bean-symphony Recipes

mixed bean salad

Adding to my infinite list of gastronomical oddities–I consider meat a side dish, cilantro tastes like dirt to me, I don’t drink tea and the only seafood I can stand is mussels–Alex and I finally ate at Mario Batali’s heroical West Village gastropub, The Spotted Pig, two weekends ago and all I’ve been able to talk about since were the salads.

With house-cured bresaola, prosciutto and various homemade sausages on the menu, it’s not named after swine for nothing. And while these are not to be overlooked, the salads were something of a symphony. I’ve said before that I don’t go to fuss-worthy restaurants because I fancy myself some sort of in-the-know foodie; I go for inspiration. Restaurants that don’t give me any new ideas for the Smitten Kitchen rarely get revisits.

cook them barelybald tomatoes

In this case, it the muse turned out to be something as humble as lemon juice. Each of the salads we tried were topped with a healthy glug of lemon juice, and, seriously, I use lemon juice when I cook all the time but I don’t think I have ever finished a dish with it. I just love an everyday culinary revelation. Its sour splash on top of the roasted carrots with avocado and cumin salad shifted something winter-y to summery, and on top of the mixed bean salad… well this I had to make at home ASAP.

Of course, ASAP was actually “two weeks later” meaning that I couldn’t quite remember which three beans the restaurant used in the special, or whether it had any herbs or onion in it. No matter, though, because this is the way that I will make it from this day forward. I know that a mixed string bean salad can sound like Dull City, but this is anything but. It’s a bit spicy, sour-edged and incredibly fresh, I officially have a dish I am craving more than the Quick Zucchini Saute. Good riddance!

mixed bean salad

Elsewhere: If ‘Ratatouille’ Had Been ‘Mulligatawny’ — Over on, I question our cinematographic culinary biases in the first of my weekly food trend posts for them. Come and say hi!

One year ago: Ina Garten’s Barbecue Sauce

Mixed Bean Salad (with Tomato and Lemon)
Inspired by The Spotted Pig

2 medium tomatoes
1/2 pound yellow wax beans, ends trimmed and beans halved crosswise
1/2 pound haricot vert, or slim green beans, ends trimmed and beans halved crosswise
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Glug of white wine
Salt and pepper
Juice of one lemon

Bring a medium-large pot of salted water to boil. Carefully lower the two tomatoes in with a slotted spoon and cook for one minute. Leave the water boiling while you drop them into a bath of ice water, peel them and then set them aside.

Meanwhile, lower the wax beans in the water for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly cooked but still firm. Remove them from the boiling water with a large slotted spoon or tongs and plunge them in the ice bath to stop cooking them. Drain them in a colander and then spread them out on a kitchen towel to dry.

Repeat this process with the haricot vert, but only cook them for one minute.

If you, like me, are in a tiny kitchen and love nothing more than a one pot dish, dump the water out of the pot, dry it, and heat the olive oil to medium-high. If you love doing dishes, you can complete this step in a large saute pan. Yeah, I thought so.

Once the oil is heated, add the minced garlic and stir it around with a wooden spoon until lightly cooked but not brown, one minute or so. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, and then the two peeled tomatoes that you have set aside. Break them up into chunks with your spoon, and simmer this into sauciness for about 5 minutes. Add a glug of white wine, and simmer for one more minute.

Dump the drained and dried beans into the tomato sauce, and mix it around until combined and heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Put the salad in a serving bowl and squeeze the lemon juice all over it, tossing it lightly.

Eat immediately.

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28 comments on mixed bean salad

  1. Looks wonderful – I have a strange fondness if not a craving for lemon juice and for no other reason have been dumping it on top of my salads of late. So I will give this a try.

    Last night on No Reservations – Anthony Bourdain “took” us to the 3rd floor of the Spotted Pig – where the chefs go and cook for each other. Totally fascinating if you have not had a chance to see it.

  2. I just got back from my lunchtime trip to the greenmarket. I wish I had seen this before I went. I only bought enough green beans to go with my leftover pasta tonight.

    I really like the food at the Spotted Pig, but the — for lack of a better word — user-friendliness of the place leaves a lot to be desired. Wait time, noise level, only one bathroom = no thanks. When I had a job where I left the building at 5, I used to go there right after work once in a while and sit at the bar for a drink and snack and be gone before the hordes descended. The gnudi, the burger and, yes, all of the vegetables dishes are really incredible though and worth putting up with the hassle every so often.

  3. Cara

    This reminds me of 2 things…

    –This really good thing they make at Lebanese Taverna here in DC, one with green beans and one with okra. (The green bean one is LUBIEH BEL ZEIT–the okra one is tragically no longer on the menu, ack!)

