Fagiolini Pugliesi (Green Beans Apulia Style)
This week I have decided to become a paragon of efficiency. Usually these bouts of manic organization last roughly 24 hours and then I burn out in the bathtub where I can be found reading gossip magazines and drinking crappy chardonnay. It has thusly come as a shock to me that I am now on day three. If there were a Container Store nearby, I would have visited no less than 67 times by now. Alas, all I have is some crackpot everything store off our main piazza that sells things like clothes pins and canning jars when what I really want is an overpriced, aspirational closet organization system that makes me feel as if I have FINALLY MADE IT IN LIFE! Then I remember—I don’t even have a walk-in closet. #whitegirlproblems
And as I have neither closet nor Container Store nor Crate & Barrel for that matter, I have taken out my organizational wrath on our house and the construction workers that are supposedly charged with finishing it. Thus far it has been roughly 497 days and counting that we have been under construction and yet I still look around and see pipes snaked through the ceiling and errant electrical cords poking through the wall. And the thing is, a lot of people in Agerola just leave their houses like this, in a perpetual state of disarray, FOREVER. So today, I am a white lady on the warpath.
Much of this efficiency business got started last week when Giuseppe stumbled upon the frightfully delightful film Queen of Versailles on Netflix. I love this movie almost as much as I love Grey Gardens. Documentaries about disgrace and decadence are kind of my jam. Watching Jackie Siegel flutter around in a state of constant agitation and nattering on about the skating rink she and her husband hoped to build in their nouveau riche manse made me break into a cold sweat. I am turning into this woman. I live in a house that will never be finished. And instead of yammering on about a skating rink and waterslide that have yet to be built, I whine plaintively about my pizza oven and herb garden.
Remember when Gwynnie Paltrow obnoxiously wrote, “We’ve got a wood-burning pizza oven in the garden—a luxury, I know, but it's one of the best investments I've ever made." Well fuck you GP, I thought when I read that and now, I’m all like, I heart u GP.
Perhaps in this flurry of efficiency what I am really seeking is to become the nice white lady who has everything. She goes to Soul Cycle and drinks cold pressed juices and has fucking slim line hangers in matching colors. The same lady is really into farm to table restaurants, has a decorative herb garden on her windowsill and sometimes makes her own kombucha. And as much as I aspire to be a bad ass, all I really want in life is to be a nice white lady, with an organized closet, monogrammed stationary and a normal husband with a name like Grant. Or Biff.
Incidentally, I am not married to a man named Grant who plays golf and wears J. Crew. I am married to Giuseppe Villani who wears large gold crucifixes and leisure suits. Although in one promising move towards nice white person normalcy, Giuseppe has stopped chain smoking in favor of puffing on electronic cigarettes as of last week. We really are a class act here at Casa Melia-Villani. As I charge through the house screaming about wire hangers, Giuseppe lines up his various e-cigarette flavors. He has mojito, tiramisu and pineapple. Between his little liquid nicotine vials and various electronic pipes, it vaguely seems as if we are about to go freebasing at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Which is all just a really longwinded way of saying, I will never be a nice white lady. I am messy. I scream a lot. I don’t have a walk-in closet. I HATE going wine tasting. And sometimes an entire week goes by in which I neglect to brush my hair. Teeth can also sometimes be hit or miss. For no less than three months, I have been meaning to get draperies. And still, no draperies. Really where does one even go to get draperies? And also, who really cares? All I really care about is maybe cooking and going to Puglia once a year for my annual beached whale vacation.
My latest bout of efficiency will likely last another two or three days. I will strive towards white lady perfection. I will straighten my hair and use crest whitening strips and threaten to move back to America because I miss Williams Sonoma and Target. In the meantime, roughly 7,000 green beans will have reached maturity and I will be in the garden picking and pulling and cursing. Giuseppe will be puffing on his e-cigarette and playing Neapolitan card games. I suppose we’ll have to leave the lifestyle curation to people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively because who in their right mind would want lifestyle advice from us??? And all the better because it seems to me that upon further reflection being a nice white lady is both really hard and really boring. I’d rather be cooking.
Fagiolini alla Pugliese (Puglia Style Green Beans)
Serves 6 as a contorno and can also be mixed with spaghetti or linguine for a main dish.
1 pound green beans trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
14 oz. canned tomato puree
2 teaspoons salt
Cracked pepper to taste
Red pepper flakes to taste
1 tablespoon oregano
5 basil leaves chopped chiffonade style
Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil
Blanch green beans for two minutes
Drain and place in bath of cold water
Place garlic and olive oil in large, wide brimmed skillet
Heat of over medium and sauté until garlic is fragrant and softened
Add tomato puree, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and oregano, stirring with a wooden spoon
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes
Raise heat to medium and add green beans
Sauté green beans for about 5 minutes, stirring to coat in sauce
Garnish with basil and serve immediately