The unofficial start of summer is here - Memorial Day weekend! It’s time to roll out the grill and start cooking outside, keeping the kitchen cool and the flavors bold. Today I’m sharing a new recipe to add to your BBQ or picnic repertoire - a simple make ahead salad full of nourishing and delicious ingredients.
Growing up, my mom entertained a fair amount, especially during the warmer months of the year. She had a standard menu that she served in the summertime - grilled chicken, coleslaw, potato chips, 3-bean salad, dill pickles, fruit salad, and some sort of cake or brownies for dessert. These meals were predictable, nothing fussy, which allowed her to spend time relaxing with our guests. While this indoor BBQ menu wasn’t my favorite meal that she made, it was one that everyone seemed to enjoy.
Earlier this week, I listened to an interview with Nigella Lawson, the famous British cookbook author and food personality. One of the first questions asked of Nigella during the interview was why she refers to herself as a “home cook” and not a chef, despite having quite an impressive command of cooking and eleven cookbooks to her name. She answered that she has not been professionally trained in the culinary arts, and therefore she develops and writes her recipes from the perspective of a novice cook. I could relate to that answer, I really appreciated her honesty. So many people who enjoy cooking look to the great restaurant chefs’ cookbooks for guidance, but none of us have the physical environment and capability of a professional kitchen within our homes! I promise to continue to write my recipes from the perspective of a home cook, to continue to inspire you to bring better nutrition, health & wellness into your home, thus becoming better home cooks yourselves. Now back to this week’s recipe…
It may be hard to believe, but I haven’t always been a bean lover. In fact, until my early 20s, I’d say that I was “bean-phobic”. Back in the 80s and 90s, we didn’t eat hummus; my earliest recollection of eating hummus was in Israel in 1994, and I don’t think I liked it too much! So that 3-bean salad that my mom made for her casual summer dinner parties was a salad that I avoided like the plague. She used canned beans, mixed with red onions and some sort of vinegary dressing. My dad loved this salad, while I refused to touch it. I actually find it funny that I decided to make a bean salad to share here…
Let me present you with my Mustardy Mixed Bean Salad, which bares no resemblance to my mom’s recipe. While I do use a can of white beans (Cannellini or Great Northern), I usually don’t rely on canned legumes. I’m a big fan of lentils, I eat them nearly every day on top of my salad at lunchtime, or in recipes such as my French Lentil Salad or Quinoa, Lentil & Kale Berbere Skillet. I boil dry lentils - they don’t require any soaking or a long time to become perfectly cooked. Like most other legumes, lentils provide an excellent source of fiber, as well as B-vitamins, protein, and iron. I love to mix beans with fresh herbs, and the late spring season is the perfect time to use plenty of herbs in all sorts of recipes. I particularly like Italian parsley, it has an assertive yet calming flavor that pairs well with the beans, and it is sturdy enough to stand up to the punchiness of the salad’s mustardy vinaigrette.
Give this recipe a try, it’s simple, nourishing, and delicious. Perfect for the start of summer, even if it isn’t officially here yet - but it will be soon enough! I’m excited for the long weekend, I hope you are, too.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Mustardy Mixed Bean Salad
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
1/2 C French green lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
1 can (14oz) white beans, rinsed & drained
1 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 t Dijon mustard
2 T Champagne vinegar (or another white wine vinegar)
4 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped (approximately 2 T)
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
In a medium sized saucepan, cover the lentils with fresh water (cover by at least 2 inches), add the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the green beans and continue to simmer for another 3-5 minutes. Test for doneness - the lentils should be cooked through but not mushy, and the green beans should still have some crunch. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water. Shake the colander to remove as much water as possible, then pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the white beans and chopped parsley to the bowl and mix gently.
Make the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together the Dijon mustard with the vinegar until smooth. Slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil, whisking continuously to emulsify the dressing. Add the chopped shallot. Season, to taste, with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and toss gently to coat. Cover the salad and chill for at least two hours to allow the flavors to blend and mellow.
Prior to serving, bring salad to room temperature, stir again, and re-taste for seasoning. Add additional sea salt & freshly-ground black pepper, as needed or desired.
recipe yields 4-6 side dish servings
salad keeps well, in a covered container in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days; stir before serving
substitute red wine vinegar for the white wine vinegar for a slightly different flavor
add additional freshly chopped herbs to the salad, if desired