Country Life & Green Bean Salad
By Summer Miller, author of New Prairie Kitchen
Within months of moving into the white one-room school house with clapboard siding and a bell on top, I was ready to move out. Very quickly my world had become small, and I found it difficult to breathe in these wide-open spaces. I found no peace in the silence or sense of awe at the vastness of the stars at night. I felt isolated and far from the city life that helped define me. No cobblestone streets with wine cafes, no art museums, no coffee shops. Buying a new pair of shoes seemed like a monumental effort that required packing a lunch, and making dinner required a completely new way of thinking. A quick drive to the store was not an option, and even though the city has moved closer to us in the dozen years since we’ve called this place home, I still can’t get a pizza delivered to my door. I make do or I do without.
Although, I have been a gardener since I could walk, I didn’t start cooking until my early 20s. I was in the later part of that decade when I committed to country life, and a country husband. It wasn’t until I was forced to rethink convenience, and how to have it, that my diet and my patterns in the kitchen began to change. Learning to plan ahead, make do with what I’ve grown or what I have on hand has forced a certain kind of creativity in the kitchen. It doesn’t always end up in some remarkable creation, as a matter of fact most of the time, I end up with something quite simple, but just as delicious. Right now both dill and green beans are in season, and they go together beautifully.
One lone green bean plant made it through our most recent round of storms. Nonetheless, I dutifully cleared the garden of debris and planted new seeds. Green beans are a summer staple we simply can’t go without. They are a favorite in our house, and something we look forward to each summer. They are easy to grow, but a pain to harvest, which is why I don’t mind paying a fair price for them when I find them at the farmers’ market during summers where my garden crop seems to have taken a hit. This week’s recipe is a simple vegetable side perfect to serve with grilled chicken at dinner or double it up for an Independence Day barbecue.
The most time consuming part of this salad is trimming the stem ends off of fresh green beans. You have to wait for the water to come to a boil so as my grandmother used to say, “You might as well make yourself useful.”
1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest, from about ½ a lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a medium sized sauce pan bring salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil trim the stem ends of your green beans. Add beans to water. Let boil for about 2 ½ minutes. Strain the beans and run under cold water to slow the cooking process. Shake off excess water.
In the bottom of your serving bowl whisk together remaining ingredients. Add beans. Toss to coat. Garnish with a bit more lemon zest. Taste and add more salt or pepper as you see fit.
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