A bit on the side puttanesca runner beans

The original photograph of Ed Smiths recipe puttanesca runner beans from his book "On the side"
Aside from salads, which are normally served on the side, I am so often at a loss as to what I should serve alongside the main course.I have always been a lifelong fan of 'bits on the side' and when I stumbled upon this illuminating book on Amazon, I researched it further on google books and before long it was in my shopping basket. This is the cookbook that you didn't know you needed until you got it! (Ho Ho Ho Christmas is coming and an original cookbook always makes a good gift for a foodie ) Full of stunningly original recipes for 'side' dishes, with gorgeous photography and layout.This is going to be jumping on and off my bookshelves and will I am sure end up being one of the most thumbed tomes in the library. It has an excellent index and then lists of what goes with what - for example if you are roasting chicken it will suggest the side dishes that would go particularly well with it.Ed Smith,the multi award winning author of this innovative book is a former City lawyer turned trained chef.He is also the author of the influential and award winning website www.RocketandSquash.com.Take a look,it is  a food journal regularly updated with restaurant reviews, recipes and cookery news and The Guild of Foodwriters shortlisted it for its 2016 Best Blog award.
He starts the book by saying "this book will change how you think about your meals," it will.For me this book is revolutionary and revelationary at the same time.I think this is the book we have waited a long time for,myself certainly.Its going to take me a while to work my way through this book, meanwhile I made a start with the recipe above.As soon as I perused the book this recipe jumped out at me.I love puttanesca and what a way to elevate a dish of runner beans from a humble bit on the side to giving it centre stage.
Puttanesca runner beans
Runner beans and tomatoes are a pretty classic summer match.This recipe embellishes the runner beans with a puttanesca sauce, including chilli, olives and capers.This is a sort of exception to the other recipes in the book,where the side dish actually becomes the main by being served with a loin of white fish. You won’t need to serve anything alongside it.It is a composite dish and joyous too.
1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil 
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove,crushed 
1 mild red chilli,deseeded and finely diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2tsp golden caster sugar
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1tsp balsamic vinegar
15 basil leaves, torn
3tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
15-20 black olives
2tsp capers,rinsed and roughly chopped
300- 400g runner beans
Flor de sal

Start by making the sauce. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook gently for 4–5 minutes without allowing it to colour, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 2 minutes more before pouring in the chopped tomatoes. Half-fill the tomato tin with water, swill and add to the saucepan. Bring to the boil, add the sugar, dried herbs and balsamic vinegar, then reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for about 25 minutes. Season the sauce with a good pinch of salt, two thirds of the basil leaves and two thirds of the olive oil.
Meanwhile, pit the olives by tapping them with the bottom of a cup or mug to crack the flesh, then pushing the stone out. Discard the stones and roughly chop the olives. Add these, along with the capers, to the sauce once it’s been cooking for 15 minutes.
Use a vegetable peeler to peel the stringy thin edges of the runner beans, then cut them on a slight angle into 5–6cm lengths. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the beans and cook for 4–5 minutes, or until tender but not dull or soggy. Drain and set aside. You could mix the beans and sauce together at this point and serve from the pan. However, I prefer it when the two are not fully combined: place a couple of spoonfuls of the puttanesca sauce in the base of a serving bowl, pile the drained beans on top and spoon the rest of the sauce over this. Toss the beans in the sauce just a little, before finishing with the remaining basil and olive oil.

SIDE BY SIDE:Having made this beautiful and delicious recipe  I thought I would take the concept of this book and see if I could make a modest potato salad into a veritable side dish.I hope I can follow the principle with many more.Its so true what the author said at the beginning of the book"this book will change how you think about your meals,"It really does.
New potato salad with garden cherry tomatoes peas and mint pesto
Serves four as a side dish
400g small new potatoes,kept whole and boiled
24 cherry tomatoes,kept whole
125g peas shelled

generous handful of mint leaves approx 30g
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
3-4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 dessert spoon of honey
Put all the ingredients in a processor and liqidise.Taste and adjust the seasoning
To assemble the salad
Toss the cooked potatoes in a tablespoon of the mint pesto.
Stir in the tomatoes.Assemble in individual salad bowls and sprinkle with a carpet of peas.Tear or shred some chourlço or crispy bacon on top for garnish (optional)


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