Category Archives: Food + Wine

Deliciously Simple – Green Beans with fresh ginger and black bean sauce



I love vegetables. The fresher, the better. I didn’t even try bottled salad dressing until I was well into my teens, and my idea of dressing a salad was drizzling olive oil, fresh lemon juice, teasing it with a pinch of salt and calling it a day. But sometimes, especially if you’re trying to take advantage of an unexpected but welcome abundance, doing things the same way can get a little boring.

I used to turn to cookbooks to find alternatives when this sort of thing happened, but more and more I find myself turning to the internet for inspiration. This recipe from Fine Cooking met all my requirements; fast, easy, delicious, and an ingredients list I can a/ pronounce and b/ don’t have to go to 3 different grocery stores for. I’m already planning on tweaking it to lower the sodium, and I’m intrigued at trying this with other veggies:

  • 1 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Chinese black bean sauce
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lb. green beans trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. minced ginger
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced

If you already know this, just smile and nod and carry on, but if you’re a new cook, do yourself a favour and visit your local farm market or produce place for fresh ginger, green beans and garlic, and then prep everything ahead of time. I’ve yet to find a frozen or packaged product that replicates fresh, even if it does say so on the bag.

The moment I cut into the ginger its rich, sharp scent permeated my kitchen (and the cat, who was watching with interest), and made me yearn for some slightly soft, melt in your mouth ginger cookies.

  • In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, black bean sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar, and set aside.
  • Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a straight-sided sauté pan until shimmering, then add the beans, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, until most of the beans are browned, shrunken, and tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the ginger and garlic; cook for about 45 seconds.
  • Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan, cook for another 30 seconds, until the beans are coated and the sauce is warmed through, and serve.

The recipe specifies a straight-sided sauté pan; don’t make my mistake and use a wok, as the curvature of the wok base meant not all the beans were cooking at the same rate. Silly me.

Also 45 seconds really is enough time to infuse a dish with the flavours of garlic and ginger. Garlic tends to burn easily, so if you’re tempted to go longer before adding the soy sauce mix, don’t. Picking burnt bits out of dinner should never be part of the part.




6:30-something in the morning.
It was dark, dreary, windy, and I was listening to Debussy…

You’d think that in a setting like this one might, as my partner so eloquently put it, “suddenly want to wear a beret and talk about Sartre in a French accent.”

I’d probably be up for it on any other day. Who doesn’t want to play the starring role in a sultry French movie? This morning though… this morning was a fitting background for how I was feeling over the previous night’s baking debacle.

See, yesterday I craved a particular set of flavours and textures – I wanted coffee cake. Preferably with cinnamon streusel. I flipped through my collection of recipes, and nope – no recipe on file. Flicked through the stack of magazines I’ve collected. Nothing. Still craving. So I went online, narrowed down options, found one that appealed and decided – why not?

I can laugh about it now, but this morning I had the answers to the why not question, and was seriously wondering why I’d thought I would take up baking again. For one, the amount of time it took the bake the cake was double what was posted. It came out way drier than I expected. Also heavier than I expected – pound cake heavy. I gave it a 2 out of 5 and seriously wanted to toss it out.

Tonight I found out it went quite well with a light slathering of apricot jam.

Read Your Labels

I was recently checking out Galloway’s Specialty Foods website and stumbled across their FAQ. I have to admit, their note about MSG scared me a little – my partner gets severe headaches from this ingredient, and we try to avoid it as much as possible. What’s a girl to do when there are so many ways they can sneak it in there? (Textured protein? Autolyzed yeast? Yeast extract? Sodium caseinate? Ew!)

Well, at least the memorization skills I picked up in grade school aren’t going to go waste…

To see the full list, check out Galloway’s FAQ here, and while you’re at it, check out their blog here.

** This great BC company has been around since 1936, and I have fond childhood memories of their downtown store. Time to visit one of their  locations and get my fill of healthy goodies!

Pechakucha #25

Pechakucha_25 Last year I made a short list of things that happen in Vancouver that I really wanted to attend or be a part of. On that list: PechaKucha Vancouver. The idea of a group of people coming together to share ideas, to enlighten, to activate, to energize and mostly, to engage those who want to be engaged.

The night started off with the folks from Cause + Effect saying a few words (quite well), about what was about to happen. As a total newb, I appreciated that. Then the lights dimmed and we were off. I’m totally uncool, so throughout the night I took random notes on my iPhone – things I didn’t want to forget, such as my answer to James Glave’s question about how we felt as children when we engaged in dangerous play (exhilarated!), to people I simply must find out more about because their minds interest me, like Julian Thomas and his dial-a-park idea.

The night’s roster:
David LookEngine Digital
Gaby Eirew – Record me now
Georgia Morley – Whitelightchef
J. Joly – CineCoup
James Glave – Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada
Jonas Woost – CBC
Julien Thomas – Social artist
!Kona – NubianImp Projects
Mickey McLeod – Salt Spring Coffee
Thomas Anselmi & Ernesto Gomez – Formerly Waldorf Productions
Zack Embree – The Überdrop

I was lucky enough to share the experience with a couple of people, which brings me to my first impromptu rule of PechaKucha – Don’t go alone. Followed quickly by my second impromptu rule – don’t rein in your enthusiasm. Seriously, I was vibrating by the end of the night, and it was fantastic to have other people with me who were on the same energy high. And that energy? It carries forward, and changes everything. Just ask your local physics geek.

Added to the list of events I want to attend: PechaKucha New Westminster, which I would never have found out about if I wasn’t a coffee addict who followed Kevin McConnell on twitter. Oh social media, how you lead me on…

Want to know more? Check out Ariana Scott’s post on Vancouver Weekly, Lynn Doan’s post on The Pink Wars, or make use of your google-fu and type in PechaKucha Vancouver. I dare ya.