There is nothing that makes me happier than a kitchen full of fresh produce. After my first winter in Chicago, I realized how much I took this for granted in Houston. The farmer’s markets there are year-round and there is a decent variety of produce even in the “dead” of winter. It’s slimmer pickins in Chicago in February, heck, even in April. The weeks of limited selection (citrus, kale, root veggies) during the winter and early spring here have given me a greater appreciation of the bountiful growing season and all the lovely produce it has to offer. I am averaging two trips a week to the farmer’s markets because I don’t want to miss anything. In Houston, I would go a week or two without checking in at my weekend local market. My attitude has changed here, where my day gets planned around the market, even during the week.
This recipe was inspired by the lovely haricot verts, or French green beans, that showed up at the market a few weeks ago. Haricot verts are more tender than regular green beans and are perfectly suited for summer salads. Over the past few weeks I have been tweaking the flavors in this dish, which is based on a a recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express . I gotta gush about this cookbook for a second. The recipes aren’t really recipes, more like paragraphs that loosely describe the amounts of ingredients and steps in a dish. It’s the way I cook in real life, and many of the recipes in Kitchen Express have served as inspiration points for me. I also love that it’s divided up by season, too.
So back to the dish. I never have trouble getting my boyfriend to eat his veggies, but if he was a pickier eater I think he’d still wolf down these green beans. There isn’t a ton of bacon in the recipe, just enough to satisfy a craving for something a little sinful. I also made this with regular green beans and it was just as tasty, though a bit heartier I think. They are a good substitute if you can’t find the delicate French green beans. I love the smokiness imparted by the Black Forest bacon, which also has less fat than regular bacon. If you can’t find it just substitute regular bacon and drain off some of the grease before you saute the onions. You only need a few tablespoons of veggie broth to steam the haricot verts, but again if that’s not something you keep on hand just use water. I did it once and it came out fine. Lastly, I used red quinoa because it was what I had on hand. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I’m sure regular quinoa or even rice would complement the dish nicely. It’s main purpose is to soak up all the tomatoey, bacony goodness from the beans. I have even skipped this step all together and used some crusty French bread to mop up my plate, with satisfying results
1 cup quinoa
3 slices Black Forest bacon (or regular bacon), sliced crosswise into slivers
1/2 half medium onion, chopped
1 pint mushrooms, washed, trimmed and sliced
1 bell pepper, sliced thin (I used a purple one, but green pepper works, too)
1 pound haricot verts or regular green beans, washed and stem ends trimmed
2-3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water
1 very large or two medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
salt to taste
Prep work: Slice the bacon. Chop the onion. Wash and remove the stems from the mushrooms, then slice the caps. Core the pepper and slice. Rinse the green beans and twist or chop off the stem ends (some people leave these on but I don’t like them). Seed and chop the tomato. Core the jalapeno and remove the seeds, then mince fine.
In a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes until most of the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let stand covered until ready to use.
Meanwhile, heat a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Once heated, add the sliced bacon and cook a few minutes until the fat is rendered. Add the onions and saute with the bacon a minute or two, until the onions begin to soften.
Add the mushrooms and continue sauteing until the mushrooms begin to soften and release their moisture. If the veggies are starting to stick you may need to add a splash of vegetable broth or water here, but just a splash.
Add the sliced bell pepper, haricot verts and the broth or water. Raise the heat to medium high and cover the pot. Steam for about 5-7 minutes, or until the green beans are tender but still have a nice bite to them. The last thing you want is mushy beans, so keep an eye on them.
Once the beans are steamed, add the tomato and the jalapeno, if using. Stir the veggies a few times to combine and heat the tomatoes through. Salt to taste, which will depend on how salty your bacon is.
Spoon some quinoa onto a plate and top with the green bean mixture, making sure to ladle on some of the lovely sauce at the bottom of the pot. Serve warm or at room temperature.