The Dish

Forever Summer in a Salad

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Hello Summer… I’m so glad you are finally here!

Beautiful blue green lake and the words "Hello Summer".

I can’t say I have a favorite season, because I really love them all.  I crave the change and the feeling of renewal when seasons change.  What seasonal change does for me is remind me to break ruts and live in the now. But, it also reminds me of seasons of years past. So, with summer here I’m reminded of picnics of childhood with games of tag… and also of picnics of only a few years ago with wine and cheese pairings.

A Favorite Dish from Childhood

So, with all these thoughts of picnics… and with Father’s Day approaching, the very first dish I thought of was one that was a childhood favorite of mine.  It is a slight twist on the traditional 3 bean salad that is dressed in a vinaigrette dressing.  It pairs exceptionally well with grilled and barbecued meats and is so simple to make you can easily scale it for a large crowd.

Vinaigrette salads are to me the absolute best for hot summer days and picnics far away from home.  Because vinaigrette dressings can easily stand the heat.  They contain no mayonnaise that might spoil on hot days… and are refreshing and light when the temperatures soar.

The recipe I’m sharing today is one I learned from my Mom.  She used to make it only in the summer and it was a staple for when we would have the occasional picnic with friends.  Unfortunately, I have no idea where she got this recipe… or when.  My earliest remembrance of it goes back to about the summer of 1964, when Mom made it for an outing to Blue Rock Springs with neighbors.  I wrote it down in 1975, copying it from her handwritten recipe book… but as always, I tweaked it to make it my own. 

Improving a Classic for Today’s Cook

The original recipe called for 3 types of beans; green, wax, and red kidney and contained more sugar and no prepared mustard.  My Mom’s recipe also called for beans in a #303 can.  This was an American can size designation that meant “2 cups” or 16 oz of product.  Today, the cans are slightly smaller and only contain 15 ½ ounces of food, but the ½ oz slight change in size really doesn’t affect the proportions of the recipe.

You probably already can guess why I reduced the sugar.  Although, I loved the original recipe, in later years I felt it was a bit too sweet.  As for the mustard?  I added it not for flavor, but for its wonderful property of emulsifying oil with vinegar.  You can make this salad without it, but adding it keeps the oil from separating from the vinegar, which to me is a worthy improvement.

There isn’t a lot of fuss to making this colorful bean salad as most of the ingredients are pantry items. Chopping the onion is the only step that might take a little time.

Four Bean Summer Salad in a green glass bowl.

Today’s Recipe is: Four Bean Summer Salad