Who wants to cook when it's 100 degrees outside? If you're raising your hand and saying, "I do! I do!" then go back to the Trident gum commercial you escaped from. Summer is when my mom used to make a gigantic tub of macaroni salad in the morning which she served with cold sliced ham for dinnertime. Maybe we'd get a wedge of iceberg lettuce if she was feeling particularly health conscious, but it was about keeping it simple on a hot evening.
Even though the temps here are more moderate in the summertime than in Southern California, I still like to make side dishes early in the day to reserve my afternoons for important stuff like sitting on the veranda, drinking wine and reading mysteries.
I picked a load of green beans from the growing dome a couple weeks ago along with some ripe, juicy tomatoes. At the farmers' market I bought some zucchini, both large and small, from a couple ladies who really know how to sell veggies.
Several days later I happened upon the green beans and zucchini in the produce drawer and since I didn't have any lettuce and wanted a salad, decided it was green bean salad time. I wanted the salad to be my main dish, so hunted around the internet and found a green bean and chayote salad recipe which was the inspiration for this one.
It tasted so good the first time that when we were invited to dinner at the neighbors' yurt I made it again. After we came home that evening I realized I had forgotten the cheese, but people happily ate it cheeseless, so it's a keeper, cheese or not.
Green Bean, Tomato and Zucchini Salad with Queso Fresco
2 medium zucchinis, diced into 1/2″ pieces
8 oz. green beans, chopped into about 2” pieces (about 2 heaping cups)
2 ripe tomatoes chopped (I used a mixture of yellow and red tomatoes)
A handful of chopped cilantro or 2 T cilantro pesto
1/4 cup crumbled Queso Fresco or feta cheese
Vinaigrette (This is optional)
3 T. apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 t agave sweetener, honey, or sugar (taste the dressing and if it needs more, add another squirt)
3 T. olive oil (use only 2 T if you are using cilantro pesto)
1. Fill a medium saucepan with water and set it over high heat to boil. While the water is fixing to boil, fill a large bowl with water and ice cubes. This is to blanch the green beans and zucchini.
2. When the water in the saucepan is boiling, add the green beans and a teaspoon or more of salt.
3. Once green beans have boiled for three minutes, add the diced zucchini and cook for another minute or two. Taste a green bean. It should be tender-crisp and still bright green. Remove the veggies with a slotted spoon, and place them in the bowl of ice water. Let sit for at least five minutes to stop them from cooking further. This will make those greenie beanies nice and crisp. Drain the veggies.
4. Place drained green beans and zucchini into a serving bowl. Add the diced tomatoes, cilantro (or cilantro pesto) and cheese. Mix until well combined. Add salt to taste.
5. If making the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients and add the oil last. Whisk quickly until the oil and vinegar look fully mixed. Pour vinaigrette over the salad, a little at a time. Don't let it swim in dressing like I did the first time. A little goes a long way. You may have extra dressing which makes an excellent steak marinade.
Enjoy your veggies, peeps!