If you spend much time at the summer farmers' markets, you'll hear about heirloom vegetables. These wonderful, sometimes nearly extinct, varieties offer us a window on history and a taste of yesterday. Many are prized as gourmet treats, such as the dragon tongue bean.
These colorful green and purple pods are a type of green bean, although they can also be allowed to mature and dry. They are stringless and a "snap" to prepare for cooking! Kids will be intrigued by their exotic name and crazy purple pattern and eager to help in the kitchen. The beans do lose their color when cooked, however, and when served look more like yellow snap beans.
With a name like "Dragon Tongue," I thought these beans needed a bit of fire. Feel free to reduce the spice, especially if cooking for little ones.
Dragon Tongue Beans Stir Fry Recipe
1 pound dragon tongue beans, in the pods
1 small white onion, chopped
1-2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice seasoning mix
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 or 5 dried red pepper pods
1 ounce low-sodium soy sauce
1 ounce dry sherry
As with all stir fry cooking, ready all the ingredients, utensils, and cookware before turning on the flame.
Rinse the beans. Snap off stems and tips, removing any fibrous strings. Break into bite-sized pieces, if you like, or leave whole. If the pods are fairly mature (not young and tender), parboil for a few minutes in the microwave or in boiling water. Drain the blanched beans, cool and dry with paper towels before stir frying.
Heat the wok (or large skillet) on high heat. Add the oil and give it a few moments to get really hot. Add the beans and stir fry for 3 to 5 minutes. As they begin to brown and soften slightly, add the chopped onions. (We want these vegetables to finish cooking at the same time. The cooking time of each will depend on how finely the onions were chopped, the size of the bean pieces, how soft the bean pods were initially, etc.) When the stir fry is almost done, add the garlic and red pepper pods. Stir fry for another minute or so. Transfer all the vegetables to a bowl. Heat the soy sauce and sherry briefly in the wok, deglacing the pan. Turn off the heat and return the vegetables to the pan. Add the seasonings and toss the vegetables gently to mix.
Serve with rice, if desired, or as a side dish.