Chinese Long Beans with Sour Cherries

I admit it – I read too many cookbooks and store way too much food information in the dusty compartments of my poor old brain. But, as a result, one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take part of one recipe and combine it with part of another, creating something that neither author had in mind, but something that we end up finding quite delicious most of the time.

For example, take this recipe for Chinese Long Beans with Sour Cherries. This recipe was created when I began to think about what would make a terrific green bean dish to take to a 4th of July picnic. I wanted to avoid bringing the ‘9th pasta salad’ or ‘6th chicken salad’ or another such redundant type of dish.

But green beans were bursting out of their crates at our local farm stand and I dearly wanted to find something clever to do with them. So I remembered a recipe for Haricots Verts Montmorency ( green beans with cherries ) in the book From A Breton Garden by Josephine Araldo and Robert Reynolds. It was different ( as I remembered ) and had promise and I kept it in mind, but I kept looking.

Then I discovered a recipe for Melt-In-Your Mouth Green Beans with Turkish Pepper in Paula Wolfert’s book, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen. This recipe intrigued me – it called for cooking green beans ( cut ) in olive oil and a bit of water for hours in a slow cooker. She said …..’these beans will melt in your mouth, yet oddly they aren’t particularly soft to the touch.’ I liked the idea of beans inbued with a tender richness from the olive oil in this process of long, slow cooking.

That was it – there was my recipe.  Josephine’s inspired dish of green beans with fresh cherries made with beans cooked and spiced Paula’s way. Even so, I made two changes to Paula’s recipe – I omitted the tomato she called for and I added toasted, chopped pecans to the finished dish. And I used Marash pepper ( or substitite Aleppo pepper ) from our store, Cooks Shop Here, to add the mild heat and peppery zip.

I made the dish, brought it to the party and everyone loved it. And we loved the leftovers – in fact, the dish got better the longer it sat.

But wait, I changed the recipe again. Yesterday I discovered bunches of just-delivered Chinese long beans at my local Asian grocers. I have seen these extraordinary beans ( which come by their name honestly ) growing on trellises in China ( and perhaps have eaten them as well in many various green bean dishes.) But I have never had an opportunity to purchase them and cook them. I quickly grabbed a bunch and then on the drive home wondered how I would prepare them.

Then it hit me – earlier in the morning we purchased a box of locally grown sour cherries ( Baladin variety ) at our farmers market from our beloved Clarkdale Fruit Farm. Bingo – I would come up with an Asian inspired version of green beans with fresh sour cherries.

So here is how my final recipe turned out.

Chinese Long Beans with Sour Cherries

serves 6

This recipe is best served at room temperature and after the beans have been refrigerated overnight. Sauce right before serving.

1 & 1/2 pounds Chinese long beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon Marash or Aleppo pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

salt

lemon juice

1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

for the sauce:

2 tablespoons each: soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, orange marmalade

2 teaspoons each: sesame oil, grated fresh ginger

1/2 pound pitted sour cherries

1. Wash the beans and place them in a crock pot with all of the remaining ingredients except the lemon juice. Cover the beans with a piece of crumbled parchment paper and set the lid on.

2. Cook on low for 5-7 hours on high for 3 & 1/2 hours. Check the progress every hour and stir the beans gently to keep all of them moist and in contact with the oil and the water.

3. When the beans are cooked, remove them from the cooker and drain the excess liquid. Place the beans in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Let the beans come back to room temperature before serving.

3. To finish the dish make the sauce. In a small mixing bowl, add the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, marmalade, sesame oil, rice vinegar and fresh ginger. Whisk the ingredients well. Add the sauce to the cherries and toss carefully. Add the sauce to the beans and adjust the salt and lemon juice if necessary.

4. Toast the pecans over medium heat until fragrant. Be careful not to burn the nuts. Remove the nuts from the heat and chop finely. Add the nuts to the beans, put in a pretty bowl and serve.

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