Go retro tonight with simple bean magic

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

This year I got a jump on the bean beetles by ruthlessly massacring their young before they had a chance to proliferate. That is not to say my bean plants remained unscathed, but I got enough of a harvest to force me to dig into my recipe box.

Since I grew both green beans and wax beans (the yellow ones), I thought it was time to go retro and mix up a three bean salad.

Although mentioned in the early 20th century, three bean salad gained fame in the 1950s. One reason was its simplicity of preparation. Just open one can each of green beans, wax beans and kidney beans, and mix with a simple dressing. In addition to its ease of preparation, it was popular in the summertime as it needed no refrigeration and tasted even better hours after being made.

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I like the idea of fast and easy as much as the next person, but the color and texture of canned vegetables are off-putting. With two rows of fresh beans screaming to be picked, I saw no reason to reach for a can. Cooked briefly and then shocked in cold water, fresh beans retain their bright color and toothsome bite.

The kidney beans are another story. I cook a lot of dried beans, but I know most people feel more confident with canned kidneys. For the three bean salad, I include both options. If soaked overnight, dried kidney beans cook in about 30 minutes.

Use the recipe below as a template. Feel free to add more beans or different beans. Try to make the salad at least an hour ahead of time so the flavors have a chance to meld.

Three bean salad is best when made in advance and left to sit so the flavors have time to combine. Green beans, wax beans and kidney beans are a good trio, but the salad is adaptable to whatever beans are on hand.

Three Bean Salad

For the dressing

  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • ½ teaspoon celery seed
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad

  • 8 ounces green beans
  • 8 ounces wax beans
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans or ½ heaping cup dried kidney beans, cooked and drained
  • ½ cup chopped red onion
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Bring the vinegar, sugar, oil, celery seed, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to boil in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Let cool.

If using canned kidney beans, drain the beans and rinse well.

Bring 2 quarts salted water to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the green and yellow (wax) beans, and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice water. When the beans are done, drain and immediately put into the ice water to stop the cooking process. Let sit about 2 minutes. Drain well.

Add the green and yellow beans, kidney beans, onion and parsley to the vinegar mixture, and toss well to coat. Let stand at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.