Lately I've been working long hours, and while some nights I'll still spend two hours or so putting together a multi-course meal (because I can't help myself), lately I've been trending toward fast and easy.
At Asian grocery stores you'll find shelves and shelves of pre-made pastes and sauces that make throwing together a tasty stir-fry a snap. One of our favorites is Lan Chi Chili Paste with Garlic. I substitute Lan Chi whenever a recipe calls for making a pounded paste of chilies and garlic. Scooping out a tablespoon or so is much easier than pounding a paste in a mortar -- and I've done both.
I had a big pile of string beans to use up (thanks, Tantré Farms) and fresh basil from my garden, and I couldn't think of anything tastier than pork and string beans. This is a home-grown version based on a Thai pork and basil recipe. This is a fast recipe that's light on the prep -- trimming the beans is the biggest prep tasks. Throw some rice in a rice cooker, and you're all set with a one-course meal.
Pork with string beans and basil
Amounts are approximate. Adjust to your taste.
1 lb ground pork
6 - 8 oz string beans, washed and trimmed and cut to desired length
1/2 packed cup of whole basil leaves
1 Tbs Lan Chi chili paste with garlic (or more for a spicier dish)
1 clove garlic, minced (because I like even more garlic)
1/4 C fish sauce
3 - 4 Tbs oyster sauce
2 Tbs sugar
cooking oil (I use peanut oil)
chicken stock or water
Heat wok over high heat and add a Tbs of oil and swirl to coat. Stir-fry the beans for, say, 45 second or so. Add a good sprinkle of kosher salt over the beans and continue stir-frying until beans start to "pop" and small brown spots start appearing on them. Remove beans from wok and set aside.
Wipe wok, reheat, and add a Tbs or so of fresh oil. Add garlic and Lan Chi chili paste and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add pork and continue stir-frying until pork is cooked. Add in fish sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar and stir until mixed. (If pork is too dry, you may add a bit of chicken stock or water.) Add beans. Taste. Sometimes it needs a bit more Lan Chi or oyster sauce, sometimes its a bit more sugar. Adjust to your liking. Add basil leaves and mix in. Serve with rice.
Serves 3 to 4, depending on appetites. Or 2 with leftovers for lunch the next day.