Around this time of the year I never know what I'm going to find at the markets around Sonoma. I might start off looking for one thing and come back with another. It all depends on what looks fresh. This time of year some of the things that tend to look freshest are green beans.
Awhile back I'd been talking to a friend, another Indian food person in London, about old vegetables, particularly cauliflower. Now contrary to what one might have always thought, youngest is not always tastiest and there is some truth to the words, "You're not just getting older, you're getting better." At least when it comes to cauliflower. If you leave a cauliflower to mellow a few days or a week in the fridge, it only improves. You get a tasty vegetable without a lot of water that leaks out when cooking.With cauliflower, drier is better.
It's a bit different when it comes to green beans. The long greens are best cooked right away. The fridge shelf-life of a green bean is just a couple of days. After that they get bit limpy if you know what I mean. Crisp, fresh, crunchy. You only get that if you cook your beans within two days of buying them.
There are a great number of Indian bean recipes, and most of them call for Chinese long beans. These long skinny beans can be found at most Asian markets, but where I am here in Sonoma they're a little tough to find without a 50 mile round trip to Santa Rosa. I've found that regular old green beans will work just fine as long as they're cut the same way in little 1/2 inch pieces.
There are a whole boatload of Indian green bean recipes, combining various spices and nuts and vegetable combos. One of my favorites, is green beans with water chestnuts. When a lot of people think of water chestnuts they most often think of Chinese cuisine, but the Indian kitchen is full of water chestnut recipes. In fact water chestnuts are sometimes, roasted, ground and milled into a gluten free flour called singoda. Note to self: Find singoda. I've got to try this.
Anyway, water chestnuts come in other packaging than cans. If you can find them fresh, by all means get them. Peeled and sliced they're that easy to prepare and there's nothing like a fresh water chestnut for flavor. Of course if you can't find fresh, canned will do, but rinse in cool water and dry them first before slicing them. If you don't like water chestnuts, jicama is a fine substitute.
Green Beans With Water Chestnuts
Here's What You Need:
1 lb of fresh green beans cut into 1/2 inch pieces steamed until they are tender but still crisp, about 8 minutes.
1 small can of sliced water chestnuts rinsed and dried, or 12 water chestnuts, peeled and sliced, or 1 small jicama peeled and diced.
1 tsp of black mustard seeds
3 Tbs unsalted melted butter or ghee
A 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger thinly julienned
1/4 tsp of Kashmiri chili or 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper mixed with 1/8 tsp of paprika
1 tsp of ground coriander
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
1 tsp of salt
2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
Here's What To Do:
Preheat a large skillet or kadhai over a medium heat.
When the kadhai is hot, drop in the mustard seeds.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, pour in the melted butter or ghee.
Add the ginger to the hot butter.
Then toss in the green beans, Cayenne or Kashmiri chili, coriander, water chestnuts or jicama,
Saute everything until the green beans and water chestnuts are heated through.
Right before serving add in the lime juice, salt, and chopped fresh cilantro.
I served this up with a Shrimp Pullao and some other assorted vegetable dishes.
It's a great dish for any big dinner and works just as well with a simple roast chicken or grilled fish as it does with any Indian specialty.
Coming up next I get to play with my latest toy a cherry pitter (no more serial killer hands every time make a pie) and what does, coconut and balsamic vinegar have in common? You'd be surprised. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori