Friday, January 21, 2011
Cheaters never (only sometimes) win
Cheating is in my mind pretty much never justified in life. And as a general rule, I believe that home-made, fresh, if slightly more labor-intensive food is better than the frozen pre-packaged short-cut alternatives. However--I make a few exceptions, and one of those happens to be for pasta sauce. I am sure there are those out there who could argue that their great grandmother Nonnie's tomato sauce recipe is better than any store-bought sauce on the face of the planet (and having been recently to the Italian Club's pasta sauce competition in North Beach I'd be hard pressed to argue otherwise), but at the end of the day, making tomato sauce at home is a lot of work when there are so so many yummy ones out there to be purchased, many of which now contain less preservatives and unnecessary additives than in days gone by (albeit at a monetary price).
So when I saw a recipe for NOPA restaurant's giant lima beans with stewed tomatoes and oregano pesto, I made the executive decision that it would be okay take some liberties (ie short-cuts) with the preparation of a dish from one of my favorite SF restaurants in the name of time management. In using a favorite Trader Joe's tomato sauce and opting out of the oregano pesto (in favor of fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil over the finished product) I discovered I had on my hands a recipe for one of the simplest and most tasty one-dish meals I could imagine. True, this is probably my very favorite kind of cuisine--Mediterranean-inspired and full of flavors that invoke hearty comfort food that isn't actually all that bad for you--but either way, it's delicious. I'll be making it again and again. And again.
Cheater's version of NOPA beans:
large white lima (also called butter) beans (avoid canned if possible!)
4 or 5 kale leaves, chopped into small pieces
favorite tomato sauce
salt and pepper
Soak lima/butter beans overnight. When ready to cook, cover with water about 2 inches and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 1-1.5 hours (till softish but not mushy). Drain water and salt. Mix with favorite tomato sauce and chopped kale and pour into baking dish. Dot with feta cheese and bake at 425 for about half hour (till feta starts browning). Take out and plate, sprinkling liberally with breadcrumbs and chopped parsley. Add final drizzle of olive oil and serve.
The boy and I both loved this meal (I'm embarrassed to admit we finished off the whole pan), and I have no doubt that the more labor-intensive version is even (if possible) better. If you'd like to go that route and be an honest NOPA foodie, the recipe can be found at this website: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/giant-lima-beans-with-stewed-tomatoes-and-oregano-pesto