Ginger-Sesame Asparagus    

You could use this flavor combination with green beans as well. Either way, cut the vegetable into small, angled pieces. Hoisin sauce, rice wine, and toasted sesame oil are all now available at most grocery stores. If you have access to an Asian grocery, however, buy your hoisin sauce there: It will be richer, thicker, and more intensely flavored. Serves three as a side dish.

2 Tbs. hoisin sauce
1-1/2 tsp. rice wine
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic (from about 1 large clove)
1 bunch thin (or medium-thin) asparagus, bottom 2 inches trimmed (to yield about 8 oz.), stalks sliced at a very sharp angle into 2-inch pieces, parboiled, and dried
1/2 tsp. coarse salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the hoisin sauce, rice wine, and sesame oil. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the peanut oil and sesame seeds over medium heat (put the seeds in the center of the pan, as some will pop to the sides as they cook). Let the oil and sesame seeds heat, without much stirring, until most of the seeds are browned, about 5 min. Add the ginger and garlic and stir-fry for 30 to 60 seconds. Add the hoisin mixture and stir to combine (I use a small heatproof spatula). Turn the heat to medium high, add the asparagus, sprinkle the salt over it, and mix to thoroughly coat the asparagus.

Stir frequently and continue cooking until the asparagus is well coated and heated through, 1 min. The sauce should have a slightly glazy consistency. Serve immediately.

Susie Middleton, Fine Cooking #45, June/July 2001