Wax Bean 'Pasta' Salad
Pasta salad is a classic summer dish, guaranteed to make an appearance at potlucks, picnics and barbecues. Why is this dish so popular? Because most pasta salad recipes involve very little prep work besides cooking the noodles, especially when store-bought pesto, mayo or dressings get involved. And since they can be served cold or at room temperature, pasta salads don’t need to be reheated — a major win for hot days.
But if you’re looking to mix up that pasta salad this year, skip some or all the noodles and try using wax beans instead. When cut into 2-inch pieces, the yellow-tinted beans resemble penne. They can be used raw or slightly sauteed, depending on the crunch and texture you desire. Not only does this vegetarian swap offer a gluten-free and super-healthful alternative to the traditional pasta salad, it also won’t get mushy, so you can make and dress this dish a few hours or even a day or two ahead of time.
To finish the dish, toss the cooked beans with traditional summer salad ingredients like feta or goat cheese, olives and cured meats. Or, if you’re looking to keep sodium in check, try a homemade spinach-and-basil pesto with juicy cherry tomatoes; offer Parmesan and other higher-sodium toppings on the side for guests.
Total Time: 20 min
Makes 4 to 6 servings
Spinach Basil Pesto Dressing:
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup packed spinach leaves, washed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or orange juice
1/4 cup unsalted pine nuts
Wax Bean “Pasta” Salad:
1 1/2 pounds wax beans, washed and trimmed
4 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
1 tablespoon diced shallot (optional)
Start by placing the basil, spinach, olive oil and lemon juice in a food processor or blender, then puree until smooth. Add in the pine nuts and puree again until the mixture has the consistency of a dressing. Add more oil or lemon juice as needed for your desired consistency. Set aside.
Cut the wax beans into pasta-size pieces, about 1 1/2 inches long. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a large skillet or saute pan, and heat over medium-high heat. When ready, carefully add the wax beans to the hot oil in batches, so not to overcrowd.
Cook the beans over medium-high heat until they’ve softened a little bit and charred where they’ve touched the pan, about 3 to 5 minutes. Toss the beans with a wooden spoon and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes. Place the cooked beans in a large serving bowl. Then continue cooking until all the beans have been sauteed.
Add half the pesto dressing, the cherry tomatoes and the shallots (if using) to the serving bowl, and toss with the warm wax beans until well-combined. Add more pesto to taste and serve the remainder of the dressing on the side. Cover and refrigerate the salad until you serve. It’s best within two days.
*Note: Use green beans in place of wax beans if not available at your grocery store or market.
Jessica Goldman Foung began the blog SodiumGirl.com to capture her adventures in a low-sodium life. She regularly writes about salt-free flavor tips and ingredient swaps. Her first cookbook was Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, and she is currently working on her second, to be released in 2016.