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Marissa Lingen

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Produce trio: defeated by wax beans [Aug. 11th, 2013|10:37 am]
Marissa Lingen
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Friends, I have been defeated by the wax bean.

I said, starting out this new blogging series, that I would give you three ways to eat a given fruit or vegetable. Three! Three is a culturally important number, and also it just isn’t that many, so the project isn’t overwhelming. But. Wax beans are delicate. Wax beans are subtle.

Wax beans are kind of wimps.

So I have two failed attempts and two successes, and you will have to pitch in and help me out here. The failed attempts: the first one was a hoisin sauce with rice vinegar, chopped fresh cilantro, and roasted (unsalted) peanuts. It was a really good sauce. Everybody ate it all right up and complimented the sauce. And the beans…disappeared. It was like eating bean-shaped sauce. This is not the goal! So we are going to put that sauce on something more robust, like salmon or broccoli or brussels sprouts. So okay, I thought. A bit more subtle. A bit more delicate. I sauteed the wax beans in sage brown butter. Sage brown butter! Everybody loves sage brown butter! (Especially me.) But again: the flavor ended up being bean-shaped sage brown butter. The beans just…disappeared.

Well, fee, I said, because I collect fake swears like that. So here are your two, count them, two wax bean suggestions, and please feel free to help me out in the comments:

1. Steamed with lemon juice. Yes, really. Simple. Nice. And it’s about all wax beans can take.

2. Roasted with a tiny bit of garlic. No, really, less garlic than that. This is one of the rare times where the phrase “one clove of garlic” makes any sense. For years and years I could not make it make sense, and now I know: it is for wax beans. Throw ‘em in the oven at 425 F for 12-15 minutes, and then eat. (This is also good with green beans. Green beans are more sure of themselves. Green beans stand up for themselves against other flavors. But we cannot live by green beans alone.)

Previous produce trio: cucumbers, and if you have more cucumber suggestions, please add them in the comments, because lordy do we have cucumbers. This morning in my weekly letter to Mark’s grandfather I told him I had been trying to remember to give cucumbers to all the people I see whom I like, and I was thinking of lowering the bar to people I see whom I am kind of lukewarm on. Because cucumbers. Uff da.


[User Picture]From: rushthatspeaks
2013-08-11 06:43 pm (UTC)
Even though the flavor of wax bean per se does not come through, exactly, hot and sour soup without them just is not hot and sour soup, and people the beanless soup is handed to will say that it is not that good and that it is missing something. This is not true of, say, the woods-ear mushrooms and lily blossoms that also traditionally go in. Those can be left out with impunity if they are hard to find. Wax beans, no.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-08-12 12:04 am (UTC)
I have never once had hot and sour soup with wax beans in. Never once.

Now I wonder if I am going to say, "O of course how marvelous!" or "Well, it's all right I guess but I don't feel the beans are necessary" when I do.
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[User Picture]From: rushthatspeaks
2013-08-12 02:30 am (UTC)
Huh. I am now wondering whether this is a regional thing, and if so whether it is regional in the U.S., China, or both. The restaurants I grew up on in Ohio were fairly generic 'we will Americanize the heck out of this so as not to scare the horses' places, and the ones around here are mostly Northern Chinese in several directions, with a few places which specialize in, say, dumplings or hot pot. They all seem to have about the same hot and sour. The recipe I use claims to be vaguely Sichuan.

1 tsp. + 1 1/2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. + 1 tbsp. rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp. + 1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. + 6 tbsp. water
5-6 oz. boneless pork (shoulder or loin are best) or fake meat of your choice, cut in very thin matchsticks
1 tbsp. canola oil
fat thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled, halved, and bruised slightly with a heavy object
30 dried tiger lily bulbs, reconstituted and ends removed
4 large dried shiitake, reconstituted, trimmed, and sliced in thin matchsticks
6 cups stock, chicken or vegetable is best, lowish on salt
~3/4 tbsp. white pepper
8 oz. firm/medium-firm tofu, drained by letting it sit on a paper-towel-covered plate for about a half hour, cut in either bite-sized cubes or matchsticks
30 wax beans, ends removed
1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp. sesame oil
~2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar/Chinese black vinegar if you have that
1 thinly sliced green onion for garnish

Stir together in a bowl the 1/4 tsp. salt, tsp. soy sauce, tsp. rice wine, 2 tsp. cornstarch, tsp. water. Add pork, coat all pieces, set aside.

In a large pot, heat oil over high heat. Add ginger and cook stirring frequently for about a minute, until the ginger is very fragrant. Add the lily bulbs and mushrooms, cook ~15 seconds until you can smell them, then pour in the stock.

Bring to a boil. Put beans in a wire sieve and dunk in boiling soup for 15 seconds. Take beans out and run them under cold water. Turn soup down to low simmer. Add the pork and tofu and let cook.

Combine remaining cornstarch and water. When the pork has cooked through (this will vary according to pork, just keep testing it), add beans, and bring soup up to medium simmer. Add cornstarch and water to soup in small amounts, aiming for a silky, thick texture that isn't gloppy. You may not need all the cornstarch mixture. Give the egg a final stir and pour into the pot in a wide circle; stir gently as it cooks into floating ribbons. Then add the vinegar. Taste and adjust with salt, white pepper, and vinegar. Ladle into bowls. Scatter green onion on top. Serve immediately.

Edited at 2013-08-12 02:31 am (UTC)
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