It's the season of overflowing market bags, heavy CSA boxes, and gardens run amok. Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra Cooks is showing us how to store, prep, and make the most of the bounty, without wasting a scrap.
Today: Discover all the ways you can get through your haul of beautiful green beans, starting with Madhur Jaffrey's spicy, vegan Masaledar Sem.
My hope is that most of you are still relishing no-cook dinners; still keeping your spice drawer indefinitely closed; still cherishing just-picked string beans, sweet local corn, and finally ripe home-grown tomatoes.
Because this golden period of primal eating never lasts long enough, and before we know it we'll have moved on to corn puddings, summer vegetable stratas, and breadcrumb-topped gratins, easing the oven back into its in-season regimen.
If you find yourself already looking forward to some cooler evenings, or want to mentally prepare for the change of seasons, here's a great dish to add to your late-summer repertoire: Madhur Jaffrey's Masaledar Sem, spicy green beans cooked with ginger, garlic, and chilies.
In masaledar sem, green beans simmer with both whole and ground spices as well as with a ginger-garlic paste, all of which combine to create an incredibly complex-tasting sauce, certain flavors detectable, others indiscernible. In Indian Cooking, Jaffrey describes this synergistic effect as "the genius of Indian cooking," explaining that "depending on how [spices] are used -- whole, ground, roasted, fried -- they can be coaxed into producing a much larger spectrum than you might first imagine."
More: But what of green beans' flatter cousin, Romano beans? There's an article for them, too.
Here, whole cumin seeds and crushed chile sizzle in hot oil first, instantly releasing a roasted, piney aroma. Next, a purée made with a substantial knob of ginger and 10 cloves of garlic browns briefly in the cumin-and-chile-flavored oil, forming the base of the sauce and providing a serious kick. A sprinkling of roasted and ground cumin seeds, a fine powder that only faintly resembles pre-ground jarred cumin, finishes the dish. Without these different treatments of the spices and seasonings, the depth of flavor in the sauce would be lost.
Masaledar sem certainly could be served as a side to chicken or pork -- or any meat, really -- but it also makes a lovely vegetarian entrée. Steamed basmati rice, warm naan, and a dollop of yogurt make it a complete meal -- perhaps not as elegant as blanched haricots verts sprinkled with sea salt, but a lovely showcase nonetheless of one of the most prized gifts of summer.
To store and prep your green beans:
More ways to cook your green beans:
1 1/2 pounds (750 grams) fresh green beans
1 piece fresh ginger 1 1/2 inches (4 centimeters) long and 1 inch (2 1/2 centimeters) thick, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 cups (350 milliliters) water, divided
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 dried hot chile, lightly crushed in a mortar, or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 medium tomatoes, peeled (optional) and finely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more or less to taste)
1 lemon, halved
1 teaspoon ground, roasted cumin
Freshly cracked black pepper
Photos by Alexandra Stafford
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