Tomato Braised Beans

Mama sat on the back step, a bucket between her knees, snipping beans. Late summer meant heaps of beans, and green beans meant well-cooked beans with bacon: tender beans, bits of smoky pork and pot liquor as good as soup. Those were the days when the concept of “crisp tender” was still on the nouvelle horizon, and we loved the soft, salty beans.

Now I pick most of my beans when they’re slim and cook them quickly, no more than four minutes. I drizzle them with a little extra virgin olive oil or sweet butter. Following their brief trip from the vine to table, they’re perfect. Yet any gardener or bean picker will tell you beans are sometimes hard to find. There are always a few lurking in the leaves and missed the first time around. Even just a day or two later, they’ve grown well past the slim stage and are ready for soup or a stew.

As I sort through my bowl of garden beans, I separate the young beans to be briefly cooked from the more mature beans that need the old-fashioned bacon-broth-boil, along with a few red potatoes or a zesty Mediterranean braise. This braise includes the bounty of summer’s produce, including onions, garlic, fresh herbs, tomatoes and peppers. It keeps for days and is good for a light meal with a dollop of yogurt or a slice of cheese and some good toast. Or else it makes an excellent side dish either warm or at room temperature.

Tomato Braised Green Beans

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium green, red or yellow pepper, seeded and diced

2 clove garlic, finely chopped

few slices hot chili (optional)

small handful fresh herbs, chopped or ½ teaspoon dry thyme

3 ripe tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped, 1 ¼ cups

1 pound fresh green beans

pinch sugar

salt to taste

In a heavy braising pot, warm olive oil, add onion and pepper. Sauté gently until softened. Add garlic, optional chili and fresh herbs (whatever you have: parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary). Once garlic and herbs give off their fragrance, add diced tomatoes, salt, sugar, cover and simmer 10 minutes or until tomatoes have pulped.

Wash beans, break off tip of stem end only (leave blossom end intact), and cut or break beans into 2-inch pieces. Add beans to simmering tomato mixture, stir well, and cook about 20 minutes or until beans are tender. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot, room temperature or cold. Always better the next day. Good recipe to double.

Mary Jo’s cookbook is available at Amazon.com    http://amzn.to/9lOnZv

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