It’s time for the ultimate showdown. The world holds its collective breath and waits while the final verdict is determined. In the battle of the beans, who will come out on top? A bean dish served warm with a cooked sweet and sour sauce, or is it a dish served cold (like revenge) with a simple shaken dressing?
It may be surprising to learn that I don’t actually remember eating bean salad until last summer. I’ve seen it on potluck tables my entire life. Who in the Midwest hasn’t? Usually nestled in there between some cheesy potato casserole and a layered Jell-O salad. The thing is, bean salad of any variety does not look that interesting. The colors are kind of clashy. It kind of has that look of a 70’s kitchen. It just doesn’t look like it would actually taste good. And everyone knows that we eat with our eyes first.
Ok, so these two recipes have a lot of similar ingredients. Both use kidney, wax, and green beans. The Sweet and Sour Bean combo allows for fresh. The 4 bean salad calls for cans. This is not major. Either could be switched out for the other (except good luck finding fresh kidney beans).
The cooked dressing in the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo calls for using the liquid from the beans. Do NOT use the liquid from the can of kidney beans. It does nothing for the texture of the sauce.
The 4 Bean Salad, as you will notice when you look at the recipe calls for 1 can of kidney beans, 1 can of green beans, and 1 can of wax beans. There is no fourth bean unless you are counting that it’s being served to a human bean…We discussed options for 4th bean. You could use both dark and light kidney beans or throw some edamame in there. Garbanzo might be ok. I think I’d veer away from canned lima, but frozen/thawed might be ok. And realistically, it was probably supposed to be called 3 Bean Salad, but people get moving too fast and write things down without thinking and then never bothered to change it.
The overall flavor of the cold 4 Bean Salad was much better than the hot Sweet and Sour Bean Combo. The only thing we liked about the Sweet and Sour Bean Combo was the kidney beans. This is not good. You should not make food where you only appreciate one ingredient of the finished dish. We tried it again the next day to see if the flavor was improved. It wasn’t.
Make the 4 Bean Salad. Add another bean if you like. I might think about reducing the sugar and using fresh beans. This salad is light and refreshing. It’s a compliment to whatever meat you are serving, but can also be used as an ingredient in a larger salad.
Make sure the onion is sliced thinly and you may even consider cutting it into half moons instead of rings. It all depends on how much you like large pieces of onion. If you are using olive oil instead of another type, you may end up with chunks of cold oil in your salad. This is perfectly normal. As the temperature rises, the chunks will melt back into oil. If you prefer, you can pretend it’s oil “caviar” and you have performed some feat of molecular gastronomy.