Everybody Loves Romano Beans

Recently on Twitter, someone named @Bobby Tweeted: “The worst writing online is those quirky 17-paragraph preambles recipe bloggers post before telling you what to put in your fuckin lasagna.”

You might think that a Tweet like this (which has over 12,000 likes and 3,000 RTs) might enrage someone like me who spent over a decade of my life writing quirky seventeen-paragraph preambles before telling people what to put in their f-ing lasagna, but actually, I totally agree with this Tweet. In fact, this Tweet speaks to why I kind of gave up food blogging two years ago. The writing seemed besides the point; I was just becoming a resource for recipes rather than a person whose words mattered. In a screenplay or a script for a TV show, every word matters; in fact, sometimes you get into hour-long discussions with producers or actors about one or two words that you feel strongly about. So when the writing on food blogs started to feel disposable, I lost interest. What’s the point of writing on here if no one really cares about what you’re saying?

This is probably why, in this new iteration of the blog, I’m hesitant to type up the recipes at the end and to make them printable. It’s not that I don’t relate to the desire for a follow-alongable recipe, it’s just that I’d much rather put the recipe in my own words as we move along through it… making the words matter, so to speak. Otherwise, again, what’s the point? My goal is to make it so that at the end of a post: (1) you’ve read something that felt worthwhile; and (2) you understand, on a more fundamental level, how to make the thing I’m talking about. Call me crazy, but I really believe that if you get the IDEA of a recipe, it matters more than getting the actual amounts in a recipe.

Case in point: these Romano beans I picked up from the farmer’s market.

If you were to just skip to a recipe at the end of the post (a recipe from the Gjelina cookbook which you can see here on Google Books), you might miss the concept. Here’s the concept: these beans are best when you cook them for a while. So the Gjelina cookbook has you make a fresh tomato sauce, cook onions along with some garlic and spices (ground fennel and coriander seeds), and then you add the tomato sauce in with the onions, along with some water, and then all of the beans which cook down in the mix until they’re thoroughly cooked through. You top it with lime yogurt which is basically just lime juice and olive oil mixed in with yogurt. Got it?

If you get that concept, you can just make these off the cuff. You can see Romano beans at the market and say, “Oh, I have a general sense of what I might do with those.” And that’s way more important than a recipe. OK, I’m done ranting.

So let’s go through it again. First, a fresh tomato sauce. I had some heirloom tomatoes and cherry tomatoes lying around, so I added them to a pan with lots of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Because the onions and garlic come later, this is really just tomatoes, olive oil, and salt. You cook that down and when it’s nice and thick you add lots of basil.

Now we scrape that into a bowl and in the same pan (which you should probably wipe out a bit, but not wash) cook half a minced onion in olive oil.

Once soft, you add 3 cloves of minced garlic and 1 tsp toasted and ground coriander seeds and 1 tsp toasted and ground fennel seeds. (If you have ground black lime, which I couldn’t find, add 2 tsps of that too.) Once fragrant, add back your tomato sauce and 1 cup of water (or vegetable stock, which is what the recipe calls for, but I don’t really think that’s necessary). Once at a simmer, add all of your trimmed romano beans (about a pound) and a good pinch of salt.

Let that cook down together, stirring all the while, until it looks something like this…

And that’s that. I served these with seared skin-on chicken breasts also coated in ground coriander and fennel seeds (actually cumin seeds, because that’s all I had, but that’s our secret), drizzling the lime yogurt not just on to the beans, but eventually on to the chicken too. Mint may have been applied as a garnish as well.

See, was that so bad having to read my words instead of skipping to an actual recipe at the end? It was? Well I suppose that’s why I won’t make my career as a food blogger anymore! But at least I’ll feel like my words matter which is what makes writing on here fun in the first place.

* * * * *

Braised Spiced Romano Beans with Yogurt and Mint
from The Gjelina Cookbook


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  1. That was a great explanation and and insightful perspective. I’m one who was never bothered by those preambles and did enjoy your story telling – then and now!

  2. Some blogs I just skim over to get recipe ideas, and some I go to for the wit and wisdom in the writing- yours is definitely among the latter few.

  3. Dearest Adam, I’ve always felt you “left” us because you didn’t feel sufficiently appreciated. Especially after all the effort you put into your Australia missives.
    Advice? just let it go. You now have a blog for cooking adults, and you may have to think about dropping the word “Amateur”. I love your preambles, which to me have always been the main course. Love and best wishes always.

  4. PLEASE keep the 17 paragraph narratives coming! I love your blog for the humor and the literary content as much as the recipes. My favorite post of yours was about you discovering your cat was actually a male…and I can see the photo in my head still, but for the life of me I have no idea what the recipe was :)

  5. I’m glad you’re back. You were and continue to be, one of the “voices” I like best in the food blog world. Best part of this particular post for me? I would never have thought of making this based on a recipe on-line for it (at the outset, it seemed like something I would never do)–pictures and text that was smart and snappy, makes this seem like something I might/will make–bottom line, who knows, but I read to the end-I was entertained and educated about a process I was ignorant of before. You keep writing and I will keep reading-

  6. I love the 17 paragraphs (or however many) on most blogs, yours included. I rarely follow the recipes exactly (except for baking, because science) so I like to get an idea of the thought process and inspiration and see some photos. Bonus points if ideas are given for substitutions or variations. Keep the narratives!

  7. Couldn’t feel more the opposite. I have friends I talk about food with and exchange recipes with, but they tell me their reactions, what they were doing while they made it, the funny thing that happened. We don’t just recite recipes to each other. I have cookbooks galore that I could easily obtain a recipe from- blogs are about heart, and voice, and the relationship with the writer. It’s why I keep reading Orangette though it’s no longer as food centric, why I’m just as excited about seeing pictures of Deb of Smitten Kitchen’s kids as I am of her most recent baked good, and why I still checked your website occasionally to see if you’d come back. And here we are. After more than a decade of reading, it’s you we’re coming back for.

  8. I always read for the 17 quirky paragraphs. I can find recipes anywhere and do, but the personal touch is why I like food writing and always have!

  9. I missed your blog when it was gone. I like your voice, and have been inspired to cook something more than once….like I’m sitting here waiting for the deets on Frito Pie….. Like you, I own a ton of cookbooks and know how to google. It isn’t all about the recipes. You are a person I may never meet, but who on some level I feel I know from the great stories, dinner parties, funny quips and photos you share. You share something I enjoy, and that is why I continue to follow. While I get the point of the tweet, and think it’s a bit funny, I like it because I can laugh at myself and the things I like. I don’t need to read about football, gaming, ballroom dancing, but I wouldn’t begrudge others’ their own brand of entertainment. We are all so lucky to get to share fun with like minded people. Carry on.

  10. I, too, was a regular reader of your old blog because of how well you wrote about your relationship with food. If you don’t write about that, what’s the point?

  11. I love food blogs.Why do people even read food blogs if they dont care for them.Silly people, dont read them.Ph’raps they have such dull lives they have nothing better to do.I would have tweeted this answer but dont want to go on twitter which I dont care for so I dont do it!Yours is my favourite &most interesting blog Adam.Thank you.

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