By KEVIN FRISCH
SO FAR I've done two desserty type things for this column, so I figured it was time to do something else. After some deliberation, it came down to a tossup between macaroni and cheese and four bean salad. Before I put any recipe in this column I always make it one last time (to get exact measurements of the ingredients), and at the time I was out of cheddar, so I decided on the salad.
The four bean salad was born one late afternoon, after a rough day in high school. I was moping around the house, and all of a sudden decided that what I really needed was a big salad (the lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and celery type). So I happily cut up some celery that had been left out, and went to the refrigerator to get the lettuce and the rest of the stuff. It was then that I remembered that we had run out of lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
I stood there sadly (munching the celery), wondering what to do next. So, I checked out the pantry for something to add to the celery, and noticed quite a variety of canned beans, and thus, for the first time in my life, I made a bean salad. The recipe I have here is identical to the one I originally made, except for the addition of green pepper, and the pre-sugaring of the onions.
Four Bean Salad
1 can green beans
1 can wax beans (yellow string beans)
1 can kidney beans (try to avoid Goya)
1 can garbanzo beans
Each can should be from 15 to 19 oz.
1 large onion (red onion if you can find it)
1 large green pepper
3 stalks of celery
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt
11/2 oz. safflower or vegetable oil
11/2 oz. lemon juice (usually one large juicy lemon)
Peel off the outer layers of the onion skin and cut the onion in half, lengthwise. Lay the flat side on the cutting board, and use a sharp knife to cut each half into thin slices, so that you end up with a bunch of U-shaped onion pieces. Put the onions into a large bowl and sprinkle the sugar and salt onto them, followed by the oil, and set aside. This is done so that the sugar can begin to react with the onions (a fermentation type process, I suppose).
Open and drain the four cans of beans (make sure to rinse the kidney beans). Thinly slice the pepper and celery, and add these, along with the beans and lemon juice, to the onions you set aside. Mix well.
At this point you could eat the salad, but it will taste much better if you cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator for between five and 15 hours. Doing this allows the flavors to combine, and also lets the onions lose their sharpness and become more flavorful. Makes eight portions.
Keep in mind that this recipe is very forgiving (assuming you allow it at least five hours), so feel free to experiment, adding different beans, some red pepper, or whatever comes to mind.
Good luck and good eating.
(Please write to kevinf@athena if you would like to see more recipes of a certain type in this column, or if you have any comments or suggestions. -- KF)