Friday, January 22, 2010

Surprise Hit

Racing through the supermarket yesterday looking for food to feed my family I plopped a big bag of green beans onto the check-out counter. When I got home and unpacked the food I had to ask myself what was I thinking? Green beans are no good this time of year. And with no exception, this batch was lumpy and somewhat limp, a sure sign of age. As Billie Holiday sings in the opening refrain to A Foggy Day- "I had a feeling of self pity. What to do, what to do, what to do?" The only appealing choice was to deep fry the beans to bring out their flavor and try to compensate for their texture. Blanching or steaming would only accentuate the flaws, creating a rubbery, bland and very uninteresting bean.

With careful sorting and trimming I managed to rescue a reasonable pile of beans. Next, I set up my wok for deep frying. Woks are a great tool for this. Their wide shape and deep sloping sides make manipulating frying foods easy. I wanted to use only a cup of canola oil so I had to fry in small batches.

It took no more than three minutes of frying each batch and the beans came out great! The color perked up and the natural nutty flavor became pronounced. I would happily eat them this way with a little salt, but I wanted to take it a little further.

Chopped ginger, sliced scallions and some dried chilies become the aromatics for this dish.
After pouring the hot oil out of the wok I briefly sauteed some aromatics and tossed the beans back in. I had some homemade sesame paste on hand so I tossed a spoonful on top of the beans, added a splash of rice vinegar and heated everything through.

Pity no more! Did this taste good! The aromatics delivered some punch and the sesame paste created depth. I would consider this a hit and even allow another out-of-season bag of beans to find their way home with me again.

Sesame Paste
-I came across this recipe recently published in the NY Times as part of a larger recipe.  The paste is  really versatile and can be added to many dishes adding a nutty sweet/salty flavor.

Toast 6 Tbs. sesame seeds in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes till they slightly change color. Put in a spice grinder and grind into a  powder. Put this powder into a food processor and add 1/2 cup more sesame seeds, 1/4 cup soy sauce and 2 Tbs. sugar. Process into a paste. The paste will store well in the fridge for several weeks.

Wow! This looks so awesome and pretty straightfoward! And green beans are one of the few vegetables my husband will eat! Perfect! As is the case in pairing veggies with wine, always remember to pair the wine to the sauce or seasonings, not the veggie itself. Certain wines just work so unbelievably well with Asian flavors - Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc. But at the wine shop, we've been promoting one Pinot Gris in particular, and it therefore is jumping out at me as the perfect wine for this dish.

It is the Domaine Alfred Chamisal Vineyards Pinot Gris 2007. For those of you unfamiliar with this varietal, it is the same as Pinot Grigio - just goes by a different name in this part of the world. And, it is stylistically very different depending upon it's homeland. In Italy, Pinot Grigio is leaner and crisper. In places like Oregon, California and Germany, the wine is typically fuller bodied with a wonderful oily, creamy texture - exactly what I look for in a white. It is delicious - rich with flavors of peach, fig and elements of spice.

Pinot Gris is also incredibly versatile when it comes to food. It is marvelous when paired with highly spiced foods, but will also be fine next to more delicate flavors. It has a great deal of fruit and the pairings are endless! When dining on Thai, Mexican, or Asian cuisine, be sure to consider this fun, affordable varietal.
Domaine Alfred is located in the Edna Valley in California. They also make terrific Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well. The Pinot Gris can be found for $11.99. A true bargain!

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