Last night Glenda returned from rehearsing with her trio carrying a bag of fresh green beans her brother, Jim, had been given by some friends with a farm near his house. With those in hand, a fresh red Anaheim pepper from the Binghamton farmers’ market, and some brown basmati rice I thought it a good night for a vegetarian dinner. This recipe, which I adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian (Clarkson Potter, NY 1999), also features preserved lemon often used in North African cuisine. Although most closely associated with Morocco, the ones I have found in specialty shops are usually from Egypt. There really is no substitute for preserved lemon, so if you have none just leave it out.
1 cup, about 6 ounces, brown basmati rice
½ pound green fresh green beans
1 medium red Anaheim, bell, or other sweet pepper
3 or 4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ to ½ preserved lemon, seeded (these are rather bitter, so start small)
1 dried hot red chile
2 cups water or stock (I used 50-50 water and some lamb stock I had in the freezer)
3 or 4 green cardamoms, bruised
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Rinse the brown basmati rice well in several changes of water and leave to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Trim each end of the beans and cut into one-inch lengths. Drop into the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes or until intensely green and just barely done. Drain and immediately plunge into the ice water. Drain again and set aside.
Char the red pepper over a gas flame, under a very hot broiler, or as I do, with a plumber’s torch. Wrap loosely in a kitchen towel to cool for a few minutes then rub off the charred skin. Cut in half lengthwise and remove the stem, seeds, and ribs. Slice into strips about ⅜ inch wide then cut those strips into 1 inch long pieces. Set aside.
Place the peeled garlic cloves on a cutting board and crush them with the blade of a chef’s knife. Slice lengthwise into coarse slivers. Chop the preserved lemon finely. Set aside.
Drain the rice and put into pot with tightly fitting lid along with the cardamoms, stock and/or water, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and cook over very low heat until all the water is absorbed, about 30 to 40 minutes.
When the rice is done, or nearly so, heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the dried red chile and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from the oil and discard. Put the garlic into the pan and fry for a few seconds being careful not to let it burn. Add the beans, Anaheim pepper, and preserved lemon. Toss for a couple of minutes until everything is warmed through. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately over the rice.