpeas (15 oz.)
  • 1 can kidney beans (15 oz.)
  • ~10 oz. green beans
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery (3 stalks)
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell pepper (1 small)
  • ½ - ¾ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 - 4 tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped parsley
  • Extra black pepper for serving (optional)

Drain chickpeas and kidneys beans in colander, and rinse thoroughly. Allow to drain further as you make the salad, shaking the colander occasionally.

Trim stem ends of green beans and remove strings if large. Cut beans into 1-inch pieces. Blanch beans in preheated steamer or boiling water for 1-2 minutes, till slightly softened but still crunchy. Plunge into ice water till cool and drain thoroughly.

Soak thinly sliced red onion in warm water 3 minutes. Drain and blot dry. This prevents onion from dominating other flavors.

To make the dressing, combine the white vinegar and white wine vinegar in a small mixing bowl or immersion blender cup. Dissolve the sugar and salt in the vinegar. Add black pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, or add slowly to the cup while running the immersion blender.

In a large mixing bowl, combine chickpeas, kidney beans, green beans, celery, green bell pepper, and red onion. Toss in parsley. Add dressing and toss. Refrigerate and marinate from 2 – 12 hours, or overnight, stirring several times to distribute marinade.

Serve either chilled or at room temperature. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

Basic Three Bean Ingredients
Adding Crunchiness
Add Parsley
Make Dressing
Combine Salad and Dressing
Marinate and Serve

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