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Recipes and Stories

4 August 2012: More Summer Tomatoes

Young Green beans, which often go by their swanky French name, "haricots verts"--in fresh tomato sauce -- photography by John Carrington, from The Savannah Cookbook
While summer tomatoes are still at their peak, indeed, overflowing in some home gardens, here is another lovely thing to do with them.

I submit this in response to the persistent myth that Southerners historically had no subtlety with the vegetable pot: it comes from a late nineteenth century Savannah manuscript. The lovely wine and tomato sauce is full of flavor and yet it does not overpower the fresh taste of young, tender snap beans. Notice that there’s not a scrap of salt pork in sight. It’s a lovely summer sauce to have in one’s repertory, and is a fine sauce for grilled eggplant or zucchini, crab cakes, grilled or pan-seared fish steaks, or as a simmering sauce for summer squash, shrimp, or even chicken.

Though the acidity of the tomatoes will affect the lively green color of the beans, they are even more flavorful if you let them simmer in the sauce for a few minutes. Leave the beans slightly underdone in the initial cooking and add them about halfway through the sauce’s simmer. Simmer until the sauce is thick and the beans are tender, about 8 minutes more.

Green Beans with Tomato Sauce
Serves 4 to 6

1½ pounds young, thin green beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, trimmed, split lengthwise, peeled, and minced
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
1 large clove garlic, lightly crushed, peeled, and minced fine
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh savory or marjoram
1½ cups (about 2 medium or 3 plum tomatoes) scalded, peeled, seeded, and diced ripe tomatoes
½ cup dry white wine
Whole black pepper in a peppermill
Cayenne pepper

1. Wash the beans in cold water, drain, and snap off the stem ends. Leave them whole. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium high heat. Add a small handful of salt and the beans. Stir, bring it back to a boil, and cook until the beans are just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and put them in a warm serving bowl or platter.

2. While the beans are cooking, heat the oil, onion, celery, and bell pepper in a wide sauce or sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté, tossing frequently, until the onion is translucent and beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, parsley, and savory and sauté until fragrant, about a minute longer.

3. Add the tomato and wine and season well with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until it is thickened and the tomatoes are beginning to break down, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour it over the beans and serve at once.
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