    –My all time favorite zucchini treatment, which is thin slices of zuke sauteed with rings of sweet onion, garlic and tomato,seasoned with red pepper flakes and lots of lemon juice and served over couscous.

  4. deb

    Anne — That’s so cool. I now have to watch that show, esp. as I dug out Kitchen Confidential last night and read through half of it looking for a quote about French food I never found. Gr. But it did remind me how fun he is.

    Stephanie — Totally agreed. In fact, Alex and I totally did the “brace yourself. Let’s not be too hungry when we get there because it will take forever to get a seat and also, let’s go early.” The wait (lucky us) on a Sunday at 6:30 was less than 30, but it certainly filled up after.

    Cara — Lebanese Taverna! We used to eat there when we were being “fancy.” I loved it.

  5. I have been told that if cilantro tastes like soap, your distaste is actually genetic. I’m not sure about the dirt idea…(and how do you know what dirt tastes like, missy?!) But googling it did lead me to this amusing website: Love the beans recipe and now I’m craving Lebanese Taverna!

  6. Cara

    LebTav is extraordinarily crave-worthy! Grape leaves, kibbeh, lebneh… I am sad about the okra thing (little baby okras with whole cloves of garlic and crushed tomato, served room temperature. Delish.)

  7. You’re not alone in allowing yourself to be wowed by the “sides.” While I am a happy and hearty carnivore, I think that the quality and inventiveness of a restaurant’s salads and vegetable dishes are an important measure of their ingenuity, attention to quality, and interest in the overall dining experience, rather than just slapping out “meat and two sides.”

  8. ottan

    Not only are the salads good, but their veggie sides (which you can get as a plate) are also fantastic.

    By the way, I think Batali is just an advisor now. It’s officially owned by April Bloomfield, Ken Friedman and “some pals.”

  9. tams

    The queen of beans – Yummy – Looking forward to our local farmers market this weekend to pick some up and enjoy this tasty side dish treat! Mario hasn’t always been my favorite, I think perhaps it’s the orange crocs lately, but this i can jump on board with… Happy Creating, Enjoying, and Eating!

  10. Bean salads have such a bad reputation from those soggy messes we all ate when we were kids. This looks light and fresh — and anything with a bit of hot pepper appeals to me!

  11. Tea

    Silly rabbit, lemon makes everything better! At least that’s my religion.
    Now, must hie myself off to the market for beans, this looks delish.

  12. Marie

    Hi Deb — just read your article on French food and films. Here’s a film, not French. “Dona Flora and her Two Husbands.” It’s Brazilian, 1978. Sonia Braga is a cooking instructor. Erotic, sensual, wonderful.

    By the way, I use fresh lemon juice, (meyer lemon when I can get it), on all green vegs, carrots, salads — it brightens up the flavor. Just give a squeese right before serving.

  13. Katie

    You think cilantro tastes like dirt? My mom think it tastes like soap, and ever since she told me that, I can’t help but taste it’s soapiness myself! Great bean dish…can’t wait to try it!

  14. OMG – I’ve never met another person for whom the only possible seafood was mussels. Me too. People look at me like I’m bananas.

    My husband and mother both think cilantro tastes terrible – I’ve heard that it’s genetic.

  15. anado

    so I decided to try this. the Park Slope Food Coop had THREE different types of green beans (green, yellow, and purple). but when i put the purple beans into boiling water, the color melted away and they turned green! is this normal? i have no idea. but i too had a two color bean salad, instead of three color. how sad.

    however, it must be said that the salad itself was delicious.

  16. Cathy


    I loved your comment about using lemon “all the time” but never having “finished” a dish with it. I love lemon too but found out I was allergic to it. I was using it on everything and actually craved it. So now I am resigned to cooking without lemon and really miss it! This is my question, what is a good substitute for lemon when a recipe calls for it? Thanks.



    1. deb

      Cathy — Are you allergic to all citrus or just lemon? If just lemon, another citrus such as lime would give a similar brightness…

  17. Jane

    Thank god you have some decent interesting salads on this site :) It’s getting so hot in Queensland right now I needed an alternative. You’ve come to the rescue again, so I’m not eating the same thing night after night. Thanks Deb x

  18. Annie

    Thanks so much for yet another amazing recipe Deb! I made this tonight and it was the perfect complement to some grilled barramundi. Really – you are an absolute lifesaver when it comes to trying to find recipes to keep the family happy! A thousand thanks!

  19. Julia

    This tastes very good with red wine, too. It served two for dinner tonight in big, heaping bowls, even though normally it would probably serve five or six people as a side. Next time, I will make sure to reduce my tomato sauce to a thicker consistency before adding the beans because it was a little too juicy and ran off the beans into the bottom of the bowl. Delicious and different! Had the quick zucchini sauté for lunch today, coincidentally, and liked that, too.