The beans in this recipe are not so typical and neither is the salsa. It’s different. Good-different. I purchased the Mexico issue from Saveur a while ago, read through it in about an hour and was so inspired by the flavours, colours, stories and intricacies of cuisine brought forth. Rick Bayless, one of my favourite chef personalities, has a fantastic piece in it describing the culinary landscape of the country. I find inspiration all around pretty regularly, but this is whole ‘nother level kind of stuff.
String beans usually get the steam-and-serve-on-the-side treatment so I was pretty stoked to get weird with them in this dish. Summertime makes us rich in this particular vegetable and since the heat is just raging on (I’m not ready to even contemplate pumpkin’s existence yet), I’m using them up.
I spent some time in more rural parts of Mexico when I was a teenager. I don’t remember eating anything exactly like this, but the boldness of the flavour, its vibrance and colour, the simple goodness of it, really brought me back to those quieter nights away from the hotspots. Warm tortillas scooping up homemade delicacies. Simple sweets that you only needed a teeny bit of. I can still see the sprawling, bare landscape and the small houses dolled up with strings of lights from all the way out here.
So anyway, there was a page in the issue on salsa called Special Sauce, describing the ubiquitous condiment as “an endless journey.” I was drawn in immediately. There’s a pretty typical formula we think of when we hear “salsa” in North America, but in its home country, the varieties that span the varying landscapes are in the thousands. Every home, every community, climate, state etc. makes it differently according to what is available and what particular food application is going to come about. Some types are universally used throughout the country, but this riff on a fried peanut-based salsa is more popular in and around Chiapas.
We didn’t have any peanuts, but almonds are always plentiful here and I love them paired with green beans. That combination is classic for a reason. The time had come to roast them to the edge of burnt with some hot peppers from the garden and then grind the whole mess up with oil, lime, salt and garlic. I toss some blanched beans and fragrant brown rice in that rich, fiery paste and top it off with more toasted nuts, soft and cooling goat cheese and fresh lime zest. It’s crunchy, fresh, rich, toasty, creamy and fairly hot. It’s wonderful. So much variety and influences on one plate taking you everywhere at once.
beans + rice toss with spicy roasted almond salsa and goat cheese
notes: This recipe makes more than enough salsa. It combines pretty perfectly with any cooked protein you could scheme up. Also, I used two cherry hot peppers because that’s what we have out back. They aren’t crazy hot, so adjust the recipe accordingly to what you have/how fiery you want it.
1/2 cup almonds
2 small hot peppers
1 large clove of garlic, un-peeled (or 2 regular ones)
zest of 1/2 a lime (zest the whole thing and save the rest for garnishing the dish at the end)
juice of a whole lime
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
fat pinch of salt
1 lb string beans, tough ends removed
3/4 cup cooked brown rice
additional toasted almonds
big handful of crumbled goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
Place the almonds on a small, parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the hot peppers and garlic on a separate parchment-lined sheet. Put both sheets in the oven. Roast almonds for about 12 minutes or until very brown and toasty. Continue roasting peppers and garlic for another 12 minutes, or until shrivelled and browned/blackened. Remove from the oven to cool.
Save for a small handful, place all of the almonds in a food processor. Remove the stem from the hot peppers and the skin from the garlic. Add these to the food processor along with the lime zest, juice, grapeseed oil and salt. Pulse until a smooth (but still textured) paste forms. Scrape out of the food processor and set aside.
Set up a large bowl with some ice in it for shocking the beans when they come out of the hot water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Add a good pinch of salt and dump the trimmed beans in. Simmer until beans are crisp-tender, about 8-9 minutes. Drain the beans and place them in the ice water. Stir them around until adequately chilled. Drain the beans and set aside.
Toss the drained beans and brown rice with half of the salsa in a large bowl until everything is thoroughly coated. Place beans and rice on your serving plate. Chop residual toasted almonds and sprinkle on top of beans and rice. Garnish with goat cheese and lime zest. Serve at room temperature.