Tag Archives: Chinese

Szechwan Green Beans

Hi all! Right now I am headed to Guadalajara with my boss–we’re off to visit one of the company’s big clients. Wish me luck, because last time we visited this guy we were strong-armed into going to a ‘party’ with the client and his friends, which landed us in the middle of a field with a mariachi band, about 20 very emotional men (those mariachi tunes really move them), and no working toilets or electricity. As darkness fell, the mosquitoes buzzed hungrily around us and we continued to be plied with beer after beer, my ‘needs’ drove me to an old toilet in the recesses of a crumbling structure that not only was un-operational but was also crawling with large spiders.

I’m hoping this visit is less . . . eventful.

Anyway, today I’m sharing an amazing recipe. It’s an America’s Test Kitchen wonder adapted from their cookbook ‘The Best International Recipe.’

With the best of intentions, I checked this book out of the library because I didn’t want to add another cookbook to my collection unless it was spectacular beyond belief. But after making 3 recipes so far with simply incredible results, I realized that it is spectacular beyond belief. So I’m ordering it on amazon. And you should, too. The writers are thorough, clear with their explanation, and their recipes never fail. Yes, I am proselytizing–but it’s from a very sincere spot in my heart. I’ll be sharing my adaptation of their Thai Chili Beef recipe tomorrow from the same cookbook, and if that doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

Anyway, this is an awesome weeknight recipe. Unlike some stir fries which require tons of chopping and a good 30 minutes of prep work, this is an extremely effortless little dish made entirely with ingredients available at a regular supermarket. It packs just the right amount of spiciness for my palate, and it’s also just the right amount of food for two hungry individuals.


(Serves 2)

For the sauce

2 TBS water
2 TBS light soy sauce
1 TBS Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dry mustard

For the stir-fry

2 TBS vegetable oil
1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut in 2-inch lengths
1/3 lb ground turkey or pork
4 garlic cloves
1 TBS grated or minced ginger
3 green onions, sliced on the bias
1 tsp sesame oil

At first it may look like there are a lot of ingredients involved–and a lot of ingredients usually = a lot of effort.

However, most of this clutter is for a quick sauce, so mix all the sauce ingredients up in a bowl:

Don’t forget the dry mustard! I forgot to pose him with the family picture, and there were many hurt feelings all around.

I’m sorry Colonel Mustard! Please don’t murder me with a candlestick in the ballroom.

And voilà. With the sauce out of the way, the remaining ingredients no longer look like a threatening army.

Now wash the green beans and snap off the stems.

If you want to make this dish an even faster affair, just buy pre-trimmed and pre-washed green beans. I almost did . . . but then I didn’t.

Chop ’em into 2-inch lengths.

Heat the oil in a 12” cast iron or nonstick skillet over high heat until it just starts to smoke. Add the green beans . . .

. . . and cook them for 5-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are dark, shriveled and spotted in places.

In between stirrings, mince the garlic and grate the ginger.

Based on recommendations from you all, I have started freezing chunks of ginger. I take the pieces straight out of the freezer and grate them with my microplane. It’s so easy I almost cried.

You can also quickly slice the 3 green onions. Slice ’em on the diagonal for pretty pieces, like so:

By now the green beans should be quite shriveled and blackened.

Perfect! Remove the beans to a large plate for serving.

Don’t worry–they won’t have time to get cold. The rest of the stir fry takes almost exactly 3 minutes.

Next up: la carne. If you’re using ground pork, add it directly to the hot skillet on medium-high heat. If you’re using turkey like I did, add another 1 TBS of oil since it’s a less fatty meat. Plop in the pink mass:

Immediately start breaking up the clumps with a wooden spatula.

Stir fry that stuff for 2 minutes (until the meat is no longer pink) stirring almost constantly.

Add the ginger and garlic, and stir constantly for 30 seconds.

Quickly re-whisk the sauce with a fork (since the cornstarch falls to the bottom as it sits) and pour it in:

Whoops! There went a giant glop of cornstarch. Oh well. I’m just here to make you feel good about yourselves, after all.

Continue to stir and toss the sauce with the meat for another 30 seconds (if you stop, it will burn).

The sauce will thicken quickly. Remove the pan from the heat, and add the sesame oil and green onions.

Pour the meat mixture over the green beans onto the serving plate . . .

. . . grab a big ole serving spoon and some chopsticks . . .

