Perhaps you’ve tried one or another of these cold side dishes at Japanese restaurants: slips of seaweed dressed in a sweet sesame dressing, or crisp-tender green beans tossed in a savory, miso-based sauce. Well, I decided to put one and two together, with a fresh clutch of not-so-green beans from the market.
I can’t stop eating these snack-worthy strips of crispness. If carrots were my go-to healthy snack in winter, it’s pole beans for spring and early(-ish) summer. What terrific varieties there were at Evolutionary Organics’ Greenmarket stand: all mixed up in the same crate were deep eggplant-colored purple beans, icy white beans with the translucence of lemon sorbet, slender and very green beans, and purple-blushed cranberry pole beans.
I’ve begun growing a few interesting varieties of pole beans this spring, too. My plants seem to keep producing them, so I tossed in a couple of the “Sultan’s Golden Crescent” beans that were just harvested that day. After a quick blanch in hot water and shock of ice, these beans were just-cooked and retained much of their snap. However, their beautiful colors all faded drastically, so that the purple beans became indistinguishable with the green, and the cranberry beans lost their blush.
Seaweed might seem exotic, but it’s as simple as it sounds: weeds, harvested from the sea, which are plentiful. It dries and stores well, and it can be used in various ways — from flavoring stocks to wrapping up rice as crispy nori sheets. I like the slippery, slithery texture of soaked wakame seaweed, often found in salads and soups. Once soaked, the dried, crinkly bits of wakame expand like sponges into a whole lot more than you might expect. Watch out.
Once soaked, the seaweed can be chopped or julienned to prepare. But I thought I’d leave a handful of this stuff in their rustic, natural state, to pile underneath the dressed beans.
The sesame oil-miso paste-based dressing can be adjusted to taste in varying ways. But it mainly consists of miso paste, toasted sesame oil, sugar and rice vinegar — all easy pantry staples to keep on hand. Although red or brown rice miso paste isn’t generally preferred for dressings (it’s more dense and savory than light or white miso paste, which has more floral nuances), I decided to deviate with a dab of that. Just a tiny bit was all that was needed to sufficiently salt the dressing, so no soy sauce was needed.
You could also grate in some fresh ginger juice, or give it a heavier consistency with toasted sesame paste instead of oil. But that’s one satisfying way to serve up green beans — and seaweed, both — on the fly.
Pole Beans and Seaweed with Sesame-Miso Sauce
(makes about 4 small servings)
1 lb fresh pole beans (such as green beans, wax beans, etc.), stems trimmed
1″ piece dried wakame seaweed
2 teaspoons red or white miso paste
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Soak seaweed in cold water for 5 minutes. Drain and squeeze dry.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and prepare a bowl of ice water on the side. Blanche beans in the boiling water for about thirty seconds; transfer to the ice bath immediately. Drain and pat dry.
Whisk together the miso paste, sesame oil, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl. Toss with all the beans and seaweed, and serve at room temperature.
(for 4 servings)
1 lb mixed pole beans from the market: $3.00
1″ piece dried seaweed: $0.30
2 teaspoons miso paste: $0.25
2 tablespoons sesame oil: $0.35
1 tablespoon rice vinegar: $0.15
2 teaspoons sugar: $0.05
Two brownie points: It’s only a side dish, but it’s a potent dose of many health benefits to accompany any meal. Green beans are great sources of proteins and have a satisfying bite that make for good, filling snacks. Seaweed is a rich source of antioxidants, B-vitamins, selenium and iodine, good for your thyroid gland. Finally, the miso paste is a great way to flavor food, but also a complex drop of proteins, antioxidants, and digestive aid.
Six maple leaves: It’s a bit of an East-meets-West dish, at least, in its ingredients’ provenances. The pole beans make up the bulk and are local and fresh as can be, from the Greenmarket. But dried seaweed and other Asian ingredients are often imported.