I’m reading M.F.K. Fisher’s Serve It Forth. In the chapter titled “Meals for Me,” she lays out her specifications for the perfect meal. No more than six around the table. It should simple and leisurely with people who “possess the rare gift of sitting,” who “should be able, no, eager, to sit for hours – three, four, six – over a meal of soup and wine and cheese, as well as one of twenty fabulous courses.”
What a lazy, unabashedly restful picture. Lolling around the table with close friends and easy conversationalists. It’s evening and no one is fussing over the plating of this or that. People are enjoying the food and each other. People are sharing. I can almost smell the air, can’t you?
The closest we get to the succor of a good long meal at our house is one with finger foods and a quick-to-cook side dish. The kids will sputter out half-baked jokes and ask you which you’d rather do, sit and watch the grass grow or watch Barney (it’s the grass, all the way around the table). They’ll pick at the roasted vegetables and scrape the cheese off the open-face sandwich, leaving the starch. They will eat apples. They will ask to be excused. But if you’re lucky and it’s a nice evening and you happen to be eating outside, you may have time to sit at the table with another adult, dip a quesadilla triangle into olive oil mixed with hot smoked paprika and talk about your days. That is our brand of restful. That, around here, is the perfect meal.
Roasted Green Beans with Orange Zest and Smoked Paprika
adapted from Eating Well
2 tablespoons olive oil, split
¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika
several large handfuls fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1½ teaspoons orange zest (or, zest of one orange)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small serving bowl, combine paprika with one tablespoon of the olive oil.
Cut green beans into roughly 2-inch-long pieces. Toss with remaining tablespoon of olive oil, orange zest and a pinch or so of sea salt. Place on baking sheet and shake to spread them out evenly.
Roast on the center rack of the oven for 6 minutes. Remove and shake the pan again or turn green beans with a spatula. Return to oven for 5-7 minutes, until beans are nicely browned.
Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. Pour into a serving bowl or pick up the entire piece of parchment and nestle it unceremoniously into a bowl. Drizzle with a spoonful or so of the paprika-infused olive oil and extra fresh zest. Bringing the remainder of the infused olive oil to the table and pass along with the green beans.