17 Jul 2014
So I have a bit of a confession to make. I don’t like green beans. I know, I know… I’m a mom who’s basically spent half her life telling children to eat their vegetables and I write a whole blog encouraging people to try local vegetables. Here I am, revealing my own inconsistencies. But green beans are gross! Apparently this particular bias is inherited- my father also doesn’t like green beans so I probably didn’t eat them much growing up. Canned green beans will actually make me gag. Erk. So of course I’ve never grown green beans or Chinese long beans (Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis) even though I know the Chinese long beans grow well here in our humid summers. I did buy Chinese long beans at the farmers market once. If I remember correctly I either boiled or steamed them. They were tough and chewy and no one really liked them, so I never bought them again.
So over the weekend our next-door neighbor brought over a big bunch of long beans from his garden! I will never refuse free homegrown produce, ever. This time I did a bit more research before cooking. I have tried various preparations of green beans to see if they make this common vegetable more palatable. The only way I have found that green beans are actually pretty darn good are the spicy blistered green beans on some Chinese buffets. Little did I know that this Sichuan-region preparation is traditionally made with Chinese long beans! But we were having chicken and potatoes, and I didn’t think Sichuan pepper and chiles would blend well, so I used the traditional cooking method with new flavors. They turned out delicious!
Simple Balsamic Long Beans
This cooking method will work best if you have a large wok and a gas stove. I have neither of those, so I made them in batches in a large non-stick skillet over the highest heat my electric stove can do. Be patient, it’s worth it.
1 lb Chinese long beans
1-2 tbl sunflower oil, or any other oil suitable for high heat
Good balsamic vinegar- I used Mission Fig flavored balsamic vinegar, but any quality balsamic will work
Rinse your long beans well and dry them on a towel. You want them absolutely dry. Cut into thirds. Heat a wok or other large pan over high heat. When it’s really hot, add 1 tsp of oil and immediately add the green beans one handful at a time until the pan is full but all the beans are in one layer. Toss vigorously to get them all coated in oil, and then let the beans cook on one side for a full minute. The beans should be darkly blistered and brown. Keep tossing and pausing until the beans are well browned and totally wilted. Dump onto a plate. Repeat until all beans are cooked. Let the pan get really hot again. Dump all of the beans back in the wok, dress liberally with salt, and then pour about 2 tbl of balsamic vinegar in. Lift the pan off the heat and toss furiously until the vinegar has slightly thickened and the beans are coated. Pour onto a plate and serve immediately. Add more salt and vinegar if necessary.