braised romano beans

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About a month ago, I told you that tomato season is the highlight of my culinary year, or at least the highlight of the parts I can buy at a Greenmarket. And then I went on about slow-roasted tomatoes for a few paragraphs and proceeded to leave you right there. At slow-roasted tomatoes. Because you know what? Once you discover them, you might lose the few weeks that follow.

But eventually, you get into what I call Tomato Season, Phase 2. This means you’ve already had a month of slow-roasted and simply dressed tomato salads, and you’re ready to actually use tomatoes as an ingredient again. You get curious. You forget that you’ve got interminable months ahead of dry, flavorless, pink-hued cotton-like tomatoes, believing that there are enough tomatoes to last you until spring. I’ve got four recipes like this in the queue.

I’m going to confess something here: I didn’t even know what romano beans were before the New York Times ran a recipe for them last month in a wonderful article about simple Tuscan cooking; I only knew I had yet to meet a bean I didn’t like. Sort of broad and longer than snap peas, they’re also tougher and require a longer cooking time. Slow-braising is the perfect way to cook them, because they get soft and almost meaty, while drinking up whatever flavors you put in the pot. Slow-braising vegetables is also one of those perfect things to do when you’re transitioning from summer non-cooking to a winter of heavy-lidded stews.

In this case, I used a cup of the leftover tomato innards I had scooped out for the pasta salad stuffed tomatoes a few days before, but since I wasn’t mad about that recipe, I think you can use any finely-chopped tomato. They were so much more flavorful than the canned variety, but I suppose that goes without saying. It wasn’t pretty–green beans cooked with acidic ingredients always turn an unfortunate brownish color–but it was so delicious, I wish I had more right now.

Romano beans, elsewhere: Russ Parsons’s Braised Romano Beans with Cherry Tomatoes (Wednesday Chef), Zuni-braised Romano Beans (Swirling Notions) and Garlicky Romano Beans (Veggie Venture)

One year ago: Tortilla de Patatas

Two years ago: Summer Squash Soup with Parsley-Mint Pistou

Braised Romano Beans
Adapted from Laura Sbrana via The NYTimes 08/12/08

Time: 1 1/2 hours

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup minced celery
1/2 cup minced carrot
1 cup minced red onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 cup peeled, crushed ripe tomatoes, preferably plum tomatoes, with their juices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds romano beans (flat green beans), ends trimmed (or fresh cranberry beans in their shells).

1. Heat oil in a deep skillet or a shallow three-quart saucepan. Add celery, carrot and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables barely begin to brown, about 25 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, a few minutes. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until mixture is well combined, about 5 minutes.

2. Add beans, setting them in pan all in one direction. Add 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer. Baste beans, season with salt, reduce heat to low. Cook gently, partly covered, turning beans in sauce from time to time, until beans are very tender, about 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 6 servings.

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