July 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Simply the Best

Green beans sparkle in a Fourth of July salad

Green beans and chopped, mixed, fresh herbs give potato salad a needed makeover. (Foodnetwork.com)

You cant have a July 4th picnic without potato salad, it just wouldnt be patriotic. As have the rest of you, Ive eaten more than my share of potato salads during my many summers and honestly, I cant recall any standouts. Usually theres too much mayonnaise (or worse, Miracle Whip), the potatoes are either under or overcooked, the celery too chunky and crunchy (and too abundant) and the flavor is as bland as an old rubber band, no matter how many ingredients are in there. But I go ahead and mound it on my plate anyway next to the burger, when I should be saving the calories for dessert.

One delicious way to conquer the pathetic potato dish is to add some crisp green beans for color, crunch and flavor (so long, celery) and a handful of fresh herbs and some lemon zest to bring out the picnic fireworks long before dark.

Summer savory is my favorite herb to use with green beans, and I use it often, simply mincing a few leaves to sprinkle on the beans along with some salt and pepper. I went on a quest earlier this season to find a few plants so that I would never be without (check your local garden center or farmers market), and the flavor it imparts makes all the difference.

Green beans paired with the potatoes is just the dish Im looking for for a fantastic Fourth meal, and because theres no mayo, I can enjoy an extra scoop of homemade ice cream for dessert.

Green Beans and Fingerling Potato Salad

Recipe can be halved for smaller crowd.

2 pounds purple and/or white fingerling potatoes, scrubbed
1 pound green beans, trimmed
cup chopped, mixed, fresh herbs, such as chives and garlic chives (with blossoms, if desired) and thyme, parsley, mint and summer savory leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

In a large kettle, simmer potatoes in salted water to cover until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes, and drain in a large colander.

In a large saucepan, cook beans in 3 inches salted boiling water over high heat until crisp-tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer beans to colander with potatoes and drain well.

In a large bowl, toss together warm potatoes, beans, herbs, oil, zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Salad may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Serve salad warm or at room temperature. Serves 12.

Per serving: 90 calories; 2 g fat (0.3 g saturated fat; 20 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 2 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 102 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber.