Welcome to SAVEUR’s column on how to cook local produce according to our test kitchen manager, Fatima Khawaja. This is where you’ll find creative, unfussy meal ideas plus plenty of cooking advice—like what to do with that bumper crop of zucchini or how to store delicate heirloom tomatoes. Every other week, Fatima hits the farmers market and chooses a peak-season ingredient to explore in depth. Follow along, and you’ll learn how to turn the season’s bounty into easy plant-based meals that’ll be on the table in under an hour.
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.
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. whole Sichuan peppercorns
- 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 large scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Kosher salt