Amanda Hesser's Rib Steaks with Parsley and Crouton Salad
Amanda Hesser's Potato Salad with Green Sauce

Russ Parsons's Braised Romano Beans with Cherry Tomatoes


Summertime and the days are chilly. We've had a few surprisingly breezy days here, replete with gray skies and an uncomfortable little wind. It was a treat, at first, to wear a cozy sweatshirt while drinking hot tea in the morning, a pleasing taste of the crisp September days to come. Walking down 6th Avenue on Saturday, I was practically swept sideways by the veritable gale making its way through Lower Manhattan. Goose bumps littered my skin and it all felt fresh and thrilling. But by Sunday, the chill had stuck around too long. I found myself curled up on the couch (yes, the situation has been resolved!), feet tucked under seeking warmth, while paging through cookbooks in a stab at coziness (and regretting having dumped various half-finished sacks of flours in the move. Baking seems a rather sensible pursuit again.).

With a bag of velvety-skinned Romano beans in the fridge and after our great braised zucchini success, it was only a matter of time before I got around to the other recipe in that article. Could I have found a better time to braise vegetables to shortly before the point of disintegration than a prematurely dark, cold evening in August? Our work on the apartment for the weekend was over, including a mind-numbing trip to Home Depot (tell me, is there anyone else out there that finds this place soul-sucking in the worst way? I think I would rather watch paint dry than find myself in the Hardware Nuts and Bolts lane again, staring blankly at row upon row of little plastic baggies full of screws of differing sizes, while Ben mutters things under his breath and workshoe-clad men stomp about us looking Busy and Serious and Also A Little Bit Pissed Off while sorting through the incomprehensible amount of fiddly bits littering the aisles. Pardon the sexual stereotyping, but is the desperate boredom that I felt in Aisle Fourteen how men feel at Sephora?) and we had gotten the stereo working, so there was music in the air and a sense of accomplishment, too.

I got diced onions in the pan with some olive oil (I eschewed the pancetta, because Ben made turkey bacon for breakfast yesterday morning and nine hours later, the stench aroma of it still hung in the air, depleting me of any desire for pork products, fake or otherwise, for the foreseeable future), then threw in the sectioned beans and sliced garlic and water. As the beans simmered on the stove and the sky grew darker, I sat on the couch in the very spot where my father taught me how to read 24 years ago (the couch seems smaller, yet is just as comfortable as I remember) and looked around at the marvel that is cohabitation.

Forgive me, as I know I'm getting repetitive and I promise to stop soon with all my moon-eyed pronouncements on the subject, but somewhere in the last three weeks, during the arguing and the furniture-moving and the Ikea-tripping and the painstaking artwork-hanging, we found ourselves a home. A peaceful, cozy, beautiful home. One that we can't wait to come back to at the end of the day and one that pains us to leave it in first thing in the morning. One that makes us feel rich with happiness. And that warms us to the bone. One where the smell of cooking reminds me of my childhood and yet fills me with the thrill of things to come. One where our two lives are coming together so well that it fills us both with unexpected delight. It's just all so much better than I had even imagined.

So bring it on, August, with your cold Sundays and gray Mondays. We're ready.

And, oh yeah, the beans. Well, is it any surprise that they were delicious? I didn't think so. The barely-cooked tomatoes were like little pops of candy here and there. Sometimes the skin felt a little tough beneath my teeth, but mostly I didn't care, especially because they provided such a nice contrast to the soft, pale beans that had become practically creamy in the braise. I usually stew Romanos in a chunky tomato sauce, which is delicious in its own right (Ben remarked upon first eating that dish that it tasted like my family, which I thought was adorable until I typed it here and realized it sounds like Ben regularly cannibalizes us, which, obviously, he doesn't. Urgh.), but this new method takes the cake.

Braised Romano Beans with Cherry Tomatoes
Serves 4 as a side dish

1/4 pound pancetta, in 1 slice about  1/2 -inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups chopped onions, about 1 medium
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds Romano beans, stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

1. Unroll the pancetta and cut it into pieces about one-half-inch long. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pancetta and cook until the meat is well-browned and has rendered much of its fat, about 8 minutes.

2. Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the fat, return the pan to the heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the Romano beans and stir them with the onions and pancetta. Add the salt and three-fourths cup water and reduce the heat to medium.

3. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are silky in texture and extremely flavorful, about 45 minutes. If the mixture begins to cook dry, add a little more water.

4. When the beans are cooked, remove the lid and cook long enough to evaporate most of the remaining water, about 5 minutes.

5. Reduce the heat to low and add the cherry tomatoes. Cook until they are warmed through. Serve either warm or at room temperature, first stirring in the basil and tasting and correcting the seasoning.