A tasty and tongue-tingling starter (or side)
When you think of Mexican-style food, you may not picture salad. Let’s change that, shall we?
This green-bean salad works with any Mexican-themed meal. But its mild spicing plays well with other cuisines, too.
Healthy, tasty, versatile. That’s our kind of Mexican hat trick.
Recipe: Mexican-Spiced Green Bean Salad
Green beans are available throughout the year. But we like them best from May through October, when locally grown ones show up in our markets.
We found this dish in Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless, and have slightly adapted his recipe.
The salad dressing calls for green tomatillo salsa. You can use store-bought or make your own (see our post on Salsa Verde).
Prep time for this dish is about 15 minutes. This dish serves 4 as a starter or side.
For the green-bean salad:
- ~1 pound green beans
- kosher salt for seasoning the cooking water (to taste; see Notes)
- ½ red onion (or to taste)
- 2 or 3 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese for garnish (optional)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil (or other salad oil of choice)
- 4 tablespoons green tomatillo salsa (bottled or homemade; may substitute red salsa — see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 to 4 pinches kosher salt (to taste; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- additional chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
- We generally prepare the green beans several hours before serving, then let them dry: Place a large pot of water on the stovetop and bring it to a boil. While the water is heating, snip off the ends of the green beans (if necessary), then rinse the beans. When the water boils, pour a tablespoon or two of kosher salt (to taste) into the water to season it. Then add the green beans. Simmer the beans for 4 to 6 minutes, until cooked (to taste; we like ours slightly crunchy).
- When the green beans are done, drain them. Then immediately immerse the beans in a large bowl of ice water (use about a tray of ice cubes). Chill the green beans for a minute, then drain them again. Spread the green beans out on paper towels to dry.
- Peel the red onion and cut it in half. Cut one half of the onion into thin slices or dice it (reserve the other onion half for another use). Place the onion slices in an airtight container and refrigerate them until ready to make the salad.
- Crumble or grate the cotija cheese, if using. Place the cheese an airtight container and refrigerate it until ready to make the salad. See the next step for instructions on the cilantro garnish, if using.
- Make the salad dressing: Place the olive oil and salsa in a small lidded container. Squeeze the lime juice and add it to the container. Add a few pinches of kosher salt (to taste). Add the cumin. Wash and dry the cilantro, chop it, then add it to the container (you may want to reserve some chopped cilantro for garnish). Place the lid on the container, then shake it to combine the ingredients. Refrigerate the dressing in the container until ready to make the salad.
- When ready to make the salad: Place the green beans and red onion slices in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Shake the salad dressing again (it will probably have separated), then add about half the dressing to the green beans. Toss the beans, adding more salad dressing if necessary (you can refrigerate any remaining dressing for a few days, reserving it for another use).
- Plate the salad, then add a sprinkling of crumbled cotija cheese and/or chopped cilantro for garnish, if you wish. Serve and enjoy.
- You can blanch the green beans (Step 1) several hours ahead of time. We generally let the cooked beans sit out at room temperature, but you could refrigerate them if you wish.
- Don’t have tomatillo salsa? You could substitute red (tomato-based) salsa. But we think tomatillo salsa works better in this dish.
- We like to use red onion in this dish, but you could substitute white onion if you prefer.
- If your red onion is particularly small, just use the whole thing in this dish.
- Want additional veggie flavor? You could add some sliced fennel or leeks to this dish. We haven’t tried that, but it sounds good.
- Need a substitute for green beans? Bayless suggests sugar snap peas or Chinese long beans.
- We like cilantro (a lot). But if that isn’t your jam, you could substitute parsley. Or just skip it altogether.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If substituting table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Full of Beans
“Never thought about Mexican salads,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “But I’m cumin around to the idea.”
“And you thought I didn’t know beans!” I said.
“Well, you hit the mark with this one,” said Mrs K R. “My tongue is salsa dancing.”
Mine too. Cause these are some holy frijoles.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Salsa Verde with Roast Tomatillos
Salsa and Pcante Sauce
Beet and Red Onion Salad
Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad
Fennel, Orange, and Arugula Salad
Summer Green-Bean Salad
Or check out the index for more