Last spring, I was driving across Costa Rica with my family and we stopped in a cafeteria in a small mountain town. The place was called San Ramon el Jardín and they served food all day long, cooked by grandmas in what had to be the cleanest truck stop I had ever seen. We grabbed our trays, got in line and without comparing notes, all ended up with some of the local picadillo (a traditional ground beef dish) on our plates. We ate it with sticky yellow rice and avocado salad. I finished mine at the table with a little crushed fresh chile in vinegar. The food in Costa Rica is simple. It’s not about big flavors, but rather relies on more subtle notes to please the palate. The beef and green beans play well together and the easy elegance of this dish will quite simply blow your mind.


  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • cup minced shallot
  • ¼ cup minced cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 dried hot red chile, such as árbol
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ¾ lbs. green beans, thinly sliced crosswise on a bias
  • ¾ cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Pepper
  • Yellow rice and lime wedges, for serving


1. In a large skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mortar or spice grinder and let cool, then grind to a powder.
2. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallot, cilantro, garlic, oregano, chile, ground fennel and a generous pinch of salt and cook over high heat until the vegetables are softened, about 1 minute. Add the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until nicely browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the beans and stock and cook, stirring, until the beans are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve with yellow rice and lime wedges.


Andrew Zimmern


4 servings




Central American : Costa Rican



preparation times

• Total Time: 30 Minutes