Chipotle Black Bean Chili

Have you every wondered why black beans have become so popular in the United States in recent years? They’ve long been a staple in our south-of-the-border neighbor, Mexico, where they’re called frijoles negros.

Now, Americans have discovered that black beans not only are uniquely delicious but nutritious as well.

Few foods have as solid a nutritional profile as black beans. They are loaded with protein and fiber. As as far as antioxidants, black beans have at least eight different flavonoids, the color-producing phytonutrients pigments that work together with vitamins to help the body avoid oxygen-related damage.

Black beans also contain small amounts of omega 3-fatty acids, about three times that available from many other beans, including kidney beans.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed black beans in a variety of dishes from soups to stews to chilis, which brings me to following recipe, which was passed on to me by Mark Haley of Grand Forks.

Mark, who along with his wife, Bonnie, owns Bon Voyage Travel Agency, does the majority of cooking in their household. Recently, I shared with him my penchant for spicy foods, and not too long after that, he shared this black bean chili recipe with me.

I’ve yet to try the chili, mainly because Therese isn’t a big fan of spicy food and it contains a variety of hot pepper, chipotle. It’s one of those recipes that I’ll make when she’s out of town.

But that’s not to say I have to wait to try it.

Chipotle Black Bean Chili
1 pound Jimmy Dean Premium Pork Hot Sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
28 ounces chicken broth
1 14 1/2-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-ounce jar picante sauce
2 cups frozen diced hash browns
1 15 1/4-ounce can whole-kernel corn
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown sausage and ground beef. Drain fat.
Add remaining and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Black Beans and Rice Chili

Everyone loves a bowl of hot chili on a cold day. And add a little bit of rice to the mix and you have a meal that hardly needs any accompaniment.

Here’s a recipe from Zatarain’s for Black Beans and Rice Chili, a one-skillet meal complete with corn and red bell pepper for color and texture that could become a Super Bowl party standby for years to come.

Black Beans and Rice Chili
2 tablespoons oil, divided
1 pound ground beef
½ cup diced onion
½ cup diced red bell pepper
1 package Zatarain’s Black Beans and Rice
2 cups water
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 tablespoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Assorted toppings, such as shredded cheese, sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Add ground beef, onion and bell pepper; cook and stir until meat is no longer pink. Drain fat.
Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil, rice mix, water, tomatoes, corn, chili powder, garlic powder and crushed red pepper.
Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 25 minute or until most of the water is absorbed and rice is tender. Stir occasionally to prevent rice and beans from sticking. Serve with assorted toppings, if desired.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per: 321 calories, 734 milligrams 2odium, 13 grams fat, 32 grams carbohydrates, 45 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams fiber 19 grams protein.

Tuscan Ham and Bean Soup

It’s hard to beat a sandwich made with leftover ham. Add a little cheese to the mix, and you have something that can be quite special if complemented with a nice condiment such as Dijon mustard.

But there’s a large segment of the population that might disagrees. Especially those people who grew up using the leftover ham in a good bean soup.

You can probably count me in the latter camp, since my dad always made bean soup with our leftover holiday ham. And without a doubt, I’ve rarely had any since that can match his.

I’m hoping to re-create a little of that magic later this week, since we’re having ham for our New Year’s Day dinner. However, I plan on putting a few more potatoes and carrots in my soup than Dad used in his as well as a little Italian seasoning for a Tuscan flair.

The recipe can be made in a pot on the stovetop or in a slow cooker.

Tuscan Ham and Bean Soup
1 pound small red potatoes, cut into fourths (about 3 cups)
4 medium carrots, sliced (2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped (½ cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 15-ounce cans great northern beans, drained, rinsed
3½ cups chicken broth
2 cups diced fully cooked ham
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1  tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, mix all ingredients except parsley and oil.
Cover: cook on Low heat setting 8 to 10 hours.
Stir in parsley and oil before serving.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving:  380 calories, 8 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 25 milligrams cholesterol, 1,470 milligrams sodium, 50 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams dietary fiber, 27 grams protein, 4 grams sugar.

Tailgate Baked Beans

Football season is getting into full swing. College games already have been played, and the NFL start is just around the corner.

