Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blistered Green Beans with Harissa and Toasted Almonds

Do you like green beans? Like them skillet-blackened and served with a vibrant Middle-Eastern chili paste? Then you will love this recipe. I adapted it from Bon Appétit's version, which calls for chilis you can't find in the northeast in winter. I used my cast-iron Lodge, and it's never been put to better use than in creating this tantalizing side dish.


serves 4-6

Ingredients

 

1 red bell pepper
3 dried red chilis (I used chiles de √°rbol, or bird's beak chilis)
3 garlic cloves, minced 
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more for seasoning 
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided 
juice from one lemon
1/4 tsp ground coriander 
1/4 tsp ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper 
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed 
1/4 cup unsalted almonds


Process

 

Preheat your oven to 425.

Stem and de-seed your red bell pepper. Chop into big pieces, lightly oil the pieces, then put them on a baking tray and into the oven. They will need about 20 minutes to char and soften. Flip once or twice.

Stem and seed your dried chilis (retain seeds of one or more if you want extra heat, but be careful--bird's beak chili seeds will not exactly glide soothingly down your esophagus).

Set a small pot of water to boil. Set your skillet on high heat and toast the chilis. Remove when they are browned on both sides--about 3-4 minutes.

Immerse the chilis in the boiling water. Let them soak for 15 minutes, then put them on the tray with the bell pepper pieces.

Place your almonds on the hot skillet. Toast for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, let cool, and chop.

This is a good time to trim those beans.

When the bell pepper pieces look soft and are beginning to wrinkle, with beautiful char marks on both sides, remove pan from oven.

While the peppers are cooling, throw together the garlic, salt, 1 Tbsp olive oil, lemon, cumin, and coriander. You can use a small blender or a mortar and pestle to mush the ingredients together. I used the latter implement.

Chop the bird's beak chilis and the bell pepper finely. Add them to the rest of the mixture and pulverize until you have a chunky sauce (or frantically pound with a potato masher, as I did when our blender proved useless and the mortar and pestle did not seem up to the task). You can add a little water if it helps. Add the almonds at this point.

Set your skillet on high heat again. Place your trimmed beans in a bowl and toss with 2 Tbsp oil, salt, and pepper.

Throw half the beans onto the skillet. It will take about 10 minutes for them to soften to a succulent yet firm state. Stir occasionally, letting the beans char all around.  When they appear done, throw them on the baking sheet and into the still-warm oven.

Pour your next batch onto the skillet.

When beans are finished, put them back in the bowl and toss with the harissa. Serve hot.

Notes


  • I tried this dish both hot and cold and it was better hot.
  • The heat level is mild to moderate without the seeds. Next time, I think I would keep the seeds of one chili for more fire.
  • All recipes tell you to remove the skin from roasted bell peppers. I reject this. It's healthy, delicious, and in no way a threat to the sauciness of the harissa. Leave the skin on, says I.
  • I love the beans al dente, putting up resistance like a prize fighter who doesn't want to go down. If you prefer a more tractable bean, blanch the beans in boiling water for 3-4 minutes and then plunge into ice water before putting them in the skillet.
  • The effect of the burning-hot, heavy cast iron is key to the success of this dish. If you lack a skillet, go buy one! But while you're waiting, you can make this on a grill or broil the beans for a similar effect.


Verdict


Side dish win! I would definitely make this again.


1 comment:

  1. Like a prize-fighter, eh? I assert that the first-boiled bean is the true bean and closer to al dente pasta. You want slight resistance, but not chewy-gristle. Blackened is definitely good, though, and these are very tasty.

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