In 1845, Eliza Acton, an English food writer and poet, wrote what is considered the first cookbook for the home cook. Her book, “Modern Cookery for Private Families”, gave us the now common format of listing ingredients, yields and suggested cooking times for each recipe. It also gave us the first recipes in English for Brussels sprouts and spaghetti!
That means we have been creating dishes by following those line-by-line lists of measured ingredients and detailed directions since the Victorian era. However, In the past decade, there’s been a move toward quicker and easier ways to make meals. A move toward recipeless recipes. In 2007, Marc Matsumoto started his web site NoRecipes.com with the motto: “No recipes: Cooking is more fun without them.”
In that same vein, this month’s recipe, is recipeless. I guess you say that the recipe is in the title: “Green and Yellow Beans with Prosciutto and Pine Nuts.”
Let’s Have Some Fun
How do we keep the color in a vegetable and still cook it to be tender? Here’s a tried and true method – blanch the green and yellow beans in a large stock pot of well salted boiling water until bright in color and tender crisp, roughly 2 minutes. Then, plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Pull them out and set them aside. You could use them as they are in a mixed salad or as a cold bean salad, dressed with some lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.
A Toast to Nuts
Toast some pine nuts in a dry pan over medium-heat for a few minutes. Keep shaking the pan or stirring the nuts until they are golden. Don’t let them sit still in the pan for too long or they’ll toast unevenly and can easily burn. Remove them from the pan as soon as they are golden so they don’t continue to cook. I like to toss them with a little fine salt at this point.
That’s the Way the Prosciutto Crumbles
Now let’s crisp up some thin sliced prosciutto. Add slices to the same pan you used to toast the pine nuts and cook the prosciutto until crisp. Watch it close as it cooks – it can burn quickly. You may need to do it in a few batches. Drain it on paper towels, then crumble the prosciutto and set it aside.
Pull It All Together
You now have the dish just about finished. You can set it all aside and pull it together just before sitting down to eat – that’s one of the things I love about this dish.
Ready to eat? Let’s go. Warm some olive oil, or butter, in a pan over medium-heat. Add the green and yellow beans and sauté them until they are warm or until they start to char a little. Just don’t cook them into that mushy zone. Plate them, top with the toasted pine nuts and crumbled prosciutto. Add a little coarse sea salt to taste. But remember, the prosciutto adds some saltiness.
Use this recipeless side dish as a starting point and make the dish your own. Here are some variations you can try.
• Use thin slices of pancetta or bacon instead of prosciutto
• Add lemon zest as a topping
• Substitute toasted almond slivers for the pine nuts
• Serve the dish chilled with a little oil drizzled over it
The Porchlite is a monthly newsletter and blog that is developed by the SUPC Communications Committee.