Happy day! After resisting for years, I finally broke down and joined a CSA . Well, not a true CSA exactly, but close. To be honest, I was never really sold on the idea of getting a big mystery box of produce each week and then having to figure out what to do with it. I kind of like to choose what ingredients I cook with, and plan my meals based on what inspires me. Plus, I wasn’t crazy about the fact that I had to prepay for the season and was locked in every week, whether I was able to use the stuff or not. Still, I loved the idea of having access to all of those lovely fresh fruits and veggies, because lord knows, I can rarely find them at my local market! Enter Suncoast Organics  and the perfect solution to my produce dilemma.
Suncoast Organics is a new business in my area that delivers – yes, DELIVERS – just picked, farm fresh, organic produce each week directly to my doorstep. It’s similar to a CSA in that there is a membership fee, but it’s a small one and you don’t have to pay it all up front. Also, I get to choose exactly what products I want and how much of each I want. So, each week, I just click on Suncoast Organics’ web site, check out what’s available for that week, order what I want and pay as I go. Brilliant, right? If I’m going out of town or I just don’t feel like ordering one week, I don’t have to. No wasteful spending and no wasted produce! I still have to pay the $10.00 membership fee, but I can live with that. If I decide to discontinue the service, all I have to do is email Julie and Jim and let them know. It’s a great compromise between a traditional CSA and buying my produce somewhere like Whole Foods. Plus, it’s cheaper than you know where.
Last week I got some interesting things in my veggie basket, including yardlong beans, or Chinese long beans . I have never, ever seen them before at the market, and I’m pretty sure I’d never eaten them before either. I was psyched!
Look how pretty they are!
I also got a bag of these gorgeous shiitake mushrooms. Need I say more?
I put my Asian food thinking cap on and decided to combine them in a stir fry with ground pork, garlic, ginger and black bean sauce. I hunted around the web for some inspiration and found lots of great ideas. In fact, I found too many great ideas! So, I took a pinch of this and a smidge of that, and came up with my own version of Chinese Long Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms and Pork in Black Bean Sauce.
I heated up some grapeseed oil in my cast iron wok that I got last year at The Wok Shop . I love that wok! I love The Wok Shop too!
Then, I cooked my garlic, ginger and ground pork. Next, I added the long beans that weren’t so long anymore after I cut them up, and stir fried them until they started to get tender. Once the beans were on their way to delicious tenderness, I added in the shiitake mushrooms and cooked it all a little bit more. Finally, I poured in the black bean sauce and simmered it for another several minutes and I was done.
There are lots of good recipes for homemade black bean sauce, but I decided to save some time by using a pre-made sauce from the Asian market. There are a few good ones around, but the best one I’ve tried is from Lee Kum Kee . I use it to make a similar dish with chicken and eggplant, as well as those tasty little steamed spareribs you see a lot on dim sum menus.
My verdict on the long beans? I really liked them. They were a lot like regular green beans, but chewier and a little saltier. They played very nicely with the shiitake mushrooms, as those also tend to be a little chewy. In fact, I would definitely consider the whole dish to be a success.
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on more long beans as soon as I can. Next time, I’d love to try them stewed, Italian-style, with fresh tomatoes and potatoes. Until then, I’m looking forward to my next bag of goodies from Suncoast Organics.
Chinese Long Beans with Shiitake Mushrooms and Pork in Black Bean Sauce
1 pound long beans
1 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1-2 tablespoons unflavored oil, such as vegetable, canola or grapeseed
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons prepared black bean sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 -1 cup water
Rinse and cut the long beans into 3-inch lengths. Set aside.
Combine the pork, soy sauce, fish sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, salt, pepper and cornstarch together in a medium bowl. Mix well with a fork or your fingers until thoroughly combined. Let it sit for about 5-10 minutes.
In a wok or large skillet, heat the unflavored oil on high heat until smoking, then add the garlic and ginger. Stirring constantly, fry for about 10-20 seconds until fragrant. Be careful not to burn it. Add the pork and cook until it almost no pink remains, breaking up the chunks as you go. This should take about 2-3 minutes if your wok is really hot.
Add the long beans to the wok and continue to cook for about 4-5 minutes, or until no pink remains in the pork and the beans begin to get tender. Add the mushrooms and cook about 2 minutes. Remember to keep all of the ingredients moving so that nothing burns.
Whisk the black bean sauce, rice wine, brown sugar and 1/2 cup water together in a small bowl.
Reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the black bean mixture. Taste it and if the sauce is too strong for you, add the rest of the water. Continue to simmer and stir for another 5-8 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through and tender.
Remove the wok from the heat and mix in the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.
Serve as is, or with some steamed rice or noodles.