You know how they say you eat with your eyes first? Well, whoever “They” are? I think this rainbow of a salad is exactly what they were talking about! Garden bean salad with citrus vinaigrette is summer’s favorite colors and flavors combined in the most deliciously beautiful way. And I think you’re going to love it!
This Salad is an Idea and Not a Recipe
The most enjoyable cooking, for me, is the kind where you don’t start with a recipe. You start with an idea. An idea that’s most likely based on an ingredient (or two) that happen to be in season – and you just start building from there. No real solid plan…more like a “rough draft” that you can modify and add to as you go.
That’s what this salad is like. Look at it as a starting point. Take what serves you (and your palate) and leave what doesn’t. Add to it. Adjust it. Make it your own.
It’s my first official “Recipe Without A Recipe”…the ingredients are flexible, most measurements are up to you and the whole process is a little looser and more relaxed. I’m hoping it will become one of your favorite ways to cook, too!
Everything Is Better In Season!!
August and September are my very favorite months for produce here in Ohio. It feels like all of the vegetables are in season at the same time. And all of that freshness elevates even the simplest of meals. Food tastes different when it’s eaten in season. It smells different, it looks different, it even feels different. In fact, I’m convinced that most people who believe they dislike vegetables just haven’t had them fresh, in season and properly prepared.
There are lots of ways to find seasonal produce- visit your local farmer’s market, join a CSA, order a seasonal box from a regenerative farm like The Chef’s Garden, or get your hands dirty and plant a garden next spring! Learn what’s in season and seek those items out at your grocery store (more and more stores are labeling the products they source locally!).
The closer your food is to the source that grew or raised it? The better it tastes and the more nutrients it contains.
Your taste buds, your health and your community ALL benefit 🙂
It’s Bean Season!
Take green beans. When you eat them in the sunny, warmer months their texture is crisp, their color vibrant and their flavor sweet and “beany”. Eat them in the winter and they’re like a totally different vegetable. Gone is that juicy “snap”. And their bright color and beany sweetness are a distant August memory.
So when Hannah offered to bring green and yellow beans from her garden for dinner last week I was thrilled. Harper picked, Levi transported and Hannah blanched and chilled them ahead so we could make a cold bean salad when she got here.
Try Something New, Or Not 🙂
A few days earlier I’d stopped by Allison’s Superfoods Market, a local business that sells organic, mostly local produce. When I saw these adorable little spotted quail eggs I could NOT resist bringing a dozen home. I gave a few to my fellow “local-food-loving-friend”, Jenn, and I soft boiled the rest to use in this salad.
Because quail eggs are so small they cook very quickly! Two minutes or less depending on how hard or soft you want the yolks.
Quail eggs aren’t a necessity here, chicken eggs are just fine! You can find my favorite method for Perfect, Easy To Peel Eggs here.
But if you happen across a container of quail eggs you should absolutely snatch them up. I mean…how CUTE are they???
Improvise With What You Have
So, my rough draft for this salad was chilled, blanched beans, soft boiled quail eggs and a citrusy vinaigrette. But the rest was improvised according to what we had on hand. There was a tomato I’d pulled from my garden the day before. Some crumbled feta in the cheese drawer. Hannah brought a gorgeous watermelon radish that she sliced super thin (honestly, one of summer’s most beautiful gifts!). And last minute she suggested adding a little bit of sliced shallot.
It was perfect! And when I saw all of those colorful bites of summer piled onto my robins egg blue platter? My heart did a little extra pitter-patter
How To Make A Vinaigrette
The only part of this “Recipe without a Recipe” that I’m going to give measurements for is the Citrus Vinaigrette. But even at that, you can still change it quite a bit. The important part of making vinaigrettes is the balance of oil to acid and the way it’s mixed so that it creates an emulsion.
- The most often recommended ratio of oil to acid is 3:1 (so for every 3 Tablespoons of oil you’ll use 1 Tablespoon of acid). In all transparency I still consider that a starting point.
