Friday, November 18, 2011

Long Bean and Eggplant Salad

Our CSA basket last week had long beans in it. Long beans are Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis, so they are very different from Phaseolus vulgaris, the common garden bean that most people think of when they think of green beans. Long beans are more related to cow peas (also called field peas or Southern peas), which include black-eyed peas and crowder peas. With long beans, though, you don't eat the seed; you eat the pod, as with regular green beans.

Long beans come in different colors; ours were a pretty purple:

They were about 12 inches long. They can grow much longer than that; in fact, they are sometimes called "yard long beans," but if you let them get too big, they become too tough to cook easily.

I like to make a recipe that I found in Gourmet magazine years ago.  It's a salad, and you make it by blanching the long beans, roasting an Asian-type eggplant, and dressing them with a tangy salad dressing made of lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce. I didn't have any cherry tomatoes, but they look very pretty in the salad if you have some.

First I chopped the beans into shorter lengths and blanched them for two minutes:

The recipe says to plunge the cooked beans into ice water, but I just rinse them with cold water when I scoop them out into a strainer.

Then you slice the eggplant, brush it with olive oil, and broil it. Here it is, ready to go under the broiler.

You broil one side for three to four minutes, and when it turns brown, you flip them over and broil the other sides. The eggplant does not get as greasy as it does if you fry it in a skillet; fried eggplant seems to soak up oil like a sponge.

The dressing is easy to make with some Asian fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. I sometimes use vinegar instead if I don't have any lemon or lime juice, and it tastes fine. I put rather more cilantro in the salad than the recipe called for.

You can make this salad several hours ahead, and the flavors get better as it marinates.

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