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Family Recipe Series: the Erace Brothers

In anticipation of our April 11th Edible World event, Sunday Supper and Family Lore, the First Person Blog will feature the stories and family recipes of Philly food personalities. This was going to an every-other-day happening, but we’ve had so many great foodies writing in with recipes, that you can find recipes every day till our event from the likes of chefs, writers and people who just love eating, making and talking about food and family. Click here to see our other foodie recipes.

It seemed more than appropriate, in doing this Family Recipe Series, to include the Erace Brothers, the sibling team heading up popular Green Aisle Grocery. Adam – also the restaurant critic for Philly Weekly and the man behind blogalicious – and Andrew bring locally sourced and specialty food products to East Passyunk strip. You can find Baker E’s whoopie pies and jams there, as well Ekta prepared dishes, house cured bacon from Cafe Estelle and lots of produce and milky goodness from local farms.

The boys have deep roots in South Philly, spreading out to Grandmom Jo’s house at 10th and Mifflin. They spark a possible family feud by picking her string beans and potatoes in a red sauce over the white version from their dad’s side. We at First Person Arts are not responsible for any Erace family discord as a result of this blog post. Enjoy Grandmom Jo’s recipe below.

stringbeansandpotatoesBoth sides of our family have a version of string beans and potatoes, an Italian peasant stew of sorts designed to stretch a little bit of food across a lot of mouths. The Eraces do it without tomatoes (white), while the Lerros, on our mom’s side, prepare it with (red). We’d be in trouble for picking sides, but we like the red better, and can remember standing at Grandmom Jo’s kitchen sink, 10th and Mifflin, picking the stems off bushels of fresh string beans. It seemed to take forever, or maybe it was just that the big bowl of comfort was coming.

Recreating the recipe today requires updating with crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, tons of chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest and a finish with really good extra-virgin olive oil. But this is Grandmom Jo’s formula, right down to the quotable interjections in the middle of your cooking groove. — Adam and Andrew Erace, Green Aisle Grocery

Grandmom Jo’s String Beans & Potatoes
Feeds 4

1 lb fresh string beans, stemmed
4 large potatoes, cut into large chunks
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large can tomato sauce
½ tsp. dried basil
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Blanche the string beans in the water, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the beans into a colander and shock with cold water to set their color. 
2. Heat the olive oil in a deep pot. Add onions and sauté until they soften and brown—“but don’t let them get too brown”—approximately 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the basil—“I use fresh in the summer”—and chopped potatoes. Toss to coat the potatoes in oil and add the can of tomato sauce, plus a can of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for half an hour. “At least.” 
3. When the potatoes are fork-tender, add the beans and simmer for a few minutes. Adjust seasoning. Add chili flakes if desired. “Eat it with bread. Or without bread. Whatever you want.”

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