Saturday, July 8, 2017

Blistered String Beans with Tamarind Butter










For some folks, July is a treacherous month for relationships. Think Dr. V and I. He likes cold, I like hot. He is a 65-degree-Farenheit-kind-a-person; I am getting close to 90. He uses air conditioning; I do not. (Can't help it, I grew up without the device, and do not see the point.) So every July, Dr. V and I come THIS CLOSE to separating because of my obsession to "grill" with a force of a Jedi with windows open and air-conditioner turned off.

Like 99% of unfortunate city dwellers, Dr. V and I get to see a grill in real life only when we pay a visit to our friends in Westchester and New Jersey. And that's something I have a hard time coming to terms with. Can't help it. Come summer, folks all over the country will put on their flip-flops, light up a fire or two, and spend lazy afternoons flipping burgers, steaks and alike, while sipping on a lemonade or deadly cold IPA, and you are telling me that we -- the unfortunate city dwellers -- we are not invited to the party??? Sorry folks, but I refuse to accept it. A girl might be deprived of a grill, but who says that a girl should give up on the overall experience. Think broiler, stove, wok, and cast iron skillet (Dr. V's nemesis). Or pretty much anything that produces extreme amounts of heat. And that's where the troubles begin... And some name-calling takes place... Occasionally Dr. V slams the door and leaves the apartment, threatening never to come back. But he always does. He likes to think that's because he is a flexible and forgiving individual, while deep inside we both know that's because of the tamarind butter.

Speaking of which...

I've always had a fascination with grilling veggies, but I am afraid that at the moment it's going slightly out of control. The "grill" is on every night and I am alternating between old time favorites, like Petits Pois à la Française Redux, and new experiments, like Blistered String Beans with Tamarind Butter. Take a look, just take a look, aren't they beauties? And if you think that the photo is yummy, wait until you try the dish. I kept the beans under the broiler for six minutes only, up until they started to blister, and that glorious purple began to turn green but not quite so, and the stalks were still crisp, and then I splashed them with tamarind butter and sprinkled with herbs and scallions.

Tamarind butter is my BFF, because: a) it makes my hubby return home (each and every time), and b) it pairs like a charm with just about anything that comes off the grill, while you look like Daniel Humm. Steak. Chicken. Brussels sprouts. Broccoli. Scallion. Snow peas. It's just not fair how many things you can make with it. Potatoes, yes, forgot the potatoes... Totally. Lamb (switch lime for lemon). Lobster (don't add garlic, don't put any acids, just have lemon on the side). Ditto with white fish. Corn (most definitely with lime, and a bottle of sriracha). And of course, carrots (sprinkle with some chipotle and cumin before roasting/grilling, then serve with butter on top). Pork chop (add sherry vinegar instead of lime). Roasted cabbage. Romaine. Peas. (Yes, I grill peas.) Give it a try (and by that I mean the butter not the peas), and drop me an email if you found a use for it I could not think of. Dying to hear.

Happy grilling folks!

p.s. Forgot the eggplant. Add that to the list... Zucchini is good too.







Blistered String Beans with Tamarind Lime Butter


for the beans

* 1 1/2 - 2 lbs string beans
* olive oil
* salt and freshly ground pepper


for the butter

* 6 tbsp butter, softened
* 5 oz tamarind
* 1 garlic cloves, crushed
* zest of one lime
* a drop or two Tabasco sauce


to garnish


* lime wedges, chopped scallion, herbs (fresh ricotta or queso fresco goes well too)


First clean and pulp the tamarind. If you are doing it for the first time, this might sound elaborate, but it's actually quite simple (and most importantly, the flavor of freshly extracted tamarind paste is superior to anything that comes out of a jar). To clean the tamarind you first want to break open the shell and take the fruit out. If the tamarind is ripe, this should be easy peasy. The next step is to gently pull off the fibers (the veins) from around the fruit. Once all the fruit is shell- and vein-free, place it in a small bowl, and pour a generous 1/2 cup of boiling water over it. (The fruit should be almost completely covered in water.) Let the fruit soak for about 15-30 minutes. Squeeze the fruit with your hands, to release the pulp. Keep on squeezing until no pulp remains on the seeds. Discard the seeds and pass the paste through a sieve, so that no particles remain. This will yield about 1/2 cup of thick tamarind paste.

Wash the string beans and dry them carefully. Trim the ends.

Cut the butter into cubes. Place the butter into a small saucepan and let it soften over low heat. Stir in the tamarind paste. Mix well until everything is fully incorporated and the mixture becomes emulsified.

Add the garlic, and lime zest. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the broiler. Drizzle the string beans with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the string beans on a baking pan in one layer. Do not overcrowd the pan. Place under the broiler, and broil turning the string beans occasionally, until crisp-tender and lightly charred, about 6 minutes or so.

Transfer the string beans to a platter and toss with the tamarind butter. (I usually allow the string beans to come close to room temperature, that's how I like them the best. In the meantime, keep the butter warm over very very very low heat.) Garnish with freshly cut scallions, herbs, and lime wedges. Serve.


Serves 6

4 comments :

  1. It looks spectacular and delicious Aleksandra. Love both the idea of blistered green beans and tamarind butter. I have never worked with fresh tamarind before, actually I have never seen them around here. Where do you get? Happy grilling.

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    1. Actually, you'll be surprised how many places in NYC have tamarind, it's just that they usually keep it in weird places so it's not something one immediately notices. My local Whole Foods (Tribeca) has it all the time, and so does Fairways on the UWS (hidden under the shelf, together with fresh dates. And it's packed in a cardboard box so you have to know what you are looking for.) Happy grilling!

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