Instead of oven roasting oiled vegetables, dry roast them on the stovetop without oil until they char. This technique gives the salsa its essential, deep flavor: slightly bitter and smoky. The salsa recipe is generous; I like to use about 1 cup of it over the beans and save the rest for another use.
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 6 cups water
- 1 pound fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and cut into 11⁄2-inch lengths
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 4 ounces Cotija cheese (a semi-soft Mexican cheese, similar to feta), crumbled
- 6 ounces avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 serrano chili
- 1 fresh poblano chili
- 2 plum tomatoes (such as Roma)
- 2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 2 slices from a large white or yellow onion, sliced 1/2-inch thick, skin removed
- 1 or 2 dried pasilla chilies, approximately 1/8 ounce
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- salt and sugar to taste
Heat a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add unpeeled serrano and poblano chilies, and cook, turning occasionally, until charred all over. (Cooking time will vary, but approximately 10 minutes will do.) Transfer peppers to a plate.
Place tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves in the skillet and cook, turning regularly, until charred. Remove tomatoes and garlic to plate.
Finally, place onion slices in the skillet and cook, flipping once, until both sides are evenly charred; transfer to plate.
When peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onions are cool enough to handle, peel the garlic and remove the charred skins from peppers and tomatoes, being sure to leave some charred bits in place to provide flavor. Stem and seed the chilies. (Wear rubber gloves when doing so.) Coarsely chop garlic, tomatoes, chilies and onions. Place all vegetables in food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of water, and process to a chunky purée; leave in processor, and set aside.
Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add pasilla chilies and cook, flipping once, until toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer chilies to a bowl and cover with 2 cups hot water; let sit for 20 minutes to soften. Drain water; peel, stem and seed chilies. Add to tomato mixture in food processor, and purée until mostly smooth, with some small texture remaining.
Transfer to a bowl, add cilantro, season with salt and sugar, and stir well. Cover and set aside.
In a large saucepan, add 1/4 teaspoon salt to 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the beans, and cook at a gentle boil until just crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans, rinse with cold water to cool quickly, and allow to drain completely.
Place beans in a large, shallow casserole or baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, and stir gently to coat. Gently stir in Cotija cheese. Spoon salsa evenly over top.
If serving immediately, top with avocado slices and sprinkle with lime juice. If transporting for picnic travel, cover bean-salsa mixture, pack lime juice and take uncut avocado. Peel and slice avocado, and add the lime juice immediately before serving. Best served at room temperature.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.