The Greens Cookbook, 396pp.
by Deborah Madison with Edward Espe Brown
Bantam Books, New York, 1987
Cooking on page 32
Ages ago, I bought this cookbook second-hand for $5, but Greens Restaurant in San Francisco remains as popular as ever.
Opening in 1979, Greens set out to introduce vegetarian cuisine to California’s meat-eating public. Even though I’ve never had the good fortune to eat at Greens, I know the restaurant has a spectacular location in a converted warehouse at historic Fort Mason. There are floor-to-ceiling windows and great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marina and the Marin headlands.
Carpenters from the San Francisco Zen Centre did the conversion, and for many years all staff members were Zen students.
Annie Somerville is the current chef, and she makes use of the abundant organic produce grown at Green Gulch Farm, just 14 miles away.
Cucumber–feta salad with red onions and mint
2 pounds cucumbers, such as Armenian, English, Japanese
1 small onion: a red onion, or torpedo onion, or one of the very sweet varieties such as a Walla Walla
8 ounces feta cheese (preferably Bulgarian which is less salty), thinly slices or crumbled
3 tablespoons mixed herbs: mint, parsley, marjoram and chives, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Champagne vinegar or rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
whole mint leaves for garnish
Peel the cucumbers if the skins have been waxed or have a bitter taste. Otherwise, leave them on, or peel most of the skins away, leaving a few narrow strips, which will make the slices pretty. Peel Armenian cucumbers only if the skins are tough. Slice the cucumber thinly (if they are very mature with large seeds, halve them lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and thinly slice the halves). Put the slices in a bowl: cover and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
Peel the onion, keeping it whole, and then slice it into rounds as thinly as possible. Cover with cold water and refrigerate, also for 1/2 hour.
Just before serving, remove the cucumbers and the onion from the refrigerator. Drain the onion and shake off the excess water. Layer the cucumber and onion slices informally on a platter or in a large shallow bowl. Season with a little salt and freshly ground white pepper, and scatter the cheese and herbs on top. Whisk together the vinegar and oil with a fork, and pour it over the salad. Garnish with the mint leaves and serve.
How it played out
I made half a batch, using Lebanese cucumbers (which is what I think the cookbook author would know as Japanese cucumbers). Also used homegrown herbs (parsley, mint and chives), my beloved Greek Dodoni feta and rice wine vinegar. I don’t even know if I can buy Champagne vinegar in Australia.
The call for so many thin slices reminded me that I really should master the art of using a mandolin. I have one buried in the back of a cupboard, and will force myself to haul it out next time. If this blog suddenly languishes, you’ll know I sliced off all my fingers.
Nice summer salad with ingredients I love and almost always have on hand. Personal opinion, I wouldn’t use mature cucumbers for this salad. It’s too delicate a dish for that.
I appreciated the references to Armenian, English and Japanese cucumbers. I tracked down online photos and confirmed that I know these, in order, as snake, telegraph and Lebanese cucumbers.
Has anyone out there been to Greens Restaurant? Is this on the menu?