My 19-month-old daughter will eat green beans no matter how I cook them, so I almost always pick them up when I’m out shopping. The key to delicious green beans is to cook them until they are just tender but still have their characteristic crunch and snap. I love to first steam or boil them (sounds boring, but stay with me) and then amp up their flavor by sauteing them with warm spices. That formula inspired this week’s recipe. This dish is reminiscent of two of my favorite Chinese dishes: Xinjiang cumin lamb and blistered long beans. It features warming cumin seeds; fresh, zingy ginger; and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns – all in one dish. To help out hurried cooks (and busy parents) like me, I dropped the beans directly in a hot pan (skipping the boiling), so that they charred and softened at the same time in minutes.
You might see a few types of green beans at the market this time of year. This recipe calls for string beans, whose name refers to the long, fibrous strand that formerly had to be removed before eating (this has since been bred out of the most common strains of the vegetable). Haricots verts – those small and tender French string beans – and yellow wax beans are interchangeable with their more common green counterparts. I occasionally see Chinese long beans at the Union Square Greenmarket which are perfect for this recipe. Just trim them into bite-sized lengths before cooking. Regardless of which you buy, make sure to source dry, unblemished beans and store them in the fridge. If you accidentally bought too many, you can freeze them raw or blanched.
Photo by Louis Hansel
Yield: 4; Time: 25 minutes
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. whole Sichuan peppercorns
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 lb. Green beans, trimmed
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Kosher salt
- To a large skillet set over medium heat, add the cumin and Sichuan peppercorns and toast, swirling occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and grind coarsely. (Alternatively, transfer to a resealable bag and use a rolling pin to crush.)
- Turn the heat to medium-high. To the empty skillet, add the oil. When it’s hot and smoking, add the green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until charred in spots, wrinkly, and softened slightly, about 6 minutes. Stir in the ginger, garlic, and scallions and cook, stirring continuously, until fragrant (do not brown), about 1 minute.
- Stir in the sugar, salt to taste, and the reserved spice mixture. Serve hot.