When I was growing up, my parents played a game that my brothers and I loved. They’d utter the words “We’re going for a drive,” and we’d stop whatever we were doing and scramble into the back seat. Because we never knew where we’d end up.
On one of the trips, my parents and I drove until we were in Connecticut. My father picked an exit at random and we got off the highway and found ourselves traveling a deserted road.
“What is this?” my mother wondered. I could hear the slight worry in her voice.
And then we saw it. The most amazing place. A junkyard filled with antiques and glass bottles and doorknobs and statues. It was a world of magic and imagination.
On Friday afternoon, a writer friend invited me for lunch. Along with homemade gazpacho soup and slices of tomato with fresh basil leaves and mozzarella, there was insalata di fagiolini, patate e pomodori (green bean, potato and tomato medley) from Roberta Roberti’s cookbook Vegetarian Italian Traditions (Volume 1).
With Italian bread on the side, it was a simple and sublime meal. The perfect meal for a hot and humid day, bolstered up with friends. With the author’s permission, I’m including the recipe here:
Insalata di Fagiolini, Patate e Pomodori (Green Bean, Potato and Tomato Medley)
Makes 6-8 servings
2 pounds new or red potatoes, unpeeled
1 pound fresh green beans
4 medium tomatoes, cut into bite-size chunks
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (optional)
Cut potatoes into bite-size chunks; place into a pot and fill with enough water to cover. Cover and cook over medium heat until just tender but firm when pierced with a fork, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain in a colander and cool off under cold running water. Drain well and place in a large serving bowl. (If you’re using vinegar, do not use an aluminum bowl.)
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Snip off ends of green beans. If beans are very long, snap in half. Add beans to boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and cool off under cold water; drain well.
Add green beans to potatoes. Add tomatoes, onion, and oil. Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and mix well. Add vinegar, a little at a time, until it’s to your liking.
Gently toss, cover bowl, and chill for about 2 hours. Allow to come to room temperature and toss again before serving. Taste for seasoning. Add a little more oil if it’s too dry.
Keep leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
TIP: If the potatoes get a little mushy after cooking, lay them out on a baking sheet and place in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes to dry them out.
The thing about this recipe is how flexible it is. My friend used cherry tomatoes, cut in half. The seasonings (including a splash of balsamic vinegar) were added right before serving, so while it might not have had the intensity it would have after being in the fridge for two hours, it had a nice little zing. I look forward to making this next summer.
And while I love Italian food, I’m also looking forward to something different with Roberta Roberti’s new cookbook, World Party: Vegetarian Appetizers, Hors D’oeuvres and Party Plates. It’s coming out soon and I expect to be doing a lot of cooking.
An anthology of short stories written by The Penheads, five writers of wildly diverse genres bound together by a single theme. Horror, urban fantasy, lesbian romances, and contemporary fiction wrap up in the nebulous aspect of…smoke.
At Amazon: myBook.to/Smoke_Tales
Go to myBook.to/Smoke_Tales.
My story “In the Smoke,” was a stranger creation than I expected. I wrote some of it in a daze, fueled by blues music in the background. And only after it was completed and I reread it did I realize exactly what I had written about. (No, I’m not going to tell you. It will mean whatever you decide it will mean. That’s the joy of reading.)
May you emerge from the smoke into clarity and peace.