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A Late Summer Dish to Herald Fall

In recipe-free cooking, sometimes the idea of beef stew can lead you to a plate of green beans and tomatoes with sage (and chicken sausage) instead. My actual starting point was polenta, which called for something rich, saucy, and comforting to top it. While I kept circling back to the idea of beef stew, I didn’t have the necessary ingredients and was too lazy to go shopping. And so, back to the fridge and the counter top for whatever late-summer produce had accumulated there.

What I had to work with: a bag of slightly shriveled green beans, mixed cherry tomatoes (yellow, gold, red) at the end of their season, and a bundle of sage, which makes a great bridge between summer and fall.

Start with a hot pan and some olive oil; add the green beans, cut into smaller pieces. Toss the beans to coat, and add a dash or so of salt. Let the beans brown and crisp to wake them up a bit (remember, these were a bit worse for wear and too soft). After about 5 – 10 minutes, turn down the heat – don’t want to burn the beans, just brown them. To get your sauce going, add a generous dash of dry vermouth and a few shakes of fish sauce (it deepens the flavor) and let the beans simmer. Cover the pan and leave the heat on low.

After a few minutes, add the cherry tomatoes (halved or quartered) and chopped sage (fresh please); put the lid back on, let simmer some more. I did this by feel – look, smell, listen and let that be your judge as to when things are done.

You could let it go here, but I wanted saucy, to pour over the polenta, so I added one 14 oz. can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles, as well as a small can of tomato sauce (maybe 5 oz). Finally, I added in cut up chicken sausage anduille that I had lying around (I also removed the casing; note, the sausage was fully cooked already so it only needed heating).

Leaving the heat on very low, let the whole thing simmer so the green beans can get tender; salt to taste. Optional finish: turn off heat, add heavy cream and stir (how much? until the sauce turns the shade of pink you want it to be, as much or little as you like). This addition makes for a lovely silkiness in the sauce and reminds me of vodka sauce, just sans the vodka. Of course, you could also add vodka while the sauce simmers and before adding the cream.

Serve over polenta, rice, or big sturdy pasta like farfalle or larger.

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