It is a well-documented fact that I do not like to make sides. Actually, no one has documented that at all beyond me, here on this site, once.
But the fact is sides are, for me, the most detestable part of cooking. They generally require too much chopping and simmering for the buck, sucking away time I’d rather spend simply eating my main course, served up with a side of rice or some quickly steamed or sautéed broccoli.
But recently, I began a dinner exchange with my neighbor -- they bring us dinner one night a week, and we make their meal on another. I quickly realized that other people expect more than a slab of meat or fish, they expect a little showmanship on the edge of the plate. Still, we’re talking weeknight here.
1. I had everything on hand save the beans.
2. mtlabor, in this humble weeknight cook’s opinion, is one of the most reliable recipe writers on this site. Her recipes are easy to follow, conform to real kitchens and work. ‘Nuff said.
3. If you make this, your kitchen will smell like Chinese take out, and I mean that in a good way.
I read this recipe over as I trimmed my beans, grumbled at my husband for not picking them over a bit better at Whole Foods, which was charging a king’s ransom for plenty banged up beans you should know, and told anyone within earshot to set the table.
The only thing that gave me pause was the directive for olive oil. I chose to go with peanut oil instead, which I think is a better partner for soy sauce, and because you’re told to get your pan super hot, and peanut oil tends to be more up for the task of that activity than its olive friend.
I love that you make a little well in the beans for the spices. It’s just fun. Plus it works. In about 15 minutes you have a very worthy side. Just watch your hand as you sprinkle red pepper flakes. A little distraction will lead to a rather hot mouth. That’s not neighborly.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now