. . . and serve the whole happy pile over white rice.

The house smelled incredible for the rest of the night.

Okay, the next morning there was still a lingering scent as well. It’s one of the byproducts of an apartment with zero ventilation.

The combination of these green beans with the sauce and the ground meat is pitch-perfect.

This is so good, guys. Do yourselves a favor and whip up a batch!

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Sweet and Sour Tofu

After sitting in my recipe box on TastyKitchen for a few weeks, this gem of a recipe from this lovely blogger got its turn. Have I mentioned that I have over 180 recipes in there? And that I feel firmly committed to making them all? If I make one per week, it should only take me about 3 and a half years–totally doable, eh?

Anyway, I’m so glad I bumped this to the top of my priority list, because what a phenomenal dish! The simplicity of the stirfry, the perfect balance of sweet and sour in the sauce, the golden brown tofu–I can’t rave enough about it. It’s got some kick–not over the top, but I hope you like things a little spicy! Because if not, you are henceforth banned from this blog forevermore and are no friend of mine.

Wait! Wait! I’m totally kidding! Please don’t go! It’s just my sometimes-abrasive humor–you’re not supposed to take me that seriously! Here, I’ll tell you what–I promise to post some non-spicy recipes asap, just for you. Like Lemon Crinkle Cookies. Okay? Okay?

Okay. I love everyone, The End. Phew. Nothing like tearing up relationships and then making amends to give you an appetite, eh?

And yes, this little conflict was staged just to make everyone hungry and thus more likely to make this stir fry. The lengths to which I go to spread the deliciousness . . . ah, the lengths to which I go. The world may never know.

But enough falderal–back to the recipe we go: I made it with tofu, but if you have an aversion to the block of soy stuff you could easily substitute chicken, pork, beef. Any protein would be great. And the sauce is so good that I’m salivating just thinking about it.


(Serves 3)

For the sauce:

1/4 red bell pepper, minced

3/4 cup pineapple juice

3 TBS rice vinegar

1/4 tsp sesame oil

2 TBS soy sauce

2 tsp cornstarch + 2 tsp water, mixed

1 TBS sugar

1/2 tsp ground white pepper

For the stir fry

1 TBS peanut oil

1-16 oz package extra firm tofu

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 cloves garlic

3/4 red pepper, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 green onions, diced

Mince 1/4 of the bell pepper, and assemble all the ingredients for the sauce.

Everyone say ‘cheese!’

Now we’re simply going to add all the sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. The vinegar and pepper . . .

. . . the soy sauce and sugar . . .

. . . the white pepper (this is where the kick lieth; and the kick, it lieth herein) . . .

. . . the water and cornstarch slurry . . .

. . . the pineapple juice . . .

. . . etcetera, etcetera.

Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

The sauce will reduce by half, to about 1/2 cup. Taste and adjust the sugar to your liking–I added an extra teaspoon.

In the meantime, assemble the ingredients for the stiry fry.

Cut the block of tofu into two ‘sheets’ (with the blade of the knife parallel to the cutting board), then into strips lengthwise.

Place the strips between some paper towels and kitchen towels . . .

. . . and put a heavy book on top.

You can probably learn a couple things about formatting your scholarly papers while you’re at it.

Let it sit for about 15 minutes–this will help dry out the tofu, which in turn will help it brown better when fried.

Remove the tofu from the towels and cut it into cubes.

Now for some knife work: chop up the bell pepper and onion, and set them aside; mince the garlic and set it aside; dice the green onions, and set them aside as well. You should have three little bowls of happiness at the end of this chopping fest:

Heat the peanut oil over high heat in a wok or large cast iron skillet. When hot, add the tofu cubes and fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Season them generously with salt and pepper while they’re frying.

Add the garlic and fry for about 1 minute, stirring so that the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add the red pepper and onion, sprinkle with more salt and pepper, and fry for about 6 minutes until the vegetables are starting to get tender, stirring frequently.

Pour the sauce into the stir fry . . .

. . . and toss the tofu and veggies so that everything is coated.

Cook for 3-4 minutes, letting the sauce thicken.

Stir in the green onions right before serving.

This is about to make me one very happy woman.

Serve over steaming hot white rice.

Oh yum.

May I have more please, sir?

If you think you don’t like tofu, this could very well be the dish that changes your mind.

It’s that good.

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