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Sunday, September 05, 2010

My tongue speaks French and Chinese

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Chinese long beans

I have tried to keep up with my personal farmer and his vegetable garden this summer by gathering and preparing the goods for the table. Just a few footsteps from our door we've picked strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes -- green for frying and red, yellow and orange fresh or in sauce -- green & red peppers, jalapeños, banana peppers, kohlrabi (oh so crisply satisfying dipped in hummus), beets, peas, carrots, garlic, scallions, sweet corn, cucumbers, zucchini, bush beans and pole beans. From the herb bed: basil, parsley, thyme, chives, sage and rosemary.

While ordering seeds from his piles of catalogs back in January's blue ice days, Don discovered Chinese long beans and ordered some and even built a special trellis. These long beans are also known as long-podded cowpeas, asparagus beans, snake beans, chopstick beans, yardlong beans, dau gok in Cantonese and jiang dou (豇豆) in Standard Mandarin. They are thua fak yao (ถั่วฝักยาว) in Thai, right Dee Dee? (I sort of feel that I shouldn't say that out loud.) When the first beans were ready to pick, I was impressed with their length, but I asked myself, Does size matter? I am a green bean lover. When I go to Paris, a supper of haricots verts, baguette, Roquefort and a glass of red wine suits me very well after a day out on the rues. I like a thin, delicate bean, with a warm, mellow flavor and texture that is tender and smooth.


Chinese long beans next to a handful of bush beans; 
the long beans are about 18"

As we learned more about Chinese long beans, we discovered that they are all the rage in fancy restaurants. Chefs have fun sculpting them into different concoctions, like an entertainer does with balloon animals. I decided to create nests, and Don suggested the little onions that were strangely anchored on the surface of the soil under the scallion leaves, for "eggs".

I am trés heureux to report that Chinese long beans are délicieux! They are tender and warmly savory, the way haricots verts are. And you get to create something clever if you want. These are what I call bird's nest beans, which I believe my tongue tells me is les haricots verts d'un nid de l'oiseau in French and 鳥的巢穴豆子 in Chinese, but I could be wrong.


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54 comments:

ellen abbott said...

My neighbor grows these. He introduced us to them last year. I love the way you made little nests out of them.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Absolutely, beautiful!!
~Cindy G

Bonnie said...

Love how your garden grows Ruth. I'd be content with le petit souper you describe enjoying when in Paris - let me know when!

We have been enjoying a simple and simply delicious green bean salad this summer. It is from the "Clean Food" cookbook. Young potatoes and green beans (any variety) in a vinaigrette of good olive oil, lemon and fresh dill weed. I add a splash of lemon-infused olive oil over each serving - and it is very hard to limit oneself to just one! I would never have paired green beans with dill weed but it works - even dried dill weed produces a wonderful result.

willow said...

What incredibly long beans! Fabulous nests. I could eat one right now. Maybe two. (I have the exact table cloth, by the way. It's in a drawer somewhere. I must dig it out!)

Susan said...

I loved your multi-lingual post, Ruthie! The bird's nests are a lovely presentation...genius idea for the eggs!

I think I will have to introduce a different language to my garden next year.

Marcie said...

I don't think I've ever seen these before..but - you have so artfully prepared and served them. Love how you've tied them into little bow-tie knots!!!

J.G. said...

Those are some serious beans! I've never seen them before!

Just ordered my seeds for fall planting, including those adorable Zephyrs. Maybe I will add long beans next year?

VioletSky said...

I want to know how you managed to eat these nests.

Kamana said...

oh are these the same as snake beans?

Sidney said...

We call this "sitaw" in the Philippines.
You can use them in adobong sitaw, where sitaw is the main ingredient, along with a little bit of pork and soy sauce, vinegar and a little garlic.
Delicious :)

Oliag said...

