Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Long View/Grow Your Own

Update: This Grow Your Own entry to follow made it late into the roundup due to a technical glitch, so graciously guest hosted by Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi. Special thanks to them for being so conscientious to add in those entries that somehow got lost originally.

You really won't want to miss the amazing lineup of sweet and savory delights folks have come up with, even in the heat of July. I will admit to a bit of "tomato envy", our plants here in Central Texas are not setting much fruit this year. In a few minutes I head off to the Farmer's Market to see if more experienced growers are having better luck. Meanwhile, enjoy the Grow Your Own RoundUp!

I really enjoy the internet.  I can barely remember how it was to try to shop and prepare food without the opportunity to sit down at a computer, enter the name of an ingredient or style of dish, and have the resources of all sorts of amazing amateur and professional chefs popping up on my monitor in a neatly arranged list, just to help me get the best out of my dinner plans.

That said, occasionally I run across an ingredient that seems to have shunned even it's internet 15 seconds of fame.  
When I began to look for recipes for the Chinese Long Beans I got in this week's CSA basket for instance, I was able to find several resources telling me about the beans, but not so many simple recipes that didn't call for ingredients I didn't already have on hand or more time than I had to spend.

If I were a more knowledgeable cook, or had a better stocked pantry, I'd probably have had more luck locating a recipe I could easily duplicate. But if those conditions applied, I probably would not have been sitting in front of my computer last night searching for simple recipes to prepare Chinese Long Beans in the first place. 

So there I was, looking for some reasonable way to prepare the beans, but wanting a full on recipe, not simply comments along the lines of "these beans are often best stir-fried".  Then I found it.  Jaden's Steamy Kitchen.  Or rather, I found the recipe on her web site for Stir Fried Chinese Long Beans.

It was everything I needed.  A simple preparation style, short ingredient list, and the finished dish would be ready in barely 15 minutes including time to prep the beans.  

Going in, I knew I had to make two major accommodations.  First, I don't currently have a wok.
I know, I know, stifle your squawks and protestations.  If I was any kind of  a "real" cook, blah blah blah.  We currently have a ceramic cook top/grill combination for a stove top, all electric, no gas.  I tried a wok with a ring over the ceramic cooktop and it didn't work so I got rid of it years ago.  I've been knocking out meals wokless from this kitchen for over two decades now and nobody has starved to death yet.  

Second, this recipe calls for three tablespoons of fish sauce.
Folks, I just bought my first ever bottle of fish sauce a couple of weeks ago.  I tend towards the "Gack!" end of the "Loving/Hating It" scale when it comes to pronounced fish flavors.   I am one of "those people" who order their Caesar salad anchovyless.  The closest I've gotten to sardines as an adult is to occasionally buy and then open a can of them for my husband to eat, in the other room, smashed on crackers (the sardines, not my husband).  

But I am stretching myself with this whole CSA basket experiment to begin with, so boldly going into fishy territory where I have never been before is just part of the (cough!) fun.  So. OK.  This recipe calls for three tablespoons of fish sauce.  I figured I would use one tablespoon of fish sauce and substitute in low sodium tamari for the other two tablespoons. I don't have a wok but I do have an electric skillet that heats up really quickly, has a good lid, and will allow me to just as quickly reduce the heat to finish the recipe.  

Then I had a brain flash. If I included one of our home grown jalapeño peppers in the dish, I could expand the deserved exposure of this particular recipe and some of these amazing websites generally as part of a Grow Your Own submission. A great side dish, a GYO post, a chance to tout some of the amazing food blogs out there. A blogger's hat trick if ever there was one. Onward.

Here is the recipe as written:

[Recipe Correction: Please note in the recipe to follow, the correct amount of fish sauce is 3 teaspoons, not 3 tablespoons as pointed out by Jaden Hair of the Steamy Kitchen herself in the comments below. As the originally reported recipe was central to parts of the post, I left the quantities unchanged in the recipe copy per se. /Deb] 

Stir-Fried Chinese Long Beans
1 lb Chinese Long Beans, washed and trimmed to 3″ lengths
2 tsp Garlic, minced
1/4 c Water
3 Tb Fish Sauce (Three Crabs Brand)
1 tsp Sugar

Heat up your wok, add oil. When barely smoking, add minced garlic. Fry just for a few seconds until fragrant, but not brown. You want to make sure that you don’t wait too long before adding the garlic to the oil, otherwise the oil will be too hot and the garlic will burn.

Add your long beans, fry in wok for 30 seconds, incorporating the garlic throughout the beans.

