Cook this: Chauchas – summer beans – a la plancha from Green Fire

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“Fresh beans require few additional ingredients to produce a flavorful, nuanced dish,” says chef Francis Mallmann.

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Our cookbook of the week is Green Fire by Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with the author.

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“Chaucha” is the Argentinian nickname for fresh summer beans. A mix of greens, wax and romano seared a la plancha (or cast-iron plancha) and topped with a refreshing cucumber vinaigrette stars in this dish rich in contrasts.

“I like contrast. I don’t believe in harmony; harmony is for toddlers. As adults, we have to have clashes in our mouths of delicious things,” says Francis Mallmann.

“It’s like having lunch with four nuns; that would be so boring. But if you have a nun and you have an actor, then it’s interesting. And eating is the same thing. You need different personalities in your mouth, and then it makes you think. That’s what I love about cooking and cooking.

Preparing fresh beans on a plancha takes on a touch of levity, notes Mallmann. Cook them gently, slowly so that the heat does its job without burning them.

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Cooking over fire is fragile, he adds; doing it well requires intuition. “It’s not a brutal thing. It’s very tender.

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In Patagonia, Mallmann cooks on his plancha — which looks like a cast-iron coffee table — more often than any other method. The advantage of a large surface is that it allows cooking at different temperatures simultaneously, he points out. You can build the fire in one corner for quick cooking, then you have the rest of the surface to work with.

“So you can make a menu while you’re burning really fast – maybe prawns for entree. You make steaks on the side, which aren’t as hot, cooking them a little slower. And then you make a pancake for dessert,” says Mallmann. “All in one fire and in one place.”

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Green Light: Extraordinary Ways to Grill Fruits and Vegetables, from the Master of Fire Cooking by Francis Mallmann
In his new cookbook, Green Fire, Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann focuses on ways to grill fruits and vegetables over a real fire. Photo by Appetite by Random House

CHAUCHAS A LA PLANCHA WITH CUCUMBER VINAIGRETTE

1 lb (454 g) mixed young and tender beans such as green, butter and Romano, trimmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the griddle
1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Step 1

Prepare a medium-high heat and heat the plancha. (Or get out a large cast iron griddle if you’re cooking indoors.)

2nd step

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the beans. Return to a boil and cook for about 30 seconds (beans should turn bright green). Drain in a colander and run under cold water to cool.

Step 3

Whisk together the oil and vinegar in a bowl. Stir in the cucumber, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Step 4

Brush hot griddle with oil (if cooking indoors, heat griddle over medium-high heat, then brush with oil). Spread the beans on the hot surface and cook undisturbed until lightly charred in patches, 2 to 3 minutes. Using two wide spatulas (one in each hand), toss the beans, then brown the other side. They should be tender but still crunchy. Add half of the cucumber dressing to the beans and toss like a salad. Transfer to a wide, shallow serving dish and toss with the remaining dressing. Season to taste and serve.

Serves: 4

Recipe and image taken from Green Fire by Francis Mallmann. Copyright © 2022 Francis Mallmann. Photography © 2022 William Herefold. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by agreement with the publisher. All rights reserved.

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