Thursday, August 28, 2008

Vietnamese Green Beans

Beans of all sorts are in season now. In our garden we have Romanos, a wide Italian variety with great flavor. But at the farmer's market last weekend I saw green ones, purple ones, yellow ones, and more. Any would be fine in this recipe, which is one of my favorite ways to use them. The onions are important, don't leave them out (I used sweet yellow ones from Crabapple Farm this time). I make this most often with tempeh (from Lightlife), but you could also do it with tofu, chicken, shrimp, etc. Or leave out the protein and serve as a side dish. You can leave the beans whole, which makes for a lovely presentation and easier prep, but it does make the dish a little harder to eat. Serve this over rice. Jasmine is good. Be sure to serve it with the Nuoc Cham (see below).

Canola oil
2 medium onions, sliced lengthwise
1 package tempeh, cubed
1 lb green beans, stemmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
8 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Thickener: 1 Tbsp corn starch mixed with 1 1/2 Tbsp water

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet. Add the onions and tempeh and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes. Add the beans and garlic and cook until beans are just tender (the time will vary with the type of beans). Add the soy sauce, water, salt and pepper, and thickener and cook until it forms a nice sauce. Remove from heat and serve. Top with Nuoc Cham at the table.

Serves about 4.

Nuoc Cham
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp chili paste
2 Tbsp lime juice (ideally fresh)
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp julienned carrots (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped peanuts, lightly toasted (optional)

Combine all ingredients except for carrots and peanuts in a small jar and mix well. Let sit at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to mingle. When serving, if desired, top with carrots and peanuts. Leftover Nuoc Cham will keep for many weeks in a sealed container in the fridge. It's good with spring rolls, fried tofu, steamed veggies, etc. in addition to the green beans.

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