Produce Superstars: Long Beans Are Ready for Their Closeup

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It wasn’t very long ago when long beans showed up only on the menus of authentic Chinese restaurants or in  well-stocked Asian produce markets. Not so any more. Long beans, also known as Chinese long beans or long-podded cowpeas, are turning up more and more in Bay Area farmer’s markets, and in fact, are in season now.  These beans, usually 15-18 inches long, are a climbing annual vine widely grown and eaten in southern China and southeast Asia. Nutritionally, it’s hard to do better, containing as they do, protein, vitamins A and C, folate, magnesium and manganese. In the kitchen, you can treat them as you would green beans, although it seems to me they are a little firmer and do better with high-heat cooking methods. They stand up well to assertive seasonings such as ginger, garlic, toasted sesame oil, fermented black beans, chili, curry and soy sauce. My recipe for long beans with garlic, ginger and black bean sauce is after the jump.

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LONG BEANS WITH GARLIC, GINGER AND BLACK BEAN SAUCE

sesame oil or canola oil

1 pound long beans, ends trimmed, cut into 3-inch lengths

1-2 cloves garlic and a 1-inch piece of ginger, both peeled and minced or julienned

1 tablespoon mirin (optional)

1-2 teaspoons soy sauce

1-2 tablespoons prepared black bean and garlic sauce (to taste)

3 tablespoons water

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce, chili paste, etc. or to taste (optional, if you like things spicy)

a little squeeze of fresh lemon juice

a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds as garnish (optional)

As for all stir frying, have your ingredients assembled and prepped before you begin cooking. Get your wok hot, add enough sesame or canola to create a thin film on the bottom and sides.  Toss in the long beans, garlic and ginger and stir fry for about three minutes. Add the mirin, black bean sauce, soy sauce and water.  Cover and steam two minutes.  Uncover and add the optional ingredients, if used.  Taste and adjust seasonings, and stir fry an additional minute or until the long beans reach the degree of doneness you prefer.  Serve immediately, garnished with toasted sesame seeds if you like. Serves four.

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