I started to focus on cooking when my daughters were babies. I had a few family recipes under my belt, but not many more. This made social gatherings like potlucks and barbecues a bit challenging because I wouldn’t know what to bring. What would people like? How long would it take me to prepare? I didn’t have any sense about what to make. I remember one year in particular, when I was asked to bring a green salad to my Aunt Olga’s Fourth of July party. Normally, I would have been completely lost. Luckily, I watched a lot of Food Network at the time (still do) and happened to watch an Everyday Italian episode that featured Green Bean and Feta Salad. It sounded easy enough, so I made it.
It was a hit. My Aunt Annie, who was visiting from out of town, loved this dish. She liked it so much, later she would request it whenever she would visit. From the woman who gave us Chile Arbol, this was high praise indeed!
It was all I needed to nudge me along. Her sincere compliments encouraged me to continue my efforts with learning more dishes to cook, and I’ve been doing so every since. Every summer, particularly around the Fourth of July when green beans are coming into season, I come back to this recipe which brings back good memories of those times we shared when she’d come to town.
The flavor of the green beans is complimented by the grape tomatoes. You can use cherry tomatoes, too. I prefer to use heirlooms because the flavors are different, and the colors are pretty.
The trick to this salad is to parboil the green beans. This cooks them slightly, but retains the crispy snap. The ice bath is important because it stops the cooking. The green beans need to be undercooked, because the lemon juice, added later, will “cook” the green beans further.
I tweak it from the original, which calls for tuna. Instead, I substitute feta. I cut large-ish chunks from a brick instead of using crumbles. I find that the brick does eventually dissolve a bit into the salad, but there still will be large chunks to enjoy.
The lemon juice and herbs bring a nice finish to the salad.
I like it especially for potlucks or barbecues because it holds up well—better than leafy-green salad at least—when you set it out on the table. The amounts it makes can serve 6-8 people. You can make it more hearty by adding potatoes, but I normally don’t if I’m serving it at a potluck because oftentimes there will also be potato salad. Don’t wait for a potluck to try this out. It goes great with a rotisserie chicken from the store for a quick Friday night meal.
- 2 pounds green beans (if using slender, also cut in half across)
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
- ⅓ extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 14 oz grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- ½ cup feta, cubed
- Parboil the green beans first. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add the green beans at once, cooking for no more than 3 minutes. Remove quickly using a mesh strainer, and transfer to a large bowl with ice water (ice bath) to stop the cooking and keep the green beans slightly under cooked, but crisp.
- While green beans are cooling, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Place tomatoes, basil and parsley in a large serving bowl.
- Pat dry the green beans with a towel and add them to the bowl, tossing together.
- Add the dressing and feta and gently combine.
Adapted from Everyday Italian.