Cook the Book: Szechuan Beans

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

I'll go out on a limb here and say it: green beans might just be the ideal pickling vegetable. This blanket statement comes from the fact that I've eaten many, many pickled beans and all of them have been nothing short of enjoyable. Somehow their snappy nature survives a good long soak in the pickling brine and their sweet freshness comes through every time, whether they're garnishing an exemplary Bloody Mary or eaten straight out of the jar.

This recipe for quick-pickled Szechuan Beans from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'em Up! takes the green bean's snappy nature and pairs it with the numbing heat of Szechuan peppercorns for a jar of beans that won't last long in the fridge.

They're infused with a perfect balance of the five primary taste sensations. The sweetness comes from the sugar; the acidity from cider vinegar; the salt by way of soy sauce; a slight vegetal bitterness from the barely blanched beans; and heat from the Szechuan peppercorns, garlic, and ginger.

Anticipating the success of these pickles, I made a big batch, some to serve the evening they were prepared and a few jars to store in the fridge for later. The beans that I served still-warm from the blanch were incredible, with plenty of flavorful marinade to dress some accompanying rice. But I have even higher hopes for the jars aging in the fridge. This is one of those cases where a bit of age will only accentuate the flavors.

Win Put 'em Up!

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Put 'em Up! to give away this week.