|Zydeco salad, a lovely mess. © Ryan Schierling|
I used to think there was no excuse for the unusually sweet, faintly acidic melange of pale green beans, even paler wax beans, and kidney beans that is three-bean salad. It always seemed to be a covered-dish dinner culinary cop out – open a few cans of the stuff, dump contents into Tupperware and stick a spoon in it.
There's a curious item on the menu at B&C Seafood in Vacherie, Louisiana called Zydeco Salad that goes like this – a bed of lettuce, some chopped tomato, olive salad (the kind that goes on a muffaletta sandwich), and three bean salad. After seeing it on a famous-teevee-food-personality's-motorcycle-road-tripping-the-length-of-the-Mississippi-mini-series, I tried to work out the flavor profile in my head, repressing any childhood trauma associated with three-bean salad. The lettuce would be crisp and fresh. The tomatoes would be earthy, acidic and a little sweet. The olive salad would have a complex, rich piquancy. The three bean salad would be a little sweet, a little tart, and have a slight tooth. Somehow, it seemed to work, and the more I considered it, the more I thought that maybe there was a singular, solitary purpose for three-bean salad after all.
This is another one of those charmingly-oddball and acutely-regional Southern dishes that fascinate me so, and as it turns out, it's a great throw-together summer salad. Make your own olive salad the day before or buy a jar of it at the grocer if you've got a favorite brand.
4 cups shredded lettuce (we used half iceberg, half green leaf)
2 medium tomatoes, sliced into wedges
8 ounces olive salad
1 15-ounce can three-bean salad, drained
Place the lettuce on a platter. Top with the tomatoes, then the olive salad, then the three-bean salad.
1 1/2 cups chopped green olives with pimentos
1/2 cup chopped black olives (or kalamata)
1 cup chopped Italian giardiniera
4 pepperoncini, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped capers
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
1 cup good olive oil
There's a lot of chopping going on here, but it can be as rough or fine as you like depending on how you prefer your olive salad. If you like it chunky, make it so. Mix all ingredients well and refrigerate overnight. Let come to room temperature before using in Zydeco salad.