I lived in San Francisco for many years—fifteen to be precise—I attended university there, both undergrad and grad schools, and after graduating I stuck around because I lived with someone. That someone liked to eat and so did his friends. For the most part, we didn’t do much cooking, we ate out a lot and we went to some pretty good places in the City and in Napa and Sonoma counties.
Our friends, who were foodies, liked to cook and they created some fabulous meals. One close friend Mourad Lahlou, owner and chef of Aziza, made one of the best chicken pastillas I’ve ever had. Nothing has ever come close to his, and believe me when I say this, I’ve eaten a lot of pastillas.
I’ve dined at a number of well-known restaurants and one of the most memorable meals I’ve had was at Greens Restaurant located at Fort Mason. Although this was several years ago, I distinctly remember Annie Somerville’s exquisite carrot soup. Since then I’ve never had one that had the right balance of sweet and savory and the perfect creamy consistence. Like Mourad’s pastilla, I’ve tried many carrots soups (and even made my own) and none can compare to the one I had so many years ago at Greens.
When I discovered that Somerville had a cookbook, I plunked down my $30 because I knew I had to have it as part of my collection. Fields of Greens is a vegetarian cook book. The premise of the book is to use the freshest and seasonal produce with pasta, beans and grains. Some dairy products and eggs are essential ingredients for some dishes, but Somerville uses them sparingly. Fields of Greens is about “big flavors” in most of the dishes, but as Somerville writes in the introduction, “…but leave the final seasoning of salt, pepper, and vinegar to your taste.”
Somerville provudes a nice little primer on planting an organic garden and suggests to start small and expand your garden as your knowledge develops. The advice is basic from cultivating the soil to starting your plants. From there she moves on to her recipes and there are a lot: salads with leafy greens, beans and grains, and marinated vegetables. She has recipes for grilled vegetables and for soups galore, including my favorite Carrot Soup with North African spices.
If you like your carbs, Somerville has recipes with pasta and risotto. One of my favorites is Spring Risotto with Asparagus and Peas made with a tomato and mushroom stock and with tender asparagus and sweet sugar snap peas—a perfect summer meal!
Not in the mood for pasta or risotto? Perhaps some pizza with onion confit, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese? Or maybe a Mexican pizza with salsa roja, cheddar cheese and cilantro pesto?
If you’re like me and want to make a healthy or rich dessert, Fields of Greens has an impressive selection of recipes to choose from. Some of my favorites include Lemon or Ginger Pots de Crème, Ginger Pound Cake, Gateau Moule – a very rich steamed chocolate cake.
Need advice of what to serve that’s in season? Fields of Greens has seasonal celebration meals. Also included is a section on pairing wines with vegetables, and a low-fat cooking guide.
Now that we’re in the dog days of summer with fruit and veggie stands galore, pick up a copy of Fields of Greens, believe me, you won’t miss your barbecue meats.