For  a lot of people, that means it’s also tailgating season. And one of the favorites of tailgaters is baked beans.

Here is  recipe from from TreeTop, since 1960, a Pacific Northwest grower-owned cooperative  that has provided premium, quality juices, fruit-based products and ingredients to consumers and most of the world’s leading manufacturers.

Tailgate Baked Beans
2 cups small white navy beans
6 to 8 slices thick sliced bacon
3 or 4 green onions, chopped, including tops
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup apple sauce
½ cup ketchup
2½ tablespoons   v i n e g a r
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon salt
Soak beans overnight or use quick soak method on bean package. After soaking, drain and rinse under cold water. Put in large pan and add 3½ cups water. Bring to a boil, turn to low and boil gently for about 45 minutes. Fry bacon until crisp, drain, and add bacon to beans. Then add  onion, bay leaf, garlic, salt and pepper. Continue to cook on simmer  until beans are tender. This will take about 1½ hours. More water may be added if necessary. Drain beans, reserving liquid. Remove bay leaf. Combine apple sauce, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard. Add to the beans along with 1 cup of the reserved bean liquid. Bake covered for 3 hours at 325 degrees adding more liquid, if necessary.
Note: Cut recipe in half to serve a smaller group.

Pickled Dilled Beans

Anyone who has green or yellow beans growing in their garden knows that there’s no stopping them if you keep picking them on a regular basis.

I’ve been harvesting beans (both green and yellow) for about three weeks from one row that’s about 40 feet long, and there’s no end in sight. A friend, Penny Cieklinski of Grand Forks, told me earlier this week she picked two supermarket grocery bags full of beans in her garden plot one night.

A lot of people just eat their beans fresh, while others like to can them. Personally, I prefer blanching and freezing beans. Most of those are used in soups, so it really doesn’t make much sense to can them.

We do, however, like to can some pickled beans. It’s been a couple of years since we did some. The last effort produced more than a dozen quarts, which have lasted two years. We generally eat them only on special occasions. We’re down to one jar, however, so I’m comtemplating doing another batch soon.

And here’s the recipe that I will use. It’s from a 1990 Kerr Kitchen Cookbook, billed as a home canning and freezing guide. It contains numerous recipes for canning fresh fruits and vegetables, including pickles, relishes and juices.

Pickled Dilled Beans
4 to 5 pounds fresh green or yellow wax beans
8 to 16 heads fresh dill
8 cloves garlic (optional)
4 cups white vinegar (5 percent acidity)
4 cups water
½ cup canning salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Wash and trim ends from beans. Cut into 4-inch lengths. In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, combine vinegar, water, pickling salt and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, in each hot pint jar, place 1 to 2 heads dills and 1 clove garlic. Firmly pack beans upright in jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Pour hot vinegar mixture into jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Carefully run a nonmetallic utensil down inside of jars to remove trapped air bubbles. Wipe jar tops and threads clean. Place hot lids on jars and screw bands on firmly Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
Yield: 8 pints.

Native American Nosh

Have you ever wondered about your family’s food traditions? Undoubtedly, many of them were brought to this country by your ancestors and have been passed on to succeeding generations. But there probably are some that had their origins right here.

A good example of that is the traditional foods of the original Americans, the Indians. Many of the foods that we take for granted were grown and eaten by Native Americans for years before they became part of a broader culinary demographic.

Three vegetables that fit into this category are corn, beans and squash, collectively known as the Three Sisters by Native Americans.

I had the opportunity to sample a couple of different dishes that contained those nutritional stalwarts today at UND’s Wellness Center. They were among some traditional foods of North Dakota tribes that are taking part in the 42nd annual Time Out Week, five days of cultural events, exhibits and entertainment organized by the UND Indian Studies Association.

Presenters Twyla Baker-Demaray and Amber Finley talked to a group of about 30 UND students and faculty about Native American cuisine and served up a couple of soups, a healthier version of Indian fry bread and an ice-cream sundae that was topped with a sauce made of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and honey.

Baker-Demaray, project director of the National Resource Center on Native American Aging, principal investigator for the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative, both at the Center for Rural Health at UND’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Finley, executive director of the Northstar Council, a private North Dakota Nonprofit Organization with the express mission of creating a Native American Cultural Center for the Greater Grand Forks community, also explained how their ancestors thrived on indigenous plants and animals.

