Austrian-Style Bean Salad

I recently made my first trip to the southeastern corner of Austria – Arnold Schwarzenegger territory. The wonderful city of Graz is the main hub of this area, but it is the famous wine region of the Steiermark with its rolling green hills that are dotted with wineries, farms and forests that make this a must-visit destination.

Our hosts for the weekend took us on a short drive into the heart of this region that borders Slovenia. We were headed for our first Buschenschank experience.

The very loose translation of this word is Bush Bar – implying something you might find in the jungles of Belize. In the Austrian sense, it is a common practice found throughout the region, and usually only occurring from Friday-Sunday. Most are located at wineries or farms in the region, serving food and drinks to visitors in rustic settings. The food is always served cold and only includes food that is produced in the immediate location – often just the farm or winery. The drink selection is local wine or water – sometimes herbal tea and that’s it. No coffee or cola at these locations because they take regionalism seriously.

One of the most common servings is the bean salad made from a local bean called Käferbohnen (known in English as a scarlet runner bean…but with a much cooler German name that latterly means beetle bean). These are large, intensely-flavored beans with a soft and fatty interior. The beans are often served with sliced onions, some tomatoes, a hint of vinegar, pumpkin-seed oil and some freshly grated horseradish. It is meal in itself…and especially delicious with a glass of locally produced wine like a fragrant and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Life and eating simply do not get much better than this experience!

Yield: makes about 4-6 servings

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