I’ve been thinking about cooking green. And no, I’m not pandering to my more aggressively environmentalist brethren, I’m talking about the color green, the shades of which the human eye is more sensitive to than any other part of the visible spectrum: The haughty, peacock green of my grandmother’s emerald broach; the brooding, mossy green of the Russian River pooling under Wohler Bridge; the wicked, tempting greens of jalapeno peppers and the Witch of the West, the quiet greens of my wife’s eyes or pine boughs in snowy relief, and the cool greens of Key lime pie and margaritas by the pool. Green. It’s the new black, or whatever.
And yet, despite the remarkable human capacity to perceive green in all its rich and verdant glory, it’s hard for me to think of either a more nondescript or vaguely depressing menu billing as the ubiquitous “green salad”. Every time I read that line, I am transported, as if by some strip-mall perversion of Monsieur Proust’s cookie, to the nearest Sizzler-Olive Garden-Applebee’s-Chili’s, or my college cafeteria, with its dubious cornucopia of flaccid, tired “greens”, really more beige than green, the browning leaves marked, perhaps, by a disturbing pinkish edge, were I to look closely enough…
This all comes to mind because my wife, who vastly prefers to think about animals as pets rather than ingredients, and who happens to count green as her very favorite color, occasionally likes our otherwise steady diet of carbs and protein interspersed with fresh vegetables, and so I decided to make a green salad that would actually be green, entirely of its own natural accord: Brilliant, emerald-green arugula from Bernier Farms; chartreuse Green Zebra heirloom tomatoes from Soda Rock; and a simple vinaigrette, studded with mossy-green peppercorns.
(As an aside, master the home-made vinaigrette – what Thomas Keller called “a perfect sauce” – and you’ll never buy salad dressing again. The basic technique is a simple emulsion – check out the Foodista widget below for a quick tutorial – from which, with the right proportions of acid, fat, and seasoning, and a whisk, all dressings are possible.)