My favorite dish at the demonstration was the Three Sisters Soup, which contained hominy (corn), butternut squash and kidney beans in a vegetable stock. While passing on the sundae, I did have some of the tasty berry sauce atop some gabooboo bread, which was cooked in a little oil in a cast-iron skillet instead of being deep-fried.

While I didn’t get the recipes from the UND event, here are a few other Native American recipes, the first courtesy of Donna LaChapelle and Patricia Chandler of the Leech Lake Chippewa tribe, the second from the late Hazel Dupree of Fort Peck Reservation near Poplar, Mont.

Three Sisters Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1 butternut or acorn squash, prebaked and pureed
½ cup corns
½ cup hominy, cooked
½ cup white beans
Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 3 to -5 minutes or until tender. Stir in curry powder, salt, coriander, and crushed red pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes to develop flavors. Stir in pureed squash. Cook 5 minutes or until headed through.
Serve warm with chives and plain yogurt, if desired.

Gabooboo Bread
5 cups enriched flour
5 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup warm water
¾ cup vegetable oil
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together. Mix milk and water together. Add milk mixture to the flour mixture.
Knead dough gently, form five equal sizes of dough balls. Set aside.
Flour table or cutting board and knead to form a 9-inch diameter round dough, about ¼-inch thick. Cook on top of stove at medium heat, in a skillet, with 2 tablespoons oil.
Rotate to brown and turn over to cook on the other side. Dough should take about 5 to 8 minutes to cook.
Yield: 5 9-inch rounds of bread.

Buffalo Chili
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound ground buffalo meat
2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo, minced
1 each, chopped: yellow onion, green bell pepper
¼ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 to 2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato puree
2 cups cooked or canned pinto beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup beef broth, homemade or canned, plus more if necessary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup masa harina
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the ground buffalo, breaking it up with a spoon, until well-browned and crumbled, 8 minutes. Add the chilies, onion, bell pepper, chili powder, coriander, cumin and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and tomato puree; simmer 15 minutes. Add the pinto beans, water and beef broth. Heat to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to simmer. Cook 30 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste; simmer 30 minutes. Gradually stir in the masa harina; cook until thickened lightly. Add more water or stock if the chili becomes too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 334 calories, 32 percent of calories from fat, 12 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 46 milligrams cholesterol, 35 grams carbohydrates, 22 grams protein, 1,337 milligrams sodium, 8 grams fiber.

Slow Cooker Ham and Lima Bean Soup

A lot of people believe it’s a good day to make soup when the weather outside is on the nasty side. That’s not a bad philosophy. But there others, including me, who think any day is a good day to put the soup pot on the stove. I think my dad was in the latter camp.

Today, with temperatures nearing 50 and the spring melt under way, would have been the type of day my dad would have made soup. One of his favorites to fix on a day like this was bean soup.

His bean soup always featured ham. He either used the leftovers from a Sunday ham dinner or if that wasn’t an option, he’d picked up some ham hocks or pork hocks at Erickson’s Meat Market in my hometown of Crookston, Minn.

The soup also featured a healthy dose of carrots, an onion, a couple of stalks of diced celery and, of course, beans. He used whatever we had on hand, which was either Great Northerns, navy or pinto beans. We usually had a good assortment of them, since my mom worked at Minnesota Bean and Pea Co., which was located just across the street from our house on the south side of town.

While bean soup wasn’t my favorite soup that my dad made (I much preferred his vegetable beef with homemade noodles by Mom), it still hit the spot. And let me say, there was nothing like a bowl of hot soup to soothe the soul and warm the body after an afternoon of playing outside in the runoff water in the streets.

Here’s a bean soup recipe from, a food app site where you can import and edit recipes from the most popular recipe sites by simply pasting a URL, add and edit your own recipes, create your own unlimited categories to organize your recipe library as well as plan menus for special events or regular meals, add meals and recipes to the calendar so you’re always on schedule, automatically arrange your shopping list the way you shop in the store and scale recipes to make the right amount.

