String Bean Salad

Green Bean Salad

I read a lot of blogs, all kinds really, but one unifying theme is that most are written by women. I love women's voices, love that the internet is allowing so many more of them some space, and I love that many of us now have easy access to them. Perhaps my love for women's writing has something to do with why I've always been drawn to cookbooks. And a specific type of cookbook, too. The kind published in the 60s or 70s, at a moment when the publishing world was (and still is, for that matter) so dominated by men's voices, I really love that cookbooks and food writing (but usually in cookbook form) often gave women a space to fill for themselves.

One such writer is Miriam Ungerer, about whom you don't seem to hear too much these days. But I own a number of her books, and I always enjoy reading them, even if I don't always cook from them. As far as I know, she lives in the old whaling village of Sag Harbor, Long Island, and at least she used to write a column for the East Hampton Star. This one, for example, in which she reminisces about a conversation she once had with Muhammad Ali about his mother's peach cobbler. And there's also a little feminist part of me that wants to celebrate writers like her, whose voice is captured in a genre most of the literary circles never notice. Because I love women's writing.

Green Bean Salad 2 bowls

Not to mention that this green bean salad wasn't to shabby, either. Although if I learned one thing from my spectacular experience with the Frog Commissary's Peperonata, it's that boiled baby potatoes added to any summer salad make them not only more substantial, but even more delicious. So next time, that is what I'd do here. But otherwise, it's a good example of why, if you have the time, making our own dressing is well worth the effort. Ungerer calls this a once "bizarre combination" of ingredients, which seems strange to us now, in its obviousness. But evidently she was referring, at least in part, to the eating of cold string beans, now familiar to pretty much everyone.

String Bean Salad
Adapted from Miriam Ungerer's Summertime Food

1/2 pound tiny, fresh green beans, topped and tailed (in other words, remove both ends)
Handful of small cherry tomatoes, or small heirloom tomatoes if that's what you've got, halved
4 medium scallions, thinly sliced
Sauce Vinaigrette (follows)
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the beans into a pot of salted and rapidly boiling water and boil them until they turn dark green. This will only take about 3 minutes. Drain them right away and run them under cold water to stop them from cooking further. Set aside while you make the vinaigrette.

For the Sauce Vinaigrette

6 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 clove of garlic (not too big) passed through a press
Minced herbs, such as basil

Dump all of the ingredients into a jar with a sealed lid and give them a good shake.

Put the beans, and the rest of the salad ingredients into a salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve


Unknown said…
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lea said…
thanks for this, i was just looking for something to whip up tonight.
Mickle in NZ said…
A good looking salad, especially with the different coloured tomatoes you've used. I'll remember this one for next Summer (is Winter here "downunder")and the beans I'll grow and pick before they're fully mature. Thank you for sharing this.
Angela said…
Thanks for the introduction to Miriam Ungerer. It seems there are many lost voices of food writing to be rediscovered and it's wonderful to find them again, not to mention their recipes. Her vinaigrette is brilliant! So simple, so summer.
These wonderful oldies are like a recipe handed down from your grandmother, or at least the next best thing.
Sarah said…
Beautiful! The salad would be great with new potatoes, as you mention. I recently finished reading Tender at the Bone, a book by Ruth Reichl (who was the editor of Gourmet magazine until recently) and it has the wonderful voice of which you speak. It's the first part of her memoirs, and it's interspersed with recipes. One is a lovely potato salad, that was ingenious and delicious.
The temperature is just starting to go up and stay up. Once it does, I now have this lovely string bean salad to try, maybe with some chilled white wine and a hung of bread.

Eliana said…
Homemade salad dressing is definitely the way to go with any salad. Once I started making it at home, I never went back to the bottled stuff. More people should make their own dressings because it is so darn easy.
Anonymous said…
I love your insight into women's voices coming through in writing about food. It is very true, and talking about food is such a wonderful medium for storytelling. I just found an old Depression era cookbook called "Much Depends on Dinner" by Mary Grosvenor Ellsworth that is fascinating. Her voice is charming and chatty, and it all gives really interesting insights into the time period as well!
Unknown said…
another great cooking book:
Unknown said…
another great cooking book:
tracie said…
I have loved Miriam Ungerer since I found an original copy of her book "Good Cheap Food" at junk shop ten years ago. She has a great, great voice and I loved so many of the dishes I've made from her cookbooks.
Anonymous said…
I found the same book in the hall of my apartment building in NYC sixteen years ago! I still love that book even though it is essentially an unbound stack of paper at this point...Not only are the recipes great and affordable, but her anecdotal tone and humour make it a pleasure to pick up even if I'm not cooking.

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