Friday, June 5, 2009

At Market...Chinese Long Beans

These beans are a sight to behold. They look like they might be out of a fairy tale, or the kind of beans you'd see at a farmers' market freak show in the booth around the corner, along with the 300 pound pumpkin and the double headed asparagus and the bearded pink ladies. But they are very real, and very common in Asian and African cuisines. It's a good thing they have found their way into our specialty grocers and green markets too, because despite their unusual appearance, their flavor is quite delicious. Not unlike a regular green bean, that has a certain toothiness and squeaks a bit in the mouth, these beans, when cooked properly, are crisp tender and have a nuttier taste than their shorter look-alikes. Also called yardlong beans, they are actually only about half a yard long, and should be harvested when the pods are slender, so they remain tender. (I'm a poet and didn't know it!)

So here, as promised, is the recipe from last night's dinner that uses those long beans. It is kind of similar to the Chicken with Green Beans and Black Bean Sauce recipe that I made awhile back, but it is wonderful in its own right. We first tried this recipe at a neighbor's house, when she stumbled upon it in an effort to use up some of her prolific garden's eggplants. We were all thrilled with the results and have eaten it many, many times since.

Szechuan Pork with Long Beans and Eggplant
serves 4

1 pound ground pork
1 t each, salt, pepper, cornstarch
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, grated or finely minced
1 t chile garlic paste
1 T black bean sauce
1 bunch long beans (or 1 pound green beans), cut into 3 inch segments
2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
sesame oil

1/4 C chicken broth
4 T soy sauce
1 T red wine vinegar
1 t cornstarch

Mix salt, pepper and 1 t cornstarch into pork and set aside. Heat 2 T vegetable oil in a wok, large skillet or large dutch oven. When almost smoking, add beans and eggplant and saute, stirring frequently, until tender (about 5 minutes). Remove from pan. Add 1 T more oil, ginger, garlic and black bean sauce. Stir until fragrant (about 30 seconds) and add pork and break apart with a spatula. Brown well. Add chile garlic sauce and stir. Push pork aside and add sauce mixture to the bottom of the pan. Stir until thickened, about 30 seconds. Incorporate pork and add back vegetables, tossing all with the sauce. Pour into serving bowl and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve hot with steamed jasmine rice.

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