|Green beans block the sea view from the terrace.|
In the spring, just after we set out tomato plants and saw the bean seeds starting to poke up through the soil, a marauding tribe of wild boar dug up the huertas. First rage, then disagreement (Ben: get a dog! Me: put up a fence!), and, finally, resignation. I have abandoned the huertas after years of cultivating my summer “gazpacho garden” and winter “soup garden.”
Ben set up a row of huge pots on the walled-in terrace and filled them with enriched soil. We planted beans and tomatoes in them. The pole beans along the railing almost block the view. The handful of beans I pick is just enough to add to my lunch salad. The few tomatoes, of exquisite flavor—an unknown variety that I propagated from seed—we eat one by one, unadorned.
In the market, beans and tomatoes are at their peak right now, so I’m buying lots to make up for what I can’t grow. The most common variety of bean is a wide, flat bean, somewhat like the Romano bean.
The flat beans are really good cooked crisp-tender (4 minutes in boiling water) or, in the old-fashioned way, braised until very soft. Late in the season these beans tend to be more fibrous, so I might use a vegetable peeler to strip the stringy edges away.
This is one of those old-fashioned recipes that I learned from pueblo housewives. The proportions of beans and tomatoes can be freely varied. The tomatoes can be chopped, grated or pureed. I’ve watched home cooks chunk the tomatoes, skins and all, right into the pot. I prefer to peel them first.
This is a vegetarian dish that can be embellished with chorizo, if desired. A little chorizo adds a lot of flavor. If not using it, add a spoonful of smoked pimentón. The dish, typically, would be served as a primer plato, first course, a summer stand-in for soup or legume stew for a family meal. It should be a little soupy, saucy enough to eat with a spoon. Serve it hot, room temperature or cold. Garnish with fresh herbs—parsley, basil or mint, for instance. Add quartered hard-boiled egg, if desired. Call it lunch.
|Green beans finish cooking in the saucy mixture of tomatoes, potatoes and chorizo.|
|A summer lunch, served warm or cold–beans, potatoes, tomatoes, chorizo or not.|
|Partially cooking the beans before adding to the sauce helps to preserve their color.|
Green Beans with Tomatoes
Judías Verdes con Tomate
|For vegetarian, omit the chorizo.|
Serves 4 to 6.
6 medium tomatoes (1 ¼ pounds)
1 ¼ pounds green beans
¼ cup olive oil
4 ounces chorizo, sliced (optional)
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium potatoes (12 ounces)
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon pimentón (paprika) (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
With the tip of a knife, cut an X in the blossom end of the tomatoes. Either blanch them in boiling water for 1 minute OR microwave on High for 2 minutes, turn the tomatoes and microwave 2 minutes more until skins start to loosen. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel, core and chop them, saving all the juice. (Makes about 1 ½ cups tomato pulp and juice.)
|Beans after blanching are bright green.|
Top and tail the beans and, if necessary, remove strings. Cut them in pieces. Cook the beans in boiling salted water until they are crisp-tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the beans saving ½ cup of the cooking water. Refresh the beans with cold water.
Heat the oil in a large pan and brown the sliced chorizo, if using, on both sides. Remove it. Add the onions and garlic and sauté on moderate heat until softened, 4 minutes. Peel the potatoes and cut and snap them into bite-size pieces. Add the potatoes to the pan with the cumin and oregano. If not using chorizo, stir in the pimentón, Add pepper and ½ teaspoon salt. Add the cut-up tomatoes and their juice. Add the ½ cup reserved bean cooking water. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Return the chorizo and beans to the pan. Cook 10 minutes more. The beans should be saucy. If necessary, add additional liquid. Allow the beans to set 10 minutes before serving.
|Tomatoes share pots on the terrace with pole beans, are lashed to the railing. These tomatoes, of unknown variety, are exceptionally tasty. Too few to use in cooking.|
More ways to enjoy summer’s green beans: