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Scratch—adj. Informal usage. done by or dependent on chance: a scratch shot.

These days, my life doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for planning and cooking meals. I do make the effort, almost every Saturday morning, to get to the Greenmarket at Union Square—I enjoy the actual shopping for provisions as much as I do the town-square atmosphere. But for part of the week, my commute takes two hours out of each day, and on the days I work at home, I tend to slog away and lose all track of time. Before I know it, it’s late, my husband has just walked through the door, and we are both starving.

The great thing about having a well-stocked refrigerator is that it’s possible to wing a meal and get away with it, especially since our notion of what a proper dinner entails has evolved from something fairly traditional to whatever we are hungry for.

Like, for instance, the flat green romano beans from Franca Tantillo. Franca’s Berried Treasures stand isn’t usually at the Greenmarket on Saturdays, so when I saw it, I came to a screeching halt. Franca is renowned for her gorgeous strawberries, and I automatically grabbed a pint or two, but what really spoke to me were those beans. They were so fresh, they practically jumped out of the basket. I pounced.

Romanos are usually braised in a tomatoey sauce, but, on this absolutely perfect late-summer evening, that seemed like a misuse of Franca’s beans and my time. Instead, ten minutes in a pot of boiling water brought the beans to that crisp-sliding-into-tender moment that is equal parts “gosh, I timed that well” and “thank you, Jesus.”

By the time they were done, I’d sliced tomatoes and introduced them to some salt, pepper, and olive oil, and was rummaging through the fridge for the bag of herbs I knew was in there somewhere.

Handfuls of roughly chopped parsley, tarragon, and chives went into the blender, followed by equal amounts of Duke’s mayonnaise and sour cream (in lieu of the usual buttermilk), a squirt of anchovy paste, a smidge of chopped garlic, and a little white-wine vinegar. The end result was one of my favorite summer dressings, Green Goddess*. Rich and thick, it ribboned like cake batter over the warm, meaty beans.

Those perfect beans were the star of the show, although plenty of juicy ripe tomatoes and a couple of pieces of cold leftover roast chicken filled in the cracks. It was the kind of meal I love best: simple and plain, but really delicious and sustaining.

* There are times when I discover something that delights me down to my toes. It’s well established that Green Goddess dressing, named for a play, came from the Palace Hotel, in San Francisco, but when researching and writing the headnotes for The Gourmet Cookbook, I found myself getting more and more curious. On a chance visit to a dusty drama bookshop, I unearthed a copy of the melodrama, written in 1921 by William Archer, a Scottish drama critic (his translations introduced Ibsen to the British public) and playwright. It was quite a page-turner—three English travelers, a plane crash in the fictional Asian kingdom of Rukh, a rajah who does the bidding of the powerful Green Goddess, and, yes, even a butler, who could either save the day or be nastily killed. The marvelous London actor George Arliss starred as the rajah, and during the play’s run in San Francisco, he stayed at the Palace, where chef Philip Roemer created his herbaceous homage. Arliss went on to reprise his Green Goddess role in the silent picture (1923) and the talkie (1930). Although he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 1930 film, in a wonderfully melodramatic twist, he lost—to himself—in another movie.

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