- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

My husband and I will be out of the country this July Fourth, but that won’t stop us from celebrating one of America’s most important holidays.

We’ll be renting a small European apartment with a tiny but workable kitchen, and we plan to gather a group of fellow patriots to enjoy a spread of favorites on this special day. We even have a little balcony where we can set up a grill for cooking outdoors.

Juicy burgers grilled over open flames will be topped with homemade guacamole salsa and crisp slices of bacon, then placed on toasted rolls. Baked beans seasoned with maple syrup (brought from home) also will be on the menu, along with coleslaw, old-fashioned potato salad and a colorful green bean, tomato and bacon salad. Strawberries and blueberries will garnish a lemon-scented pound cake for the final course.

The green bean salad is a new recipe I created for one of my cooking classes. I decided at the last minute to add one more dish to the roster for a course on backyard barbecuing. The class menu featured spicy grilled shrimp, lightly charred chili-rubbed sirloins, corn pudding and plum shortcakes. At the end of the session, one student after another appeared at my side to say that the salad would be the first dish they would make because it was simple to assemble, yet full of flavor.

The students were right in their assessment. Fresh green beans are blanched and combined with sliced grape or cherry tomatoes and bits of sauteed smoky bacon. This trio is then tossed together in a mustard-scented vinaigrette dressing and sprinkled with fresh snipped chives.

Mounded high on a platter, the salad makes an impressive accompaniment to such Independence Day specialties as grilled steaks or burgers, barbecued chicken or ribs. Although a recipe makes 6 servings, it can be increased easily for larger gatherings.

Green bean, tomato and bacon salad

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for beans and finished salad

Freshly ground black pepper

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pounds tender green beans, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces

9 to 10 slices bacon (about 8 or 9 ounces) cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pints (12 ounces) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise

3 tablespoons chopped chives or flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, mustard, 3/4 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of pepper in a small nonreactive bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil. (Dressing can be made 6 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature and whisk well before using.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the beans. Cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain in a colander and place under cold running water until beans are cold. Pat beans dry with a clean kitchen towel. (Beans can be prepared 6 hours ahead; place in a large bag, seal shut and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before needed.)

Fry bacon in batches in a large skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towel.

Place beans, bacon and tomatoes in a salad bowl. Pour half of dressing over the ingredients and mix well. Then add enough remaining dressing to coat well and toss to mix. Taste and season salad with more salt and pepper, if needed. Sprinkle with chives or parsley. Makes 6 servings.


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