Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vegetables For Lunch - Chinese-style sauteed green beans with garlic, ginger and soy

Over the past year, I have had the immense pleasure of going to my sister's house for dinner, sometimes several days a week.  Over the past decade, I didn't realize how much I was missing vegetables in my diet. A simple salad, steamed broccoli, or even just mushrooms on a piece of pizza... I can feel my body reveling in the addition of whatever goodness vegetables inject into it.  This was the inspiration of today's pantry-purging light lunch.

While considering what to eat before heading out to work, I realized that I didn't want anything huge or heavy.  Luckily, I had a couple of large handfuls of green beans in the refrigerator that were not earmarked for anything in particular.  So I hopped online and searched for sauteed green beans and came up with this recipe.  It was everything I always look for when searching for inspiration for a dish I've never made before. It was simple... in technique, number of ingredients and most importantly, in number of dishes I'd have to wash afterward.

Now, people often ask me how I come up with new recipes to make myself and my answer is always the same.  I'm a thief.  I'm a plagiarist. But I am also undaunted by things like a lack of access to ingredients.  I looked at this recipe and thought to myself, "Of the ingredients this calls for, I only have green beans, garlic and soy sauce...  So what?" When cooking on a budget and especially when cooking for just yourself (hence, no audience to judge any mistakes you might make) substitutions help to shut down that anxious part of your brain that says, "Oh just make a PB&J, that'll be good enough."

Another anxiety-reducing technique I use when cooking something completely new  is to "pseudo-code" a recipe before I step foot in the kitchen.

Yes, I have a pad of Post-Its from a training session at work entitled "The Power of You."  Don't ask.

I didn't really use any measurements this time, so I'll have to estimate what I did for this one.  As for every recipe that I will most likely ever post, this was designed to make enough for me... just me.  If you're cooking for more than one person, just use your multiplication tables (ahem... calculator) to decide for yourself how much you want to make.

1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tbsp butter (I rarely have unsalted butter in my house unless I'm actually planning on baking something)
1 large handful of green beans, trimmed
pinch of kosher salt
1/3 of a vidalia onion, sliced very thinly
1 small garlic clove, minced
pinch of crushed red pepper

Sauce (combine these in a small bowl, measuring cup... you know, anywhere but your hands because that would be unnecessarily messy):
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp dried ginger (feel free to be heavy handed here, I used closer to a heaping half teaspoon)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp granulated sugar

Heat oil and butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming, add green beans 
and a small pinch of salt.  Saute the green beans, stirring very infrequently (you want them to caramelize and get brown.)  I did this for about 7 or 8 minutes (or so, I don't really remember).  Pull out the green beans and add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper.  The pan should be fairly hot at this point, so this time you can stir fairly vigorously (think "stir-fry") so that the garlic doesn't burn.  Let everything soften for about 45 seconds.  Add the sauce and turn heat up to medium-high to bring everything to a boil.  Let the sauce reduce for about another 30-45 seconds and add the green beans back in and toss to coat.   Let the beans cook in the sauce for another 30-45 seconds and pull out the vegetables with a pair of tongs.  The remaining sauce is yours to play with.  Pour it over rice, save it to use as a dipping sauce for dumplings, egg rolls, etc.

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