Counterintuitive cooking with green beans

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Wrinkled green beans

Finished wrinkled green beans recipe. (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / April 10, 2014)

Smooth: good. Wrinkled: bad. Standard policy in many a household, especially for linens and skin. Smooth suggests order, freshness, vitality. Wrinkled suggests ruin.

Exceptions abound: The crinkled face of the poppy. The creased and crumpled high-fashion frock. The green bean.

Fresh off the vine, the green bean offers a smooth hand and crisp bite. Steamed, it blushes verdant and vibrant. If not terribly flavorful.

Alternatively, the green bean can be roasted and stir-fried into wrinkly excess. In this state, the limp bean no longer speaks of order, freshness and vitality. With its brown spots and craggy skin, it suggests ruin.

One taste reveals the truth: that the slow roasted, quick fried, chili-spiked, sesame-warmed bean is an intensely flavorful delight. Inspiration enough to give up on ironing.

Wrinkled green beans

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

1 pound green beans, ends trimmed, rinsed and dried

3 teaspoons peanut oil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon Asian red chili paste*

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1. Roast: Toss beans with 2 teaspoons peanut oil and the salt. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and slide into a 425-degree oven. Roast, shaking once or twice, until beans are wrinkled and browned in spots, about 14 minutes.

2. Mix: Meanwhile, stir together soy, ginger, sesame oil and chili paste. Pour into a serving bowl.

3. Stir-fry: Measure remaining 1 teaspoon peanut oil into a wok or large, heavy skillet. Heat over medium-high. Add garlic and cook, stirring, a few seconds. Add beans. Toss.

4. Season: Scoop beans into the serving bowl. Toss to coat with sauce. Enjoy.

* Available in the grocery store, alongside other Asian products, or from specialty markets.

Crave more Leah? Find all your favorite stories and recipes in Leah Eskin's new memoir, "Slices of Life: A Food Writer Cooks Through Many a Conundrum." Available now, wherever books are sold.

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