Tag Archives: Green

Green vegetable soup with miso

One of the first things Sam and I did after we got the keys to our new place was to sign up for a CSA membership. It’s been great fun so far, having a big box of exuberantly dirty produce show up quietly on our doorstep every other week. We stuff it all into the fridge, and then methodically cook or snack on it for the next fourteen days. Normally I relish this kind of cooking challenge–being handed a bunch of ingredients and told, “Go!” But, if I’m being honest, my creativity has been wearing a little thin.

So this recipe is a case of extremely fortunate timing. Last Tuesday, I opened our CSA box to find, among other things, a huge bunch of dinosaur kale, three bundled broccoli heads, a bunch of gorgeous carrots, and a lemon. On Wednesday, I opened up my RSS reader to find a Food in Jars post with a soup recipe calling for kale, broccoli, carrot, and lemon. All it took was putting two and two together, and I had lunch for the rest of the week.

Marisa from Food in Jars calls this “hippie soup,” which seems accurate. For one thing, it starts by boiling vegetables instead of sweating them in oil. You just toss a big pile of greens and herbs, an armful of broccoli florets, some alliums, and a grated carrot into a pot with water, and cook everything until it’s blendable. The recipe called for nutritional yeast, which I didn’t have and don’t intend to buy. But I had some white miso in the fridge, and figured that adding it would give the soup body and savory saltiness. I also tweaked the ingredients a bit based on my mood and the contents of the fridge, swapping scallions for onions and skipping the spinach in favor of more kale. The soup came out vividly Christmas-green, and the flavor was surprisingly complex–I was worried it’d be bitter, but it was mellow and herbal instead. It definitely tasted “good-for-you” green, but in the best way. (I suppose this is how people feel about green smoothies, but I like this soup way better than any green smoothie I’ve ever had.)

Normally, when I write recipes, I try to give approximate weights and volumes for things like “a bunch of kale” or “the juice of a lemon.” But I’m not doing that here, because precision really, really does not matter with this soup. This kind of recipe begs to be fiddled with, and the greens and herbs are totally interchangeable. I used kale and parsley, but this recipe is a great use-up for whatever greens and leafy herbs you have around–chard, spinach, radish greens, beet greens, turnip greens, collards, carrot tops, cilantro, arugula, watercress, etc. You want about half the mass of the soup to be leafy greens and herbs of some kind, and the other half to be broccoli, scallions, carrot, and garlic. Beyond that, go nuts.

green veggie soup with miso

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Green tea walnuts

Hey, happy New Year, everybody!

As usual, the end of 2013 rattled right up and then whizzed right by. It feels like none of us got any time to breathe over the holidays. And yet we did–I know we did. The Saturday before Christmas, Sam and I cleared our calendars, strapped on our hiking boots, and hiked up the steepest hill around. It was slow going, and it hurt a lot, and I could feel my lungs and my head clearing as we made our way up. I have a photo on my phone from the summit, 2,800 feet above sea level, on a day as dry and blue as December in California can ever be:

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And I made green tea walnuts, too, on New Year’s, with some of my leftover matcha. The idea wormed its way into my head weeks ago, when I stopped for lunch at the Imperial Tea Court at the Ferry Building. They had a sign advertising green tea walnuts, with a bright red sticker over it saying SOLD OUT. But I knew I had green tea powder on hand, and a single egg white in the freezer, a trusty recipe for spiced nuts to riff on. So it was just a matter of finding a free hour in the chaos of the holiday, and sitting down to make something crunchy and a little sweet.

My go-to spiced nuts recipe seems very much like a Christmas treat; these green tea walnuts, on the other hand, feel like a January thing. They’re slightly sweet, like the others, but also a little bracing, with layers of bitterness from the green tea and the walnuts. The matcha stains the walnuts a subdued forest-green color, just enough to signal what the flavor is. Somehow, eating a handful of these makes me feel like I’m healing myself; because of the bitterness and heft of the walnuts, I can’t just eat these mindlessly. Tasting each one is a deliberate act.

I’ll admit, I had to warm up to these. I’m not usually crazy about walnuts, and the walnut flavor here is deep, so at first it put me off. But the more I eat these, the more I like them. And my friends who love walnuts, loved these; in fact, they were happy to gobble up half the batch before Sam had time to photograph. So here they are, as a New Year’s offering–something nourishing for these post-holiday detox days.

green tea walnuts

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Green tea chocolate chip cookies

My neighbor Jess is a total badass. By day, she’s an animator at a major motion picture studio; by night, she repairs bicycles and makes pots for her succulent plants out of concrete and old buckets. And as if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a talented baker, with a particular knack for delicate and sophisticated cookies. She makes adorable bite-sized macarons that could make you weep, they’re so perfect. (She showed me how. I tried. I can’t make ’em like she can.)

I will forever be indebted to Jess for two things. First, for introducing me to matcha, or finely ground green tea. I’d heard of matcha before, mostly in the context of making green tea-flavored sweets, but Jess was the one who finally inspired me to go out and buy some. It’s certainly pricey–mine cost $8 an ounce–but a little goes a long way. Traditionally, matcha is whisked into hot water to form a frothy, intensely green tea. I used some of mine this way recently when I was fighting off a cold, and the thick forested punch it gave seemed to knock the bug right out of my system. But really, I bought matcha to use it in cookies, which leads to the second reason I’m indebted to Jess.

A couple months ago, we got together for a lazy Sunday of baking, tea, and chitchat. We made a tomato tart, baked peaches, and then Jess started gathering ingredients for cookies. “Green tea chocolate chip,” she said. “I just use the recipe on the back of the Nestle bag, but I replace two tablespoons of the flour with matcha.” The dough mixed up bright green, almost alien-like; when it baked, the cookies took on an eerie moss-toned color. At first bite, I thought I was just tasting an ordinary  cookie–but then the flavor of the green tea slowly took hold, blossoming grassy and slightly bitter through the rich goo of the chocolate chips. It stunned me. I thought about those cookies for days.

