Greens Restaurant is a celebrated San Francisco eatery that features gourmet vegetarian cuisine. Having read the rave reviews, I purchased the Fields of Greens cookbook shortly after its 1993 publication. While I tried a couple of the recipes, the book pretty much collected dust for the next 20 years. I read through the recipes from time to time but felt as though the skills required to prepare them escaped me.
In September 2015, I decided to challenge myself to make every recipe in the book within a 16-month time horizon (which I beat handily). To my surprise, you don’t need years of training, fancy gadgets, or access to exotic food suppliers to make everything in the book. And Chef Annie Somerville’s expert instruction provided just the right amount of guidance.
One thing you do need is time. Some of the recipes take advanced planning to make ingredients that go into the main recipe (e.g., soup socks, curries). Most recipes require a lot of slicing and dicing. Fresh herbs need to be washed, picked, and chopped finely. Nuts need to be roasted or pan seared to bring out their flavors. Tomatoes need to be flash boiled to loosen and peel their skins before seeding and dicing. (Some of these activities can be done while watching TV.) In short, this style of cooking is not for the faint of heart!
The Fields of Greens cuisine is not low in calories. During the 10+ months of this cooking challenge, we went through more butter, flour, and sugar than we had in the previous 5 years. We both had a bit of trouble maintaining our weight, and I’m not entirely certain that we got a sufficiently balanced intake of macronutrients.
I kept a log that tracked when each recipe what prepared and what we thought of it. With very rare exception, we liked each of the 284 recipes that we sampled. Several dishes were out-and-out WOWs! Some were too much effort to contemplate preparing them again. Some were a bit too rich for our tastes.
I think of this cookbook as a “fancy meal” resource, not our everyday fare. The soups and salads will inform my ongoing experimentation with cooking. I’ll definitely keep my favorite curries and stews in the rotation. Otherwise, I’ll likely refer to Fields of Greens when preparing for special occasions.