Set in historic Fort Mason, with a view of the glorious Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, San Francisco's Greens Restaurant holds its own, an institution in itself. When the landmark restaurant first opened, it was revolutionary in its use of fresh, local produce and elevated vegetarian cuisine. Now 30 years later, Greens is still going strong, surrounded by countless restaurants whose menus owe much to its influence.
Annie Somerville, Greens' Executive Chef, has been at the restaurant for 28 of those historic years, and while she says that it may seem like a "redundant catch phrase" at this point to say, the restaurant's success comes from its unwavering commitment to farmers, small producers, and the bounty of ingredients they offer.
The author of two cookbooks, Fields of Greens and Everyday Greens, Somerville recognizes, however that her location in the rich agricultural center that is the Bay Area, is a rarefied place to be. So in her recipes she stresses flexibility. "If you don't have to have the most beautiful butter lettuce," she told me recently. "You can still do it."
That said, she does urge home cooks to seek out what is in season and to try to create dishes where those ingredients can sing. Given this strange time of year, at the nexus of winter and spring, she offers us a recipe incorporating a little of both -- beets and asparagus [FYI, Katie wrote this more than a month ago when it was a little closer to winter; there was a delay in publishing. -- Ed.].
She suggests serving this refreshing salad as part of a simple supper, alongside a frittata or some crusty toasted bread topped with fromage blanc or goat cheese.
Chef Somerville's commitment to fresh ingredients has kept her excited to keep rolling out new recipes at Greens for 28 years, and after sampling this dish, you'll see why.
Asparagus and Beets with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (Anne Somerville, Executive Chef, Greens Restaurant)
Serves 4 to 6
- 1/2 pound Chioggia or golden beets, well scrubbed and tops trimmed
- Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 pound asparagus, tough ends discarded, cut in 2-inch lengths on the diagonal
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- Place the beets in a small baking dish with 1/4-inch water.
- Cover the dish and roast until tender when pierced with a skewer or paring knife, about 35 to 40 minutes, depending on their size.
- While the beets are roasting, make the vinaigrette (recipe below.)
- When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut them in wedges; place them in a serving bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil and salt lightly.
- Drop in the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes, until tender, but still bright green.
- Drain the asparagus and rinse under cold water; give it a good shake to remove the excess water. and let it dry on a kitchen towel.
- Just before serving, toss the asparagus with the beets and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette*
Makes about 1/2 cup
- 1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Whisk everything but the oil together in a small bowl. Slowly pour the oil in, whisking until emulsified. (Annie says that while this emulsifies quickly by hand, you can also do this in a blender, if you'd prefer.)
*If Meyer lemons aren't available, try regular lemons or tangerines instead.
This is the one of a series of "Dispatches from the Bay" from Katie Robbins, a freelance writer currently splitting her time between cities of New York and San Francisco. Her writing on food has appeared in Saveur, BlackBook, and the Atlantic Monthly's Food Channel.