This quick skillet dinner is inspired by the dry-sautéed string beans with pork that’s been my go-to whenever I order in from my neighborhood Chinese restaurant. The vegetable is so lip-smackingly good cooked that way – blistered and lightly charred but still crisp-tender – I cannot resist it.
It turns out, the technique is also so easy that, since first trying it myself when testing this recipe, it has officially become my new favorite way to cook green beans. Just put a little oil in a skillet, get it nice and hot, then sear the green beans, tossing now and then, until they take on that alluring texture and color.
Besides the searing technique, what also intrigues me about this particular Chinese dish is how it uses a small amount of meat as a flavoring agent rather than as a main feature. From a nutritional point-of-view, this is one way to include animal protein in your life healthfully while tipping the overall balance toward more plant-based foods.
For this recipe, I used those dry-saute and meat-as-accent techniques for a saucy, savory dish with flavors that lean toward North Africa and the Middle East. Once the green beans are cooked, they’re removed from the skillet and ground lamb is added to brown with shallot (or onion) and garlic.
Then a can of tomatoes goes in, followed by a sprinkle of earthy cumin and coriander and a warming hint of cinnamon. Once that cooks down a bit, the blistered green beans are added back to the skillet and coated with the richly flavorful, meaty sauce.
Served on a bed of nutty bulgur or brown rice, with a fresh sprinkle of mint leaves, it’s a fast and tasty weeknight meal that’s globally influenced and healthfully balanced.
Blistered Green Beans With Lamb and Aromatic Spices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound green beans, trimmed
¼ plus ⅛ teaspoon fine salt, divided
8 ounces ground lamb
¼ cup finely diced shallot or onion
3 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
One (14-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juices
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups cooked bulgur or brown rice, for serving
2 tablespoons small or torn large mint leaves
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the green beans, season with ⅛ teaspoon of salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, until the beans are firm-tender and charred and blistered in spots, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer the green beans to a bowl.
Add the lamb and shallot or onion to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until aromatic, an additional 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes, cumin, red pepper flakes, coriander, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, the black pepper and cinnamon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the ingredients have melded, about 3 minutes.
Return the green beans to the pan and toss to combine, then remove from the heat. To serve, divide the bulgur or rice among four plates, top with the lamb and green bean mixture, and garnish with the mint leaves.
Yield: 4 servings
Storage notes: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days.
Ellie Krieger is a cookbook author and registered nutritionist.