Les haricots verts d'un nid de l'oiseau is a beautiful mouthful to say...and the nests are too cute to eat...so glad they were also delicious!

rauf said...

i don't know what i am missing Ruth, like you mentioned in the last post, seasons for one. We hardly have seasons here. I kept repeating that we have only three seasons, hot hotter and hottest.

i have been seeing and eating the same fruits and vegetables since my childhood. Only now they seems tasteless and you know the reason Ruth. When i travel to north, when i get to see a fruit i have never heard of, i just take a picture but never try it as i had a bad experience in Kashmir eating a yellow and red fruit. It looked so attractive that i couldn't resist it. Perhaps i chose a wrong one which was not fully ripe, I lost my voice for three days. The fruit was called Jaapani, meaning Japanese. It was not an attempt to learn Japnese by eating the fruit. i felt ashamed when i saw local children eating it with relish.

i was a bit surprised when you said you have never heard of drumsticks. Like potato in the North, Drumsticks are added in nearly all dishes with gravy in the south specially Sambaar. The Brits gave the name Drumsticks as they look like Drumsticks. MURUNGKAI in Tamil. Drumstick leaves are prepared separately as a side dish, very good for digestion. Now i have started a blog on Chennai, called 'Chennai Outdoors as some friends have been demanding it. You'll find the link on the side bar. Not a daily photo blog Ruth and you know i can't mainintain it. i'll post some pictures of drumsticks in a few days. i have to locate the trees first with drumsticks hanging from it.

Ruth said...

Ellen, I hope by "introduced" you mean that you neighbor gave you some to try. I prefer them to any kind of string bean. Have to pick them while they're thin.

Ginnie said...

This delicacy is totally new to me, too, Ruth, but it's reminding me of something I've eaten here in The Netherlands that looks similar to this but comes from the sea...almost like seaweed beans. Actually, I think they're called sea beans:
http://boingboing.net/2010/07/02/taste-test-sea-beans.html
And they were delicious!

I am so proud of Don...at all he has grown...and YOU, at figuring out how to cook/use it all so deliciously. What a thrill it must be to eat the produce of your land there!

Ruth said...

Bonnie, meeting you in Paris for a little supper, after sauntering through the Rodin or Picasso museum, would be heaven. Next week Tuesday?

Thank you for telling me about that salad, because it sounds fresh and wonderful. I like dill in small amounts, so I will start with a little. Olive oil (I use Colavita . . . what do you consider "good" -- I'm curious?) and lemon juice are always good in my book. Would garlic add or detract, I wonder?

Ruth said...

willow, a doppleganger for my tablecloth?? :)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Susie. Hey, you've given me an idea. Don invited me to plant my own garden bed next year (not that I needed an invitation), and an international garden would be fun. It has the elements I like: research, learning about other cultures, and FOOD. Wanna join me and plant one too? We could call it our . . . [ ] bed. Any ideas? I think it's too early for me to be creative. :|

Ruth said...

Thank you, Marcie. I predict that now you will see them everywhere. That's how it goes with me anyway. And you know, they tasted better with those knots in them. :)

Ruth said...

J.G., my turn. I had never seen zephyrs, and they are very cute. I will tell the garden man about them. I didn't get enough zucchini this year. I think the farmer gave most of them away, and that is fine too.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, Violetski, I know you are not terribly fond of green beans (that's putting it mildly, isn't it?).

Here, have some kohlrabi with hummus!

Ruth said...

Yes, Kamana, apparently so, according to Wiki. They appeal to me more than eating snake, however, though I hear it is delicious too.

Ruth said...

Sidney, oh dear. You just made me extremely hungry.

One of my favorite tastes ever is that Filipino chicken made with vinegar. I don't know what it's called in the Philippines. In fact, I think it has all those things you listed for adobong sitaw.

Uhhhhh . . . (that's just me, hungry).

Ruth said...

Oliag, I picture you making these for your grandkids. Don gave some of these to his school principal, and her son played with them before she cooked them, for a long time. He felt terrible when one of them broke, until his mom assured him that it was ok, they could still eat it!

