A tumultuous relationship with food

Food and I have had a tumultuous relationship.

Food has been my dearest friend and my staunchest enemy, sometimes providing me a particular comfort, while other times offering me nothing but grief. But of late, food and I seem to have reached a new accord, perhaps a lasting truce.

For the last several years, I've been trying to turn my ship around, trying to plot a course away from pizza, fried chicken and fast-food French fries, to steam instead toward vegetables, whole grains and very little processed food.

Because I'm the one that cooks, my husband has been along for the ride. Thankfully, he's been willing to try pretty much anything I've put in front of him. We've had some duds, but lately I've realized that I'm developing quite an arsenal of recipes that feature vegetables and grains, and miraculously, taste really good.

Our weekday food repertoire now includes kale and broccoli rabe, quinoa and farro, whole wheat pasta and yes, even tofu. And the thing is, I work full time, and in my soul, I'm pretty lazy, so if a recipe is too involved or has too many ingredients, it had better taste incredibly good or it's just not making it into the rotation.

Don't get me wrong. I still cook foods that I love. I still make recipes that use white flour and don't call for removing the skin from the chicken. Family recipes, childhood favorites, chocolate, these things still have a place at our table, but not nearly as often as they used to, and I think that makes us enjoy them all the more.

So, with this column, I'd like to share recipes with you, some healthy, some not so much, but all delicious. I hope you'll share your favorites with me as well.

I thought I'd start with Green Beans on Bread.

I live in Westerly and for many years, I worked at The Westerly Sun with some truly amazing, talented women, many of whom were Italian and really great cooks. This recipe is from them. I always make it with green beans but they said you also could use big, meaty mushrooms, like portabellas.

I have been greeted with skepticism when I have told family and friends that we are having Green Beans on Bread for dinner. But after they taste it, all they want is seconds. This one's a keeper.

Green Beans on Bread

About ¼ cup olive oil

1¼ to 1½ pounds of fresh green beans

6 cloves of garlic, minced

About 2 cups of spaghetti sauce, a jar of your favorite brand from the supermarket or home-made

A pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

1 loaf of crusty bread, Italian or whole grain, whatever you like - not sandwich bread

Grated Parmesan cheese, or a half-and-half mix of Parmesan and Romano

Salt and pepper to taste

Wash your green beans and trim off the stem ends. Cut or snap them into roughly 2-inch pieces, small enough to fit in your mouth but not too tiny.

Put a big, nonstick frying pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil. You'll know the pan is hot enough when you can see ripples in the oil. Add the beans and stir them around to coat them with the oil. Add half of the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes and stir to coat the beans. Turn the heat down to medium and cover the pan. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the beans are tender-crisp and bright green.

Add the sauce. You want the beans to be saucy to your liking, so add as much or as little sauce as you want. I like my beans saucy, so I add it all. Add the rest of the garlic and stir. Adjust the heat so the beans are bubbling and let them cook, uncovered, for about another 5-7 minutes or so, until they're done to your liking. I like them tender, but not mushy.

While the beans are cooking, cut some thick slices of bread and pop them into the toaster. When the beans are done, put a slice of toast on a plate and scoop the beans and sauce on top of the bread, as much as you want. Sprinkle on some grated cheese - I like a lot - and serve.


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