Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cooking to Save the Planet: Fall and Winter Green-Bean Salad

There is nothing absolutely fabulous (or even uncommon) about this salad.  It's, in fact, a winter version of a summer salad about which I blogged this past June.  And both are near cousins of a salade Ni├žoise, about which many readers of Bilgrimage will no doubt already know.

But since I posted recently about a marinated mixed-vegetable fall and winter salad we keep on hand during the cold months of the year, and since this green-bean salad is another in that category, it occurs to me to tell readers about it.  As with the salad about which I wrote several days ago, we tend to make this green-bean salad in quantities larger than sufficient for a single meal, and then keep it on hand for several meals.

It's easy to make, nutritious, tasty, and a good complement to many main dishes--or it can well serve as a main dish all on its own.  Here's how we make it:

Take fresh green beans sufficient to make about a quart of beans when you've topped, tailed, and snapped them.  Steam them until they're just tender, but retain their bright green color.  As you do this, cut a medium-sized sweet onion (we try to keep Vidalia or what are called "Texas sweet" onions in our area on hand for salad) into thin strips, and do the same with a half-pound of fresh field mushrooms.

As soon as the beans have steamed, mix them with the onion slivers and mushrooms, and add several tablespoons of both balsamic and wine vinegar, a spoon or two of salt, fresh ground black pepper, a good pinch of dry mustard, several toes of finely minced garlic, a handful of chopped parsley, and a sprinkle of dried thyme and marjoram.  Toss all of this very well.  (Readers will probably already know this, but in case not: when making a vinaigrette dressing, you want to mix the dry ingredients with the vinegar before adding the oil, since the oil tends to retard the ability of some of the dry ingredients--especially salt--to blend into the dressing well.)

Then add about twice as much olive oil as the vinegar you've added, mix well, and the salad is ready--ready to sit and cool, that is.  Note that it's important to add the vinaigrette while the beans are still warm, since this helps the salad mixture to absorb the flavors of the vinaigrette.

Cool the salad, cover it, and it's ready for use in all sorts of ways (and to refrigerate, of course, if you don't eat it all at one sitting).  We often eat it as a main dish topped simply with walnuts and accompanied with oatcakes and sliced cheese, or we add a handful of black olives and perhaps sliced boiled eggs over the top.  You may, if you wish, lay over some sliced roasted chicken or some grilled tuna.  Cubed boiled or roasted potatoes are also a nice addition, as is grated parmesan cheese.

As I say, the beauty of salads like this is that you can make a largish batch of them when you have time on your hands, and then keep them for a number of days to serve as either main dishes or side dishes, without a lot of work and fanfare as you prepare a meal.  They also tend to gain flavor as the ingredients meld together.

And their bright colors and healthy ingredients are a welcome addition to our tables in the darker, colder months of the year when the palate craves both piquant tastes, and the colors and freshness of spring and summer.  I hope this recipe will be of use to anyone seeking all of those qualities, and at a minimum cost and without too much muss and fuss amidst your busy daily schedules.  

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