- I use olive or avocado oil because I avoid hydrogenated oils. The only drawback is that they can solidify when you chill them. If your vinaigrette has been in the fridge for a while and this happens, just let it warm up a bit and give it a good shake before using.
- Acid can be vinegar or citrus juice or a combination of both. Experiment with lots of different flavors- there are SO many to choose from!
- The flavors of different acids and oils can vary quite a bit, so you might use a little more or a little less of one or the other. Start with a 3:1 ratio. Taste. Adjust until you like it.
- I like to add a little honey for sweetness instead of sugar and I also like to include mustard. Both have the added benefit of helping to emulsify the dressing.
- Salt less than you think you’ll need in the beginning. Taste again at the end and adjust.
Three Ways To Mix Your Vinaigrette
No Matter how you mix your vinaigrette, combine everything EXCEPT for the oil first. Then add the oil and finish the dressing one of three ways:
- Good old fashioned whisk and bowl– Whisk the oil in a SLOW, STEADY stream so that it creates a smooth vinaigrette that doesn’t separate. Slow and steady is key. If you add the oil too fast your dressing will separate. But don’t worry, it’s not a total loss if that happens! Just whisk again before using- it might be a little thin, but it will still be delicious!
- Mason jar with screw top- Put everything in a mason jar and shake, shake, shake
- Use a blender– I think this is the easiest. Everything but the oil first. Pulse to combine. Add the oil (all at once is fine), blend until smooth.
Assemble Your Beautiful Salad
You’ve prepped your ingredients and your dressing is made. All that’s left is to find a pretty platter and put it together. Toss the chilled beans with some of the dressing, just enough to coat them well. Mound dressed beans on the platter and arrange everything else over top. I prefer cheese last, but you do you. Drizzle some of the dressing over top. Maybe some cracked pepper, too.
Pass salad with remaining dressing at the table.
Beautiful. Delicious. Healthy. And YOUR Masterpiece 🙂
For Salad (Amounts are up to you)
- Mixed yellow and green beans, blanched and chilled
- Tomatoes ( slice big tomatoes or use small cherry, grape, pear or currant tomatoes)
- Soft or hard boiled eggs (if you can find quail eggs they're adorable here) quarter regular eggs or halve quail eggs
- Thinly sliced shallot
- Thinly sliced radish (use watermelon radish if available)
- Crumbled feta cheese (you could also use crumbled goat cheese)
- 2 Tbsp fresh citrus juice (I love a combination of lemon and orange, but you could also use lime, grapefruit, blood orange, etc)
- 2 teaspoons dijon or grainy mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- cracked pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup olive oil (or mix of olive and avocado oil for a milder flavor)
- Blanch beans just until crisp-tender (2-5 minutes, depending on variety and size). Place in ice bath immediately to stop cooking.Drain and chill until ready to assemble. You can do this up to 3 days ahead.
- Boil eggs to your preference (see this post for perfect easy to peel eggs). Chill until ready to assemble. If using quail eggs, place in a pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring water to a gentle boil and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately place in ice bath to cool completely before peeling.
- Have remaining ingredients sliced and ready
- Toss the chilled beans with enough dressing just to coat lightly and arrange on serving platter. Arrange remaining ingredients over top. Drizzle with a little more dressing
Pass remaining dressing separately and enjoy!
Make The Citrus Vinaigrette
You can whisk by hand, shake in a mason jar or combine in a blender.
- Combine everything except for the oil first.
- Once the base is combined add the oil, whisking, shaking or blending until emulsified.
- Taste and adjust to your liking.
* if whisking by hand, add the oil very gradually whisking well the entire time so that it creates a smooth vinaigrette that doesn't separate.
Follow links in post for more detailed how-to's on blanching beans and boiling eggs
I hope you love this salad as much as we do! And I’d absolutely LOVE to see what YOU create so please tag me with your comments and pictures on fb or instagram @breathingandcooking!