A summer harvest of vegetables to draw a hungry crowd Pick of the crop stars in 'Fields of Greens'

July 28, 1993|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Contributing Writer

I wonder if Annie Somerville stood in the middle of her rows of corn, or in any of her "Fields of Greens," and heard a voice: "If you cook it, they will come."

Why not? It worked for actor Kevin Costner, who, as Dyersville, Iowa, farmer Ray Kinsella, heard a similar utterance in the hit movie "Field of Dreams." He built a baseball field; Annie Somerville wrote a cookbook.

"Fields of Greens" (Bantam, $26.95) is as right as baseball is for summer, given that it is devoted to the cooking of all manner of vegetables. As sure as there are singles, doubles, triples and homers across the land this summer, there will be greens, beans, potatoes and peppers as well.

Ms. Somerville's work may be viewed as a sequel to "The Greens Cookbook" (Bantam, 1987) and "The Savory Way" (Bantam, 1990). Both of those extraordinary cookbooks were written by Deborah Madison, founding chef of San Francisco's Greens restaurant. She also trained Ms. Somerville, who is now executive chef at the celebrated vegetarian restaurant.

At the restaurant, Ms. Madison's "creative inspiration remains at the heart of our kitchen," says Ms. Ms. Somerville, but "our recipes are a little leaner now" -- less butter, fewer eggs. That theme continues throughout the book, as does the demand for the freshest and ripest ingredients.

Ms. Somerville's fields of greens are at Green Gulch Farm in Marin County just north of San Francisco. There she has the pick of an amazing variety of vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruits. Since most cooks don't have this luxury, she offers suggestions for beginning your own garden on a modest scale.

More than 300 recipes fill "Fields of Greens," one easier than the next. There's a wonderful Southern Rio stew, for instance, filled with squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini, corn, herbs and spices. All ingredients should be in most supermarkets most of the year. Can't find fresh tomatoes? Ms. Somerville is not above suggesting the tinned variety if necessary.

The salads, for me, are the heart of this book, although there are plenty of pastas and pizzas, wonderful soups, hearty stews and sandwiches and tempting desserts, such as peach-blueberry pie and a rhubarb-strawberry cobbler.

Sixty-three pages are filled with salads: summer beans with cherry tomatoes and tarragon; roasted peppers with cheese and herbs; Sicilian salad with roasted eggplant, peppers and garlic; tomato salad with cucumbers, feta cheese, oregano and mint; romaine hearts with sourdough croutons and Parmesan cheese; and the delightful red and green romaine hearts with avocado, mango and ginger.

Special mention should go to the publisher, Bantam. "Fields of Greens" is in the same clean style as the two popular cookbooks by Ms. Madison. This makes for easy and comfortable reading for those following along in the Madison-Somerville footsteps.

Once you prepare a few recipes from "Fields of Greens," I guarantee "they will come" to your table to taste another homer from your kitchen.

Ms. Somerville says it is perfectly acceptable to substitute green romaine if red is not available, or "replace it altogether with

butter lettuce." In any event, it's a wonderfully easy salad.

Romaine with avocado

Makes 2 large or 4 small salads

1 head of green romaine lettuce

2-3 heads of red romaine lettuce or 1 more head of green romaine

1 ripe mango

zesty ginger vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

1 avocado, peeled and sliced 1/4 -inch thick on a slight diagonal

freshly ground black pepper

Discard the bruised outer leaves of the green romaine. Use the pale green inner leaves, keeping the small leaves whole and cutting or tearing the larger ones into halves or quarters. The heads of red romaine will be smaller and somewhat delicate. Discard the bruised leaves; cut or tear the large leaves, keeping the small leaves whole. Wash the lettuce and dry in a spinner. Wrap loosely in a damp towel and refrigerate.

Peel the mango with a paring knife; carefully slice the fruit off the pit in long sections. Cut the sections lengthwise into 1/4 -inch slices. Prepare the vinaigrette.

Place the pine nuts in a small skillet and toast them over very low heat, stirring or shaking the pan as needed, until they're golden and fragrant -- about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn them.

Place the romaine leaves in a large bowl and sprinkle with the pine nuts. Pour the vinaigrette over and toss thoroughly, coating all the leaves. Add the avocado and mango; gently toss to distribute the fruit and coat with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Zesty ginger vinaigrette

Makes about 1/3 cup

1/4 teaspoon minced lime zest

1/4 teaspoon minced orange zest

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons light olive oil

Combine everything but the zests in a blender jar; blend, then whisk in the zests.

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