There are few things worse than a soggy, saggy, mushy salad, even if it features cooked vegetables. Problem is, there are some vegetables that need just a bit of cooking to make them a bit tastier and easier to eat. The key to keeping garden fresh veggies crisp , like green beans and corn, is a technique called blanching, which is just a matter of cooking for a short time in rapidly boiling water, then immediately chilling in ice water.
I also am not a huge fan of eating raw onions, so a little technique I learned in France is to pour boiling water over sliced raw onions in a colander, which softens them just a little bit and mellows out the sharp taste.
Here is a lovely potato salad with fresh green beans, fresh butter beans, young potatoes, and lots of herbs. This packs up nice for a picnic or summer potluck barbecue, and also makes a quick lunch.
4 c. cold water (for the butter beans)
1 1/2 c. fresh small red, butter (lima) beans, or 3/4 c. dry red or baby lima beans, soaked overnight
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
4 c. salted water (for the potatoes)
1 lb. plus 2 small red potatoes, well scrubbed and quartered
1/2 pound fresh green beans, ends snapped
4 c. salted water (for the green beans)
1 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
For the vinaigrette:
1/4 c. cider vinegar
1 tsp. whole grain dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. canola or sunflower oil
Black pepper to taste
1. Bring the first 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the red, butter or lima beans and lower to a simmer. Cook until tender - about 5 minutes for the fresh beans and 15 for the soaked beans. You can check during cooking by removing a bean from the pot and piercing it with a fork. When tender, remove the pot from the heat and remove the beans to a colander to drain. DO NOT DUMP OUT THE WATER! Set the beans aside.
2. Place the sliced onions in another colander and pour over the hot water from the beans. Set the onions aside.
3. Bring the next 4 cups of water (salted) to a boil in a large pot. Add the potatoes and then lower the temperature to a gentle boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until tender. Dump into a colander to drain.
4. Bring the last 4 cups of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water big enough to hold all of the green beans ready next to to the stove. Now, add the greens to the boiling water and cook for about 1 minute. Remove all the green beans from the hot water (you can use tongs, a slotted spoon, or even drain in a colander) then add the beans to the ice water and chill them out for about 2 minutes. Drain, making sure there is no ice on the beans.
5. Add the butter beans, potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, parsley, dill, and tarragon to a large bowl and make the vinaigrette.
6. Whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly pour in the oil while you whisk and continue to whisk until smooth and light in color.
7. Pour the vinegar over the salad and toss gently. Serve immediately or chill for up to 3 days.