Ruth said...

rauf, it could be we have drumsticks here somewhere. There is no end to what I don't know, and I keep discovering new things, like these Chinese long beans. Did you see the fruits I posted on the Farm Day post? The ones Dee Dee brought. There were two kinds. Oh, I was not going to forget their names, but I have forgotten now. They are hard to open, but the inner fruit is just delicious. They look so slimy however, that only a few of us were willing to try them. I dislike persimmons, they are bland and strange to me. I wonder if that is what you tried? They are good baked in things I think.

I like your new Chennai blog, rauf. I have long wanted to learn more about your city myself, so anything you post there, however often, will be good information for me. See, I already learned about coconut lamps and traffic cops and what they let slide. I want more, more more!

Ruth said...

Boots, those seaweed beans look like asparagus. It astonishes me how there are so many things to eat in the world that I have never heard of.

I feel extremely fortunate to have so much fresh food here as a constant resource. As I told Susie, Don has asked me to plan my own bed next year. I look forward to thinking about what I want to tend that Mother Nature has to offer. Susie's comment made me think of an international garden. Now maybe I should see if I can find some seaweed bean seeds! In fact, now I think of it, there might be enough international varieties just of green beans to easily fill a bed.

George said...

Well, I can see that my comments on green beans were lost in cyberspace, presumably because I did not type in the coded word before hitting "publish." In any event, I just wanted to be included in that dinner in Paris with you and Bonnie — and to thank you for the recommendation of the Chinese green bean which, hopefully, will be sprouting in my own garden next summer.

Ruth said...

Dear George, oh rats. I wish I could find your comments and read them. Boo. But thank you for coming back, because I would just love having you at table with us. This is getting tastier every minute. Oh, I hope you enjoy the Chinese long beans as much as we have!

Ruth said...

Cindy, so sorry, I missed thanking you! I love that you stopped by. :D

Shari Sunday said...

I find myself speechless. Your interests are certainly wide and varied. Enjoyed your post and would love to have a taste of your garden.

Peter said...

I believe that the Chinese as well as the French pretend to make the world's bets "cuisine". That can be perhaps be discussed, but eating in China or in France can certainly be a pleasure, if you choose the right restaurant / cook! Tu use your home grown vegetables certainly and already makes a difference, an important one!

Char said...

i liked them too when i tried them - cute way to serve them!

Bonnie said...

Hi Ruth: Further to the recipe - She (Terry Watson) adds no onions or garlic to the recipe which I, too, found strange. But the result was surprising delicious. If you don't like dill that much, divide your batch in two. One with a herb you love, and the other with your bit of dill to see if it hits the spot ... or not.

Olive oil - well since we have become vegetarians (we do eat fish, however) I have splurged on olive oils trying several in the lower range of expensive. It feels like a nice indulgence while we watch our friends eat steak or lamb chops. We also buy the oil from a fab Italian restaurant - that sells the oil they use, bottled under their name.

So George is coming to lunch too! Perhaps we can persuade a few others.

Dee Dee said...

How could you go wrong with the crop of your labor. I love Toa Fak Yoa when we were at Farmday. They were beautifully grown on the architechture Don built for them, and were delicious in a few serving of Som Tum I used them in. How darling those little nests are. It would be so fun to munch on them...You make everything fun.

Pat said...

I've never heard of these, but I'm sure I'd like them since I like green beans. I love what you did with them! So artistic!

julie king said...

i want to live in the country and have a big garden SOOOO bad. one day, soon i hope! i love what you did with the beans and the onions. so cute!

Ruth said...

Hi, Shari, I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and I would love to have you up for a garden party, literally. :)

I am all over the place on this blog. Sometimes I wonder what this blog is about!

Ruth said...

