Raja Green Beans

6 08 2010

Rajas are a Mexican dish, generally consisting of grilled, roasted, or otherwise charred peppers and onions in a creamy sauce made from, well, cream.  Or crema, which is more like crème fraîche.  I saw a lot of them on menus while living in Los Angeles and Dallas, but seem to have forgotten about them entirely until this week.

That charring is intentional.

Which is a shame, because all the ingredients are readily available in Paris, it’s a snap to prepare, and it scratches that Mexican food itch in a major way.  Rajas are a versatile beast, used as both a sauce for meats and as a stand-alone side dish.  Faced with a green bell pepper challenge from the CSA panier, I thought that rajas might be a hitherto unexplored green bell pepper-hiding device.

Green beans & rajas

I mean, it fits my criteria: a) charred beyond recognition, and b) combined with lots of other tasty things (in this case, poblano-like red corne peppers, red onions, and crème fraîche).  Using the raja mixture as a sauce for the green beans languishing in the crisper seemed like the right thing to do – I thought about adding some corn as well, but decided it would be overkill.  Plus, corn just isn’t the right shape.

Green beans in a spicy, creamy sauce with charred peppers and onions

I had planned to serve these over rice, with slices of seared flank steak on the side.  As it happened, a last-minute movie date with Meg and Barbra caused the dinner to morph into a picnic-able rice bowl (Mexican bento?), which I topped with sliced tomatoes.  The green beans didn’t seem at all out of place dressed in the smoky, creamy sauce, and were delicious with the spicy meat and juicy tomatoes.  Having given it a little more thought, I think these would be excellent topped with crumbled goat cheese, at which point they could nearly qualify as a main dish.

Read on for the (simple, and easily adaptable) recipe.

Raja Green Beans

The word “rajas” literally means “strips,” so the julienned vegetables make perfect sense paired with naturally strip-like green beans.  You can really use any peppers you like here, but at least one should be a spicy variety.  It’s also nice to have a range of colors – the red onion helps in this regard as well – though that’s really more of an aesthetic choice.

1 medium red onion, julienned (as in, sliced thinly, pole-to-pole)
1 green bell pepper, julienned
2 red corne peppers (or other mildly spicy peppers), julienned
12 oz. / 340 g green beans, trimmed and halved
5 oz. / 150 ml crème fraîche, Mexican crema, or sour cream
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil or other neutral oil such as grapeseed oil
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Squeeze of lime juice

  1. Heat a large skillet over very high heat.  Add the oil and when it shimmers, throw in the onions and peppers.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are charred and softened.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the green beans.  Cook, covered, until the green beans are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and dress with the crème fraîche.  Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lime juice.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes enough for 3-4 people as a side dish, 2 as a main course.

On this day in 2008: Chicken Pot Pie – Another Classic French Dish

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

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15 responses

7 08 2010
Hannah

Oooh, brilliant! I recently discovered how insanely delicious roasted green beans (roasted to browning-crispy at the edges) are, and now you’ve taken that one step further. Do you think this could work with natural yogurt or coconut crema, though, for the days when I’m feeling lactose-sensitive?

8 08 2010
croquecamille

Hannah – We’ve long been fans of roasted-crisp green beans (you can just eat them like French fries!), but then I like green beans just about any way, except canned. I think yogurt could work, if it wasn’t too watery. Coconut would add a different flavor – it might come out tasting kind of Indian – but there’s nothing wrong with that!

8 08 2010
Hannah

Hear hear! (Or here here?! Which is it?) I had canned green beans for the first time in Bruges (when I discovered too late that most supermarkets closed on Sundays and was left with a tiny cornerstore for my lunch), and was horrified at their mushy flavourless saltiness.

9 08 2010
Jessica

Mmmmm. Mexican food. You would think still living in the states that I wouldn’t be deprived, but I have yet to find some authentic mom and pop Mexican food in New York. This recipe seems like the perfect solution. You had me at peppers and creme fraiche anyway :)

9 08 2010
croquecamille

Hannah – I’m pretty sure it’s “hear.” (Ok, I just had to go look it up to make sure, and I LOVE this explanation.)

Jessica – I’m afraid Mexican food is a regional concept in the US – when I moved to Texas from SoCal, I was disapponted in the Mexican offerings there. The opposite happened to some friends of mine from Dallas – they complained that they couldn’t find any good Mexican in San Diego! Either way, try the recipe, I know you’ll like it!

9 08 2010
tasteofbeirut

sounds delicious! Unlike a lot of people, I like my green beans cooked a lot, the Lebanese way, and this dish is in the same lines, just more interesting to me at the moment.

9 08 2010
Grapefruit

Oh, delicious – bell peppers and green beans both are some of my favorite things. And this seems like such a flavorsome way to prepare them. I might take the heat up a notch and add chipotle peppers – or do you think that would ruin the dish?

10 08 2010
Hannah

Oh good, because “hear” is what I’ve always thought/written, but I suddenly got scared that I’ve been making a fool of myself :)

10 08 2010
croquecamille

tasteofbeirut – Thank you! What are the flavorings used for green beans in Lebanon?

Grapefruit – I think chipotles would be an excellent addition.

Hannah – As did I. Internet to the rescue! :)

10 08 2010
hungry dog

These look great! And I think they’d be fabulous with grilled steak. But it’s the phrase “Mexican bento” that really got me going. What a great idea!

11 08 2010
croquecamille

hungrydog – Next time you have to pack a lunch or a picnic, try it out!

8 09 2010
Sam

This looks really good, I’ve been getting green bean and peppers almost every week in my veg box. I like them both but it’s getting hard to come up with new things to do with them. I’ll be trying this next week.

9 09 2010
croquecamille

Sam – Oh, good! I hope you like it!

14 09 2010
Sam

I cooked this today, it was delicious! I didn’t have the hot peppers so I added a chilli I also added a clove of garlic but apart from that I followed your recipe, I loved it!

15 09 2010
croquecamille

Sam – I’m so happy to hear that!




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