I’ve since made these cookies for myself several times, tinkering a bit to find a balance I like. For me, that includes a dose of whole wheat flour to offset the grassiness with nuttiness, as well as almond extract in place of vanilla. These seem like an ideal Halloween cookie, green and spooky as they are, but with enough subtlety to please adults as well as children.

Thank you, Jess, for bringing these cookies into my life.

green tea chocolate chip cookies multiple

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Food of the gods

I’m a sucker for a good theme party. Fortunately, my friends throw good theme parties.

Like, for example, a Greek gods party. With togas and garlands and grapes and more grapes. It was glorious. We all lounged around in the silliest, cleverest costumes we could think of, and drank wine and grilled meat and then changed into swimsuits and played tag in the pool. We were also encouraged to bring thematically-appropriate food. Which I did. And, apparently, went a little retro to boot.

I’d been seeing recipes around for green goddess dip, and this seemed like the perfect party to test it out at. Green goddess dip is in fact an adaptation of green goddess dressing, which was invented in the kitchens of a fancy hotel in the 1920’s (in San Francisco, I believe!). It’s got a slight head-scratcher of an ingredients list: mayonnaise, sour cream, tarragon, chives, chervil or parsley, lemon juice, and anchovy. The combination of aggressive herbal brightness and luxe creaminess must have been a stunner back in the bootleggers’ days, but I wanted to find a way to lighten it some. The solution? Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and a big ripe avocado in place of the mayonnaise. Not only did the avocado make the dip insanely buttery and thick, but it also turned it science-fiction green. A green green goddess dip, indeed.

I didn’t have high hopes for this one; it was mostly for the ha-ha of the name and the theme of the party. But man, was this a huge hit. The combination was unusual and immensely satisfying: the cool milky smoothness of the yogurt and avocado against the pale oniony chives, light licorice tarragon, leafy parsley, and just the faintest whisper of salt from the anchovies. We started out with carrot sticks, then migrated to tortilla chips, and by the end of the party I was swabbing out the dregs from the bowl with my finger. I have no regrets.

green goddess dip

Since this was a party of the gods, I also wanted to try my hand at the food of the gods: ambrosia. There is such a thing as ambrosia salad, a throwback to the days when processed foods were new and exciting. It’s like a fruit salad with the sugar and chemicals turned up to 11: canned pineapple, canned mandarin orange, mini marshmallows, flaked coconut, maraschino cherries, premade whipped topping or sour cream or both. I’ve had ambrosia salad. It’s…not my thing. But I knew there was a hint of something amazing underneath all of that. And August, with its absolute abundance of stone fruit, is just the right time for a creamy fruit salad. Which is really what ambrosia salad is.

I suppose I shouldn’t really call this ambrosia salad, since it has none of the requisite ingredients. What it does have are fresh peaches, plums, and cherries, tossed in a dressing of thickened coconut milk, lime, mint, and vanilla. Toss it in the fridge for a couple hours–it gets better the longer it sits–and serve it chilled from a big bowl. The juices from the fruit mingle with the rich coconut-sweet glaze, making it nearly impossible to stop eating chunks of fruit straight from the bowl with your fingers. (At least, if you’re me.) Ambrosia salad, it’s not; but ambrosia, it just might be.

stone fruit ambrosia

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Pea and green garlic soup

My dad came home from the hospital today. He’s in terrific spirits and already well on the mend, though there are lingering effects from the surgery. For one thing, his voice has been temporarily pushed into falsetto, making him sound a bit like Hyacinth Bucket; for another, he’s preferring soft-to-swallow foods, to save his poor cut-up throat some effort. I wanted to treat him to a nice light-but-special lunch when he came home; my farmer’s market trip yesterday yielded, among other things, a bag of English peas and a purple-tinged bunch of green garlic. So I made soup.

This is, more or less, early spring in a bowl. Fresh peas are at their sugary plump best now, with a crisp starchiness that frozen peas just can’t match. I’m lazy and buy my peas shelled–for a premium–but supposedly, shelling the peas is the kind of meditative kitchen task people wait all year for. As for the green garlic, it’s not an ingredient I often use, since it only appears at farmer’s markets and must be used quickly. It’s also sometimes hard to spot, since in its smallest and sweetest form it looks like a bulbous scallion. As it grows, the bulb becomes more pronounced, and the flavor intensifies. The garlic I bought was more or less fully grown, but not yet cured and concentrated the way our more familiar garlic is. Either way, it’s a great find for delicate dishes, with all the sweetness and roundness of older garlic and none of the spicy aggression.

young garlic

I’m not usually one for minimalism and refinement in the kitchen. But today I wanted simple. Clean. Peas and green garlic at the front. I sauteed the garlic quickly in oil, then added peas, water, and a few featherweight flavorings–lemon juice, chili flakes, a mint sprig. The peas got cooked gently, just until they lost their last hint of chalkiness and became soft enough to puree. Then I stuck an immersion blender in the pot and whirred away, watching the soup get slowly thicker and minty-greener. A couple slices of bread, a tangerine for each of us, and voila–lunch in 20 minutes.

We had our soup in mugs, which I highly recommend. There’s a comfort factor to this soup–as airy as it is–that makes it perfect for sipping over a newspaper. It also stayed wonderful as it cooled to room temperature, which makes me think it would work just as well served cold. I suppose you could add a drizzle of cream or a swirl of yogurt, if you wanted, but I wouldn’t recommend it. With something this delicate, let the vegetables do the talking.

pea green garlic soup

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