Peter, I don't know if they're right (how to know!), but I like them both very, very much. Alice Waters showed us how to serve home grown produce in a restaurant with California cuisine, now other restaurants are finally catching on.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Char. You could serve nests with your hens & chicks!

Susan said...

Ha! I'm still wracking my brain trying to come up with a name for the veggie bed! That's what happens when someone asks me to be clever. ;)

Ruth said...

Bonnie, thank you very much for coming back with these tips. I talked with my husband about dill, after you shared your recipe, and he said he had just heard Nigella Lawson say that you really can't overdo dill. I am remembering a bad experience long ago, and that must have stuck in my brain. I will give it a try, sans garlic, and go from there.

Our eating habits are veggie-based too, and I like your idea of splurging on olive oil! We have a fantastic store called Zingerman's in Ann Arbor that has an amazing assortment of them. Maybe we will have to try something special.

Ruth said...

Bonnie, oh yes, the more the merrier at our Paris lunch!

Ruth said...

Dee Dees, I could have mentioned your Toa Fak Yoa and Som Tum. I am sad that I didn't try any, but you know I was like a clucking hen all day, running here and there. I wanted to watch you grind the beans with the mondo mortar and pestle you gave me. You're the best cook I know. Would you please come and make me lunch at work today?

Ruth said...

Pat, if and when you see them in the produce section, which we did for the first time this year, probably because we might not have noticed them before, they are beautifully bundled and very enticing. Now you know that they taste good too. Bon appetit!

Ruth said...

Julie, if that's what you want, I hope you can have it too! If it were left to me, I might have a small little veggie bed, and that I might not even keep up with. I am a wannabe gardener without discipline. But I will give it a whirl with one bed next year.

Ruth said...

Susie, I know . . . How about the U.N. garden?

margie said...

soon this bounty of fresh will disappear from our farmer's market. i see a bushel of tomatoes on my horizon waiting to be canned,

cathyswatercolors said...

Hi Ruth, Crazy looooong beans. Goodness. I love gbeans. Have i told you about my mother-in-laws Armenian green bean recipe? Yum:) gbeans, tomatoes,onion olive oil and dill. Cook gbeans, drain, cook onion in olive oil add tomatoes dill and gbeans. enjoy:)
xoxo back to school, sometime getting back to work is easier then the worry that precedes it:)

Terresa said...

I love your photos, they look like they belong in a cuisine magazine, you know, the glossy ones you find @ Whole Foods and such.

PS: Chinese food (including the combo of garlic & green beans) is one of my favorites!

Ruth said...

Margie, it's very good that you extend the bounty into the winter months with your canning. Ahh, all that spaghetti, chili, salsa, succotash, goulash. Mmmm.

Ruth said...

Cathy, that sounds just delicious, and it reminds me of a dish the Turks made, which I have tried to replicate without much success. You and Bonnie are nudging me toward dill, and I will try it, though we didn't grow any of it this year. I have some dried, I think.

Yes, I would usually agree with you about the worry and the actuality. However, this semester, I think the actuality was every bit as dire as I might have worried about, if not more. :|

Ruth said...

Thanks so much, Terresa, for that lovely compliment about the photos. I definitely LOVE looking at food pictures. Do they call it food "porn"? Oh yes, I love me some Chinese food with lots of garlic, and the beans we get at one place are the main reason I go.

Bella Rum said...

Pretty. I want to grow them now.

Arti said...

Yes, they're 'dau gok' to me. When I was growing up in Hong Kong, I used to eat a lot of them, stir fried with black bean sauce and maybe garlic. I haven't seen that much here in Canada... except you can buy them in Chinese groceries. And hey Ruth, where did you learn Chinese?

Jeanie said...

Well! No one likes a Ruth food post like I do -- always beautiful photos, sensual, and the beans against that table cloth are just the best! I love the summer bounty. Mine was more grape tomatoes than we could eat and herbs, herbs, herbs -- oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, savory, tarragon, dill... Plenty to eat and much to dry. And more to come!