the taste space

Szechuan Green Beans and Red Pepper

Posted in Sides by janet @ the taste space on January 31, 2013

I feel like I am still in an exploratory phase. An exploratory phase of cooking. I am not sure if it will ever end, but it seems to me like there are constantly new things I’d like to try eating. Beyond new grains like kasha and kaniwa, or new heirloom beans, I will always scour new recipes. As I learned in Colombia, there are a host of new fruits and vegetables to explore, too.

While I may not be entirely thrilled with my closest ethnic grocer, it is still an ethnic grocer with produce I have yet to try eating.  I once had a goal of trying all the new-to-me veggies at Bestwin and Sunny’s, but I can only tackle so many new ingredients at once. As I am unsure of the ethnic produce available in Texas (people keep trying to convince me that there is a dearth of vegetables there, but I protest!), I should capitalize on trying new veggies. In honour of the upcoming Chinese New Year, I popped some Chinese long beans into my cart. Only later did I figure out what I wanted to do…

I found this quick and easy Chinese veggie dish, with flavourful spices while still being able to highlight the long beans. I really liked the play between the Szechuan peppercorns and star anise with the garlicky vegetables. The peanuts added a great crunch and texture.

So, the long beans? Not my favourite. If I had to choose, the thin French green beans (haricot verts) are definitely my preferred green bean. The long beans are more chewy pod, less beany and not as flavourful as the French variety. I’d prefer the standard green beans, too, and would likely use them when making this again.

But hey, at least now I know. I will never go about thinking “I never tried the Chinese long beans.. maybe they are better than the rest?”.  Even if the long beans are more authentic in this dish, the regular green beans would do just fine, as well.

Do you like discovering new veggies?

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Wellness and to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cristina.

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Five-Spice Pickled Cherries

Posted in Salads, Sides by janet @ the taste space on August 15, 2012

Am I the only one who gets into trouble during the summer? Trouble in my kitchen, I mean…

So many fruits and veggies to eat at their peak, sometimes I can’t decide what to eat first!

I recently was in Montreal and stopped at the Jean Talon farmer’s market. It was a good thing we didn’t use our bikes that day, because we came home with tons of fresh fruits and veggies. 5L of uber sweet wild blueberries from Lac Saint Jean. Rob and I demolished them within a week just eating them fresh. I also picked up 10 lbs of beets, peaches and carrots. We decided to stop before we bought some freshly picked corn, too. I like to think I have limits, but our list of purchases may suggest otherwise!

At home, I still had some cherries but wanted to focus on the blueberries. So what to do with the cherries? I really enjoyed them marinaded in balsamic vinegar, used both as a sandwich topper but also as a dressing (and topping) for quick salads.

This got me thinking about pickling my own cherries.

I found a few recipes but settled on a savoury pickling spice, filled with all the components of Chinese five spice (Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and fennel) along with bay leaves. I consulted with my Mom because I wanted to decrease the sugar and swap it for another sweetener, and she recommended not tinkering with the recipe because sugars and salts really help keep the proper preservation. So I didn’t… to be able to keep these pickled cherries for a while in my fridge once my fruit obsession has waned. However, if you want to consume the cherries within a week or so, I see no reason why you couldn’t omit the sugar or swap it for agave or maple syrup just like my simple balsamic marinaded cherries.

Since my cans are not sealed, I snuck in a taste and loved the cherries! A bit sweet, but with a nice savoury backdrop from the Chinese five spice. I plan on using them for salads, but I will let you know if I find other tasty ways to use them!

Next pickling project: Beets, I am looking at you! Anyone have good recipes for pickled beets without too much sugar?

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lynne.

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