Many a potluck or summer cookout has been graced with a bowl of three-bean salad, and I have to confess that I usually skip right over it. The combination of beans and herbs just never really tasted all that exciting to me, so to jazz things up and make it more substantial, I tinkered with the recipe and added chewy pearl couscous and a ton of fresh herbs to this picnic classic.
Some bean salads use all canned beans, but I prefer mixing in some fresh green beans and bright yellow wax beans now that it's summer. The fresh beans need to be cooked, of course, so I throw them into the pot of simmering pearl couscous to get it all done in one fell swoop.
Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, is really nothing like regular couscous. To me, it's like a tiny chewy pasta, and I love it in salads because it soaks up dressing easily without turning mushy.
The dressing for this salad is a mixture of pantry staples: olive oil, red wine vinegar, and Dijon mustard, punched up with some diced red onion. The key to this flavorful salad is dressing the couscous and beans while still warm; they absorb the dressing and really make the whole dish much tastier. After the mixture cools down, toss in big handfuls of fresh dill and parsley. Be patient and wait to do this step until the very end; otherwise any residual heat will cause them to wilt and lose their beautiful green color!
This salad is vegan and makes a great side dish, but I love a big bowlful of it at lunch or for a light dinner. Throw it into the cooler for your next BBQ, picnic, or summer beach day!
3-Bean Israeli Couscous Salad
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon fine salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
2 cups water
4 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 ounces yellow wax beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Whisk 3 tablespoons of the oil, onion, vinegar, Dijon, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and pepper in a large bowl until combined; set aside while you cook the couscous.
Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and light golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Add the water and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir to combine, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 7 minutes. Add the green and yellow beans and stir to combine. Cover the pot and cook until the couscous and green beans are tender, about 3 minutes more. Drain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any excess cooking liquid.
Transfer the hot couscous mixture to the bowl of dressing, add the kidney beans, and stir to combine. Let sit 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, to cool and let the flavors combine. Stir in the dill and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Beans: If you can't find yellow wax beans, just substitute with more green beans.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make ahead: The salad can be made without herbs up to 2 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Stir in the fresh herbs just before serving.