Beautiful being green: edamame and tomatillos
In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy, being green.”
Especially if you’re a kid, and deal oh-so-much-better with white (chicken, bread, cheese, rice). Or, if you’re a tired mom, who doesn’t want to face the wince on that baby’s face when presented with spinach. Green has had such a bad name, Popeye had to be recruited to reaffirm its value. Really? Spinach that flowed from a can like green goop was going to help? Well, what do I know. Whether that worked for kids or inspired their parents, I’m not sure, though it apparently did help to boost spinach sales in those canned times.
Kale, I’m told, is the new green with kale salad and kale chips (doesn’t frying the green defeat any nutritional purpose it might ostensibly serve?) and kale smoothies everywhere.
Maybe, as lots of my hip mama friends will aver, kale is the Queen Green with the magic wand. I’ll never know, in this kale-less corner of the universe. But I do know this. If I were a kid presented with that Gerber pureed green stuff-in-a-jar, be it spinach or beans or anything between, I’d make faces, too. And now at a full-fledged 40+, I’m done with the lectures (giving and receiving) on the nutritional value of greens, from icebergs (which apparently have little value) to broccoli and spinach (those old trusted sources of value) to kale (the new hot superfood value on the block).
I’d much rather remember instead how to taste green on its own terms, and lick your fingers clean after.
So I’ll remember that the best moments in life are when we learned to do things in our own ways and to make peace with what we are, on our own terms. And I’ll hum along with Kermit:
When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be.
Here’re two starter recipes, one for the kids and one possibly more for the moms of those fussy eaters. We have neither edamame nor tomatillos here in Pondicherry, so these are from our memory books (although goodness knows we do have enough lapsang souchang in the pantry, just in case we do manage to grow edamame here in town).
First, boil a packet of frozen edamame (still-in-pod soy beans). Drain.
Toss with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, some sea salt, and a teaspoon or a single opened teabag of lapsang souchang tea. (Don’t have lapsang souchang? Oh my. It won’t be the same, but you could try oolong, or just any black tea, powdered.)
Serve in a bowl with a second, empty bowl handy for the husks, no utensils (but maybe a few napkins handy).
If you wish a moment to admire the green, to feel the warmth of the steam still rising with the flavor of olive oil and smoky lapsang, steal it now while you still can.
The kids will come running, I promise, no matter their reliance on the energy of the universe for sustenance.
See? It’ll even be hard to get good photos, once they’re really at it, never mind your rightful share.
Salsa Verde, or Tomatillo Salsa
Second, vow never, ever, ever, to buy salsa verde from a jar. Don’t cheat, now. Put your hand on your heart, and promise. Your tastebuds will thank you, and your friends and family will, too.
Find some tomatillos instead–4-5 will do just fine. (If you can’t, use green tomatoes instead, but do not return to the jars!)
See how cute they are? Take time to enjoy the aesthetics of food. That sort of joy is contagious, and everyone around will catch it, too.
Remove the tomatillo husks, and cut each in half. Lay, cut sides down, on a sheet of foil, and bake at 350F until beginning to soften and brown (about 20 mins). Throw some garlic in to roast with the tomatillos, if you’re so inclined.
In the meantime, combine, in a blender: a half of a white onion, the juice of a lime, 1-2 green chillies (heat to your taste, especially if kids will be sharing), salt, a small bunch of chopped coriander leaves, and perhaps a pinch of sugar to neutralize sourness. Once the tomatillos are roasted and cooled a little, toss them into the blender, too, and let ‘em whirr.
Serve with corn chips or over grilled chicken or as a garnish to a bowl of soup that needs a bit of pep. It’ll keep in the fridge for a few days, and a little will go a long way. Although the Houston fall always called us to pumpkins and squashes, green was just fine, it was beautiful, and precisely where we wanted to be.
We lived on edamame snacks all our years in Houston, but particularly in the wintertime. And the salsa verde fit right into a most wonderful fajita dinner prepared by our neighbors on Linkwood, where we lived for so very long.
In this season of white storms, here’s wishing you all green love and ever-green memories, all through 2014!