The site has drawn rave reviews. The New York Times “loves Pepperplate,” Gaper’s Block calls Pepperplate “a food nerd’s fantasy app” and Serious Eats lists Pepperplate in it’s top 10 food apps.

Slow Cooker Ham and Lima Bean Soup
1½ cup dried lima beans, cannellini beans, or navy beans
6 cups water
2 cooked smoked pork hocks or 1 to 1½ pounds meaty ham bones
2¼ cups water
1 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken brother
1½ cups sliced celery (3 stalks)
1½ cups sliced carrots (3 medium)
1½ c sliced leeks
2 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 2½ teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1 bay leaf
3 c torn fresh kale or spinach
Ground pepper
Rinse beans. In 4-quart Dutch oven, combine beans and 6 cups water. Soak overnight. Or bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans, put in slow cooker.
Add pork hocks, 2¼ cups water, broth, celery, carrots, leeks, rosemary, ¼ teaspoon pepper, bay leaf. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 11 to 13 hours, or high heat 5½ to 6½ hours.
Remove pork hocks, cool. Mash beans slightly or put in blender and return. Cut meat off ham bones and return. Discard bones and bay leaf. Stir kale into soup. Season to taste.
Yield: Serves 6.

Chili Mole

Most people know that chili lovers fall into two categories: those who use beans and those who don’t. There are also those who say that chili should contain chunks of meat, not the ground variety.

When it comes to meat, it doesn’t really matter to me. However, beans are a must. For that matter, I can go for a chili that’s vegetarian as well as one full of meat.

And during Lent, if you’re looking for an alternative to fish, a meatless chili is just the ticket.

Here’s a recipe from Crescent Dragonwagon, who has been writing about bean cuisine for 40 years, dating back to “The Bean Book,” published in 1972, when she was just 18.

In her latest,”Bean by Bean: A Cookbook” (Workman, $15.95 paperback), Dragonwagon writes about how the perception of beans has changed in the ensuing years and how the number of readily available varieties has exploded. Here’s a recipe from that book, a bean-based chili loaded with complex flavors.

Chili Mole
1 pound dried black beans, picked over, rinsed and soaked
10 to 12 cups vegetable stock or broth (see note)
2 bay leaves
1 ancho (dried poblano) chili, stemmed
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, stemmed
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dark raisins
¼ cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and chopped (see note)
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds (see note)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper or to taste
¼ teaspoon anise seed
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika (see note)
1 tablespoon chili powder, preferably hot
Ground cloves
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 15- to 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste
1 to 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, diced
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, preferably natural
1 tablespoon tahini or 2 tablespoons freshly toasted sesame seeds
1 chipotle chili in adobo, stemmed
2 teaspoons adobo sauce
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey (optional)
Cook the beans. Drain soaked beans and rinse well. Place in a large, heavy pot; add enough stock to cover them by 1½ inches. Add bay leaves, ancho chili, whole stemmed jalapeno and a generous grinding of black pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Add the raisins. Continue cooking until the beans are nearly tender and the raisins have more or less disintegrated, 30 to 60 minutes longer.
About 20 minutes or so before the beans are done, spray a large, heavy skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Place it over medium heat, add olive oil and, when it’s hot, onions. Saute onions until they start to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in bell pepper, chopped jalapeno and poblano; saute for 2 minutes. Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, oregano, cayenne, anise seed, cinnamon, paprika, chili powder and a tiny pinch of cloves. Reduce the heat slightly and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until it just becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
Scrape the sauteed ingredients into the simmering beans. Deglaze the saute pot with a little bean stock, stirring to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return this liquid to the beans.
Add the tomatoes and their juice and the tomato paste to the bean pot and stir well. Simmer for another 10 minutes, then maintain at a simmer while you continue with the recipe.
Place chocolate, peanut butter, tahini, chipotle and adobo sauce in a food processor or blender. Add a generous ladleful of the simmering beans (including the whole ancho and jalapeño, if you can find them) and process to make a thick, highly seasoned paste.
Scrape the paste into the bean pot, turn the heat down as low as possible and add a generous portion of salt to taste. Simmer slowly, partially covered, until the seasonings are well blended, about 20 minutes longer.
Just before serving, pick out the bay leaves. If desired, mash a couple of ladlefuls of the beans against the sides of the pot to thicken the chili. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary, adding agave syrup or honey if more sweetness is desired. Serve immediately or let come to room temperature, then refrigerate, covered, overnight and reheat very gently the next day.
Yield: Serves 10.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 340 calories, 12 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 14 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams sugar, 13 grams fiber, 915 milligrams sodium, 93 milligrams calcium.
Note: A 12-ounce bottle of beer can be substituted for 1½ cups of the stock. Seed the chopped jalapeno that’s used in the saute for a milder chili. If you don’t have coriander seeds, increase the amount of ground coriander to 3½ teaspoons. Substitute ½ teaspoon smoked paprika for ½ teaspoon of the sweet paprika, if desired.

