My mother loved to make three-bean salad. The minute it turned warm this dish began appearing on our dinner table as a regular side dish. Now don’t get me wrong; my mother was a wonderful cook. But there was just nothing about her three-bean salad that I liked. Her version consisted of a can of green beans, a can of kidney beans, and a can of yellow waxed beans combined together. I’m not convinced she drained the cans. To this mixture of beans she’d add some oil and vinegar. That was it. Absolutely no seasoning. No garlic. No onions. Nothing. The stuff seemed to last for days, mainly because she was the only one who would eat it. But beans? We all loved beans.
As the weather has begun to turn warmer here my cooking has shifted from soups and stews and assorted hot foods to main dish salads. I not only eat salads at night at home, but also bring them most days for lunch. Once in awhile I’ll make something else, but knowing my eating habits over the last few years, it’s going to be mainly salads for the next few months. And that’s where the beans come in.
I too like to incorporate beans into my salads. They add protein and fiber and not a whole lot of calories. And yes, like my mother, I use canned beans for these salads. They’re easy, and when rinsed well with water are also quite tasty. But I have never made — nor do I ever expect to make — my mother’s three-bean salad.
One of my favorite ways to incorporate beans into salads is to add some white beans (or navy beans) to a Greek peasant salad. My Greek peasant salad consists of chunks of cucumbers (I prefer to use those tiny baby cucumbers) and tomatoes along with some chopped shallots, feta, and a few Greek olives. I generally make a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing and add some crushed garlic and a bit of salt and pepper. To that mix I add the drained white beans. Yummy!
I also like to keep a Ziploc bag of roasted garbanzo beans around, ready to add to any vegetable salad. After draining a couple cans of garbanzo beans (or chick peas) I dry them completely with a paper towel. Then I mix them with some olive oil and whatever seasonings strike my fancy. My latest batch was mixed with pepper, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder. I spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in a 425-450 f oven for about 30 minutes until they start to turn a bit brown. Once taken out of the oven I let them cool off before putting them into a container to refrigerate. They turn a bit crunchy and add a nice texture and taste to salads.
A few weeks ago I had moderate success with a lentil salad recipe I found online. It combined cooked brown lentils, onions, chopped cucumbers, chopped peppers, feta, and a dressing made of red pepper hummus, lemon juice, and vinegar. I think I overcooked the lentils so it was a bit mushy. But the tastes were all good and I’ll probably try it again this summer.
Yesterday I saw a recipe for a very simple bean salad that I plan to try this weekend. It used a can of drained cannellini beans mixed with chopped tomatoes and avocado, a few chopped greens onions all tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. I love avocado but never thought of combing it with beans for a salad. While the recipe added salt and pepper I think I’ll probably add a bit of crushed garlic and perhaps some herbs. Easy, simple, but chock-full of some very healthy ingredients.
Do you ever make bean salads? If so, what are some of your favorites?