True Expression | The Village Zendo Newsletter
May 07 Newsletter » Black Rice, Green Beans, and Apples
Bill Seizan Ewing

Oryoki Menu
  •   1st bowl:  Black rice and edamame
  •   2nd bowl:  Green beans, with garlic and ginger
  •   3rd bowl:  Apples sautéed with thyme
  •   Condiment:  Spicy peanut sesame dressing
When planning a menu, I try to keep in mind that I am nurturing the whole person, not just the stomach, but the heart, the mind, and the eyes as well. This menu was inspired by the color green. It is particularly good at the end of a cold spring or the beginning of summer, when it seems that everything around us is turning a fresh green.

Ingredients for the first bowl:

  •   Black rice
  •   Edamame or soy beans

Black rice, actually a very dark rich purple color, is sometimes called "forbidden" rice. As the story goes, a long time ago in China this particular rice happened to be the Emperor's favorite. Because it was so rare, the commoners were forbidden to eat it. Now, although still somewhat uncommon, it is available in many of the better food stores.

Its unique color and flavor have made it one of my favorites. Prepare according to the directions on the package, in your usual pot or rice cooker. A word of caution: if your pot or rice cooker sputters, cover it with a damp paper towel or dish cloth because the water will be colored from the dark rice.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the edamame or soy beans. Steam fresh beans in your vegetable steamer for 8 to 12 minutes, or until they are tender. Run cold water over them, and shell them. Ifthey are properly cooked, they should come out of their shells easily. If you are using frozen beans, take them out of their package and place them in a bowl of warm water to defrost, then drain well. Combine the edamame with the cooked rice.They can both hold a lot of salt, so season liberally to taste.

Ingredients for the second bowl

  •   Fresh green beans
  •   Garlic
  •   Ginger
  •   Peanut or olive oil

Rinse and prepare the green beans. Remove the tip and stem ends, then cut or snap the beans into pieces about 2 inches long. Steam in your vegetable steamer for 5 to 8 minutes. They should be tender but still have some good "crunch." Remove and place them in a bowl of ice water or under running cold water until they are cool. This will immediately stop the cooking and help to preserve their bright green color. At this point the beans can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or so until you are ready for their second stage of cooking.

Peel and mince a few cloves of garlic and a few inches of ginger. In a pan large enough for your green beans, heat a few tablespoons of peanut or olive oil over medium heat, add the garlic and cook for a minute or so, stirring until the garlic is fragrant. Then add the ginger, stirring for another minute until it too is fragrant. Now add the green beans, stirring and turning to coat and mix them with the ginger, garlic and oil. About 5 minutes should be enough to heat them and finish the cooking process, and leave them still a little crisp.

The spicy peanut sesame condiment in this menu is actually a dressing for the green beans. However, at the Zendo I serve it as a condiment because some people have allergies to legumes.

Ingredients for the condiment:

  •   2 tablespoons, unsalted peanut butter, smooth or creamy (the thicker variety is better)
  •   2 tablespoons, tamari or soy sauce (low sodium)
  •   1 tablespoon, agi mirin (sweet white rice wine) or water
  •   1 tablespoon, toasted sesame oil
  •   1 teaspoon, hot pepper sesame oil (optional)

Combine in a bowl and stir with a spoon, whisk or spatula until well blended.

You can toss the green beans with some of the sauce and reserve the rest of it as a condiment. This is a good general spicy peanut sauce, and can be used on spinach, broccoli rabe, or cold or warm noodles. If you like, you can push the taste into a more exotic Thai flavor by adding some toasted coconut flakes.

Ingredients for the third bowl:

  •   3 or 4 cooking apples
  •   A few tablespoons of vegetable margarine or vegetable oil
  •   1 or 2 teaspoons of grated lemon rind or zest
  •   1 or 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme, rinsed, with the leaves removed from the stems
I like to use "Granny Smith" apples. My mother was never sure about using them because she found it hard to believe that a green apple could be ripe and sweet not sour. I prefer to use them for this type of cooking because they are firm and crisp and tend to hold their shape while cooking, instead of turning into a mush, and they have a tart yet sweet taste.

Wash the apples. Cut them tip to bottom into quarters. Remove the core and any bruised or discolored parts. It's not necessary to peel them. I like to leave the skin on because, aside from being nutritious, it helps the pieces keep their shape. Cut each quarter lengthwise again, then crosswise into 3/4 inch chunks.

In a pan large enough to hold the apples, heat the margarine or oil over a medium heat. Place the apples in the pan and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, turning and stirring, then add the thyme and lemon zest. Continue to stir and cook for another minute or two until the spices are well distributed. Season with coarse salt and pepper to taste.

This dish is best served hot or warm, or even room temperature. I like this unexpected combination of flavors. The savory taste of the thyme brings out the sweet quality of the apples. You can use dried thyme, but I urge you to use fresh because it has a much fuller flavor, and it will have a brighter look in the dish.

Until our next meal together,
eat well, practice good, and accomplish our Buddha way.

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