South-of-the-Border Black Bean Soup

Nothing beats the cold than a hot bowl of soup or chili. And if it has a little added kick, that’s even better.

With temperatures closer to seasonal averages than they have been all winter, I thought a pot of chili might be in order. I was thinking about one along the vegetarian line, since we’ve had our share of red meat the past couple of days.

But when Rick Branvold of rural Gilby, N.D., called me today inquiring about a black bean soup recipe that had been in the Herald a few years back, I changed my mind after looking over the recipe.

Branvold, a civilian employee at Grand Forks Air Force Base, said the soup has been a family favorite ever since it was published. He said his wife had called him at work about the recipe, and he was having trouble remembering the exact ingredients, so he decided to give me a call.

Here’s the recipe, which I can’t wait to try again.

South-of-the-Border Black Bean Soup
2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can no-salt added whole tomatoes, chopped
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 14.5-ounce can fat-free lower-sodium chicken broth
2 4-ounce cans whole green chilies, drained and coarsely chopped
1½ cups frozen corn
4 green onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
Light or no-fat sour cream, for garnish
Colby-jack reduced fat shredded cheese, for garnish
Baked tortilla chips, for garnish
Place all soup ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low setting 7 to 9 hours.
Ladle into bowls. Dollop with 1 tablespoon sour cream. Sprinkle one tablespoon shredded cheese over all and crush 4 chips on top.
Yield: Serves 8.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 157 calories, 10 percent of calories from fat, 2 grams fat (trace saturated), no cholesterol, 29 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 579 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber.

Green Bean Casserole — with a Twist

Green bean casserole is one of those side dishes that always seems to show up at holiday gatherings. Made with green beans, cream of mushroom soup and french-fried onions, the dish is traditional fare at Thanksgiving feasts in many homes around America.

We’ve had the casserole at some of our get-togethers over the years, although my family isn’t as fanatical as some about it. That’s usually because we have so many other sides that people like more.

For those of you who are adventuresome and are looking for a new side dish for the upcoming holiday, here is a green bean casserole with a little twist.

Green Bean Gratin
2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for the baking dish
¾ cup sliced shallots
1 red bell pepper, seeded, finely diced
8 to 10 ounces mixed sliced mushrooms such as shiitake (remove stems) and cremini
Kosher salt to taste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup dry sherry
2 cups whole milk or 2 percent milk
1 round (5¼ ounces) Boursin cheese (regular or light)
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
¾ cup sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or favorite casserole dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath. Add the beans to the boiling water and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the beans, then plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking. When beans are chilled, drain and set aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened and the mushrooms have given up their liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in the sherry, mixing well, then add the milk while whisking constantly. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute, then cook for 3 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the Boursin cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, lemon zest and tarragon. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Add the reserved green beans and toss to combine. Transfer to the baking dish. (The recipe may be prepared up to this point 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
To finish: In a small bowl, stir together the panko, Parmesan and almonds. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and pour over the bread crumb mixture and toss to combine. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the green beans. Bake until the topping is golden and the bean mixture is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
Note: You can trim and blanch the green beans for this recipe up to 2 days in advance. Store them in a plastic sealable bag in the refrigerator.
Yield: Serves 12 (generously as a side dish).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 277 calories, 61 percent of calories from fat, 20 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 18 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 446 milligrams sodium, 41 milligrams cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.