Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blistered Green Beans: Holy Smokes!

I recently purchased the season’s most beautiful green beans at the market: perfectly formed, deep green, tender, and still rich with the earth’s muskiness. I bit into one and instinctivey knew that little more was necessary than a quick turn in the pan.

On the drive home, mulling over those lovely green beans, my mind did a quick search and brought up the fabulous fried beans served at PF Chang’s. The ones that are so addictive you can’t eat just one. Something like that, but without the tempura business. I recalled a Sichuan recipe I had snipped out of Cooking Light magazine with stir-fried green beans in a spicy red pepper sauce. It made my mouth water thinking about them.

I was right, these will make your mouth water, too. Beware: they are hot and addictive, so have something cool and refreshing close at hand. Here’s my highly recommended version.

Blistered Green Beans
Inspired by Cooking Light magazine 9/08

1 lb green beans, trimmed
1 tbsp oil, divided
1/4 cup onion or shallots, chop well
1 ½ tbsp garlic, mince
1 tbsp ginger, peel and grate
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt

Blanch green beans in salted boiling water for about 2 minutes, until tender-crisp and rinse in cool water. Drain, place on towels and pat dry to avoid pan spattering. (Can be prepped ahead)

When ready, heat large deep skillet or wok over high heat and add 1 1/2 tsp oil to coat interior. Add beans and stir-fry 3 minutes or until blistered and browned; remove them from the pan.

Add remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil to the pan and coat interior. Add onion or shallots, garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper; stir fry briefly until garlic begins to brown. Return beans to pan. Add vinegar, soy and salt. Toss to combine and reheat. Depending on heat tolerance, serves 4 to 6 ~~

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In a Pickle, with Corn Coblets

It’s corn season again and I've reached the point where I've managed to satiate myself with the thrill of fresh sweet corn straight off the cob, and I'm finally ready to consider new ways to cook it.

I had burgers on the grill coming up recently, and I wanted to offer a different condiment beyond standard dill pickles and such. I started mulling over the idea of Asian pickled baby corn which I use in antipasto and crudités platters, especially during the winter, when I need more variety in color or shape. They also add a nice tanginess and contrast to the standard vegetable and olive fare.

Thus, with a little luck combined with a fresh supply of corn on the cob, pickled corn coblets were conceived.  It only takes a day or two in their pickling liquid, and they are good to go.  They are a great alternative condiment - and so addictive that I even snack on them straight out of the fridge. They are a wonder at picnics and a surprise at potlucks. Here's a handy bonus: they are even good hot and don’t require any further seasoning - such as a good slathering of butter and/or lime.

Once the new thrill wore off, I even experimented with cutting the corn off the cob and I've added the kernels to salads and pasta dishes.  They give a crisp, refreshing zing - and I promise, they will certainly catch your attention.

Corn Coblets, Pickled

3 ears corn, husk, wash, trim, and cut into 3/4" coblets
4-5 sprigs oregano, rinsed

Pickling liquid
2 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups water
1/4 cup salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled, slightly flattened
2 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
4 whole hot dried chili peppers

Prepare the pickling liquid: bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil. Reduce heat and add garlic, bay, cloves, and hot peppers and simmer 3-4 minutes.

Add corn coblets and simmer briefly - depending on corn tenderness, an additional 2-3 minutes. Don't overcook.

Pack corn into a glass container interspersed with oregano, garlic and peppers; cover with pickling liquid and seal. Cool, and store in fridge 1-2 days before using. Will last up to a month in fridge. Yield: 1 qt or more ~~


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