Green Beans in Salsa Cruda
When I was a child one of my favorite foods was romano beans cooked in tomato sauce. Romano beans are the wide string beans. They are meatier than regular string beans but just as tender. We cut them into two inch pieces at an angle, and cooked them, sometimes with bacon, in canned tomato sauce until they were soft. I can still remember this flavor as vividly as the face of the woman, Marisa, who made them for me. It is a piece of the stained glass window through which I view the world. Since then I discovered the intense, spicy Indian version made with fresh tomatoes and garam masala with mint or cilantro. I have cooked beans in fresh tomato sauce with basil, or with sage, or rosemary, with and without bacon or pancetta, and stir fried with onions and jalapenos and chunks of tomato that just start to breakdown and become part of the sauce of fish sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and garlic. The other day I was fantasizing about this (I do have food fantasies, but they are not exactly fetishistic! They aren’t even erotic, though born of eros), and I thought, why not make green beans with a raw tomato salsa, like the one I use for bruschetta? It was a tomatoey weekend, as late August weekends are wont to be. We had bruschetta, we had pasta with a sauce of cherry tomatoes, sliced garlic and basil, grilled coho salmon with a sauce of chopped red pepper, onion, garlic and tomatoes. I just kept pickin’ ‘em and eatin’ ‘em. The green bean dish with the salsa cruda was great. I am going to describe a method here, since quantities are hard to specify and should be to taste.
I had two medium tomatoes that were ripe. I cut them in half and dug out the seeds and juice, removed just the tip of the core at the stem, and then chopped them into small chunks, perhaps a dice. I put them in a colander over a bowl and let them drain for a couple of hours. The juice is delicious and can be used for whatever. Then my highly skilled brilliant assistant Z, who returned to college today, minced a small clove of garlic, and diced some fresh onion and red pepper. I stirred this into the tomatoes with some olive oil, a pinch of salt, a healthy grind of pepper, a splash of vinegar and a generous chiffonade of red and green basil. Color is important here. There are yellow, orange, purple and green tomatoes, and red and green basil, white and red onions, red, yellow and orange peppers. It should taste of summer but look like a brilliant fall day. Let the salsa rest for a while. Not hours. While you do other stuff. Or for hours. Then lightly steam some beans, yellow, green or purple, romano or string, and toss them with the tomatoes. Do this a little before you are ready to eat, so the beans can cool to warm and the sauce can cure. We accompanied this dish with grilled half chickens and boneless pork loin chops, grilled corn, grilled eggplant and pan roasted potatoes with sage and garlic. It sounds decadent. It was. But Z doesn’t leave for college often. This will be her sophomore year. When they tell you it goes fast, believe them.