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