Spicy Sweets and Green Beans 4.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

May 15, 2017

Marcus Samuelsson cooked this dish when President Barack Obama dined at the chef’s Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. The spiced butter used here is true to the version made by the chef's wife’s ethnic group in Ethiopia, the Gurage. You'll make much more than you need for this recipe, but you'll be happy to have it on hand for flavoring a simple baked sweet potato and all manner of sauteed vegetables (for starters).

You’ll need cheesecloth for straining the butter.

Make Ahead: The spiced butter can be refrigerated for several months. The berbere seasoning can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Where to Buy: Ajwain seeds (carom) for the spiced butter are available at Indian markets.

4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

  • For the spiced butter
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • One 1-inch piece peeled ginger root, smashed
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 3/4 teaspoon fenugreek seed
  • 3/4 teaspoon ajwain seed (see headnote)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • For the vegetables
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 6 whole cloves garlic (unpeeled)
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon store-bought or homemade berbere (see NOTE)
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • One 3-inch piece peeled ginger root, grated or minced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 or 2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and cut into 1/2-inch dice (1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives


For the spiced butter: Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the garlic, shallot, ginger, coriander, cumin and fenugreek seeds, ajwain, black pepper, cinnamon and turmeric. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally; if the solids begin to brown, pull the pan off the stove top for a while.

Remove from the heat; skim off all the foam and any floating seeds. Let sit for 10 minutes, or until the butter’s milk solids have sunk to the bottom of the saucepan. Strain through the cheesecloth into a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, discarding any solids. Cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The yield is about 1 1/2 cups. You’ll need 2 tablespoons for this recipe; refrigerate or freeze the rest for up to several months.

For the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the sweet potato slices with the oil and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the unpeeled garlic cloves on top; roast for about 20 minutes, then transfer the garlic to the cutting board. Return the sweet potatoes to the oven and roast for another 20 minutes, until tender.

Place the roasted sweet potato slices in a large mixing bowl, then squeeze in the roasted garlic cloves, discarding their skins. Use a fork to reduce the mixture to a chunky mash, then fold in the berbere.

Meanwhile, bring a deep saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a mixing bowl with water and ice.

Add the green beans to the pot; once the water returns to a boil, cook for 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer to the ice-water bath. Once they have cooled, drain and pat dry.

Melt the 2 tablespoons of spiced butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the red onion, ginger, jalapeños and a pinch of salt; cook for about 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until the onion has softened. Add the 1 1/2 cups of water; once that has begun to bubble, add the carrot and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in the mashed sweet potatoes and green beans; cook until evenly heated through. Remove from the heat; stir in the chives and taste for salt, adding more as needed. Serve hot.

NOTE: To make a berbere seasoning blend, combine 2 teaspoons coriander seed, 1 teaspoon fenugreek seed, 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 3 or 4 allspice berries, seeds from 6 green cardamom pods and 4 whole cloves in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Toast the spices for about 4 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then add 1/2 cup dried onion flakes and 5 stemmed and seeded dried arbol chiles. Grind the mixture in a dedicated spice grinder to a powder, then transfer to an airtight container; add 2 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. The yield is about 3/4 cup. Store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from “The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem,” by Marcus Samuelsson (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016).

Tested by Kara Elder and Bonnie S. Benwick.

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