Add water, fish sauce and sugar. Cover the wok. Let the beans steam for 5 minutes on medium heat. Check to see if beans are almost tender, but not too soft. If not, re-cover and steam an additional 1 minute. Uncover, let the rest of the liquid evaporate, about an additional minute. Serve.

And here is how it looked when I tried this MyWay.  I served the beans as one of two sides with grilled jalapeño nilgai sausage.  Since I had the spicy sausage, I threw the seeded, minced, red ripened jalapeño from our garden into the beans along with the fish sauce/water/sugar combo to echo.  The little red jalapeño was not especially hot and it pretty much just melted into the bean sauce, as I'd hoped.  

Since I had two pepper spiced dishes in the meal, I countered that a bit with a first run at an eggplant casserole recipe from that little church cookbook I picked up a few weeks ago.  The casserole was rich and creamy, just the thing to counter the garlicky beans and the spicy sausage.  
The beans were delicious but I think even the low sodium soy concentrated in the cooked down sauce was just a bit too much saltiness in combination with the garlic.  Although the tablespoon of fish sauce was extremely aromatically fishy going in, the final flavor of the dish was richly layered and complex.  There was not really any one note or element you'd put your finger on as "fishy", the garlic pretty much took care of that.  I may have been a bit overgenerous with the garlic in retrospect. I am a lifelong garlic lover and as careful as I might have been with adding in fish sauce, that is just about how lackadaisical I was with measuring the amounts of garlic I used in this recipe.  

Next time?  On the next go round with long beans I will try two tablespoons of the fish sauce and leave the soy out altogether.  I will watch the garlic and stick (closer) to the amount called for and see where that finds us.  I'll definitely keep the jalapeño in, and if they are out of season I'll sub in pepper flakes.  

If I decide to grow long beans in our garden next year, I will hopefully have all the time and beans I will need to range further afield into the more complex recipes I unearthed in last night's search. While reading about the beans (and not finding recipes), I discovered they are prolific producers, very tolerant of hot temperatures.  That makes them just about a perfect candidate for Texas summers in small gardens.  Could be next July I'll be doing a Grow Your Own post with my own beans and jalapeño.  

Finally - a few words about some of the amazingly professional and ambitious blogs out there.  

I confess - from time to time I suffer big time blogger's envy.  Ms. Hair is not only an amazing cook, but she is writing her own cookbook, does all her own food photography and staging for both the book and the blog, has several newspaper columns on food, and appears regularly doing live cooking demonstrations on morning TV.  She has a service on her blog where she will even help you learn how to and then create and send your own cards.  Physically apparent three dimensional ones, not the electronic sort.  I didn't quite get all the way in to every aspect of her site but would not be surprised on going back to discover a section detailing "How I Spin Straw Into Gold".

Ms. Jaden is an extremely talented and prolific person.  Having my very small scale blog appearing on the same internet as Jaden's Steamy Kitchen, Andrea's Recipes, Jugalbandi and so many other incredible blogs on food and cooking is, well, a bit chastening.

It all calls into mind a t-shirt I spotted recently.  
So why do I seem to care? Because it's fun, that's why. And it's great to be in such good company, actually. I don't confuse what I am doing with the likes of Jaden or Andrea or the folks at Serious Eats or Mark Bittman of the Times. I simply enjoy the gardening, the CSA baskets, the cooking, the eating, and then sharing all that with you. And that is enough for me.


bee said...

thanks for dropping by, deb, and for your lovely GYO entry. i often see this ingredient at the thai grocer, but don't buy it 'cos i don' know what to do with it. now i do.

SteamyKitchen said...

Hey! Nice beans you got there. And actually, you caught a typo in my recipe - 3tbl of fish sauce should have been 3 tsp! oooops!

In fact - I'm modifying the recipe right now - I'm going to take out the fish sauce altogether and use oyster sauce in the recipe instead...

If you have more beans, email me and we can work on a revised recipe together.

Andrea said...

My husband would agree on the fish sauce gack factor, and I'm not supposed to even have any in the house, but he doesn't know about my small bottle stashed away in the back of the spice cabinet. Thai food just doesn't taste the same if there's no fish sauce. I usually substitute oyster sauce for fish sauce if hubby is around. :-)

Anonymous said...

sorry deb. the first 5 entries got messed up somehow and yours happened to be one of them. have added it to the roundup. will show up soon.

once again my apologies. jai

zlamushka said...

fish sauce cooking, yum! Love the T-shirt. You re right, I care, too, because it IS fun :-)
Home-grown thingies ROCK!
I am happy to discover your blog. I came here through Jugalbandi, as I am featuring their blog in this month´s Tried And Tasted, I hope you are participating.