Green Bean Salad with Blackberries and Citrus Vinaigrette

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of beautiful foods that start to show up at the Farmers Markets, and in my boxes from Backyard Produce. Since being in North Carolina, I have really missed the abundance of fresh produce that is so easy to come by in California, but Backyard Produce has definitely made my heart happy. It gives me a great opportunity to share some fresh beautiful foods with my kids, which is fantastic. It gets them excited about what might be on our table this week. It's a great way to come up with unique ways of mixing some  various different food items as well. You will find the recipe and instructions at the bottom of this post!

 This week we got some yummy blackberries. And green beans. I love both. I never thought of mixing them together until now, though. Who'd have thought those two items would go well together!
When you get organic you want to make sure you pick them over well. Snap the ends so that they are ready to blanch. I had some help with my beans. My four year old was extra helpful: He would snap the ends and then eat the beans. I had to take over otherwise we would have ended up with none for our salad. There is a connection, though, between letting children help in the kitchen and healthy eating habits. When they have lots of exposure to things that are new or different, and to where they come from and how they are prepared, they are more willing to try to eat them. That might account for why I eat the way I do also. At random, when we are grocery shopping, I'll let my older son pick something to bring home. We'll spend time researching what different cultures use this new food item for and then we choose something to make with it. It's helped tremendously with getting my picky, texture sensitive kids to eat new things. It's good to try things "raw" and free of other flavors first, also, so you will know what kind of palate you are working with.

 I knew that I wanted lots of flavor for my green beans. I've flavored them before in a lovely lemon vinaigrette, so I knew I wanted that in there. The blackberries added a subtle sweetness. Very summery! I have a great fondness for blackberries. Growing up we'd spend hours picking them from the bushes that grew wild near where we lived. We'd come home with purple fingers and buckets full of blackberries. (Boy, do I miss those days!) When you make jam you always throw in a splash of lemon juice. So in my mind lemon and blackberries make sense together. I also put the zest in my dressing as well.
 When I have doubts about food items, I use the good old fashioned rule of "When in doubt, leave it out!" If you start adding too many ingredients often times you can't tell what you're eating anymore. Choosing a few flavors to meld together is a good starting point for pairing foods and drinks, and if you are sensitive to new flavors it's definitely the way to go when trying new things.

Speaking of pairings, after tasting this salad, I knew a lovely glass of Sangria and a beautiful grilled steak would be amazing for a summer barbeque. There is a nice smokiness from caramalized onions, sweetness from the blackberries, tangyness from the lemon and balsamic dressing, and saltiness from the cheese on top. I can't wait to have some friends over and make this for them. An alternative to serving it plated would be to half the beans so they are smaller bite sized pieces and toss it all together in a pretty serving bowl. Add the dressing just before you are ready to eat and sprinkle the berries over the top. 

For your eating pleasure here is the recipe. 

For the Salad you need:
1 lb green beans, picked over and ends snapped
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/4 cup of feta goat cheese
6 oz basket of blackberries, picked over
1 tsp olive oil, for caramelizing the onion

For the dressing you need:
1 lemon, zested and the juice of half
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch your green beans for about 2 minutes. Cool them directly in a large bowl of ice water, or rinse immediately under cold water. You want them cooked, but to still "snap" when you break them in half. 

In a skillet with olive oil, caramelize your onion. This will take 10-15 minutes. You want a golden brown color to your onions.

I like to mix my dressing in a mason jar. Add all the ingredients listed above for the dressing, and shake until emulsified.

 In a large bowl, add the green beans and caramelized onions and mix together gently. Pour the dressing over the top and stir to coat all the beans. Sprinkle over the top the feta and blackberries. Serve at room temperature, or cool from the fridge.

This would make a great side for a potluck! Bon appetit!

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