Is it already boring and passé to be cooking and eating asparagus, rhubarb, ramps, and green garlic? Is everyone already tired of spring? I’m only asking because I’m troubled by the sheer quantity of recipes I’ve seen lately focusing on tomatoes, a decidedly non-spring ingredient.
There are a lot of folks in the wonderfully overlapping fields of food, garden, cooking, writing, wine, and beer (and even some other areas, but I won’t get too philosophical) whose recipes and narratives I respect so much more than my own. These humbling individuals range from little sister Louise, who knows more about growing her own food than I probably ever will; to icons like Julia Child.
Somewhere in between the familiar and the legendary fall my favorite food bloggers, who manage to present graceful, accessible interpretations of the life lived around food. These people get it. They’re on my wavelength. They’re able to put shared sentiments and passions down in words and recipes much more creatively/wittily/compassionately/intelligently than dilettante-me. That’s why every once in awhile, when I read an article or recipe that seems not to jive with that shared sentiment, it’s jarring.
So, I feel a little betrayed by all these tomato recipes. The truth is that I’m no slavish adherent to seasonal cooking. Instead, I buy seasonally when I can because it just tastes better. This is true with some veggies more than others, and tomatoes are the epitome of best-in-season fruit. Grocery store tomatoes are sickly and anemic, too stiff in their fleshy parts and too watery in their innards. They hint of tomato without ever actually achieving it. Saddest of all, tomatoes are so darn good in season that it’s especially disappointing when you break down and buy tomatoes from the grocery store. Why are all these people, whose palates and opinions I respect so much, jumping the gun on the tomatoes?
And now that I’ve buried the lede of this post beyond hope of every recovering it, let me get to the point: I stood in my kitchen one evening, craving all the tomato-y things that had been floating around the food-centric parts of the internet, but knowing how utterly disappointed I would be when I bought them from the store. Reason won out (for once), and I took a breath, went out to our little postage-stamp garden, and snipped a basket of baby greens. Tender, tiny collards, spinach, and deer-tongue lettuce. A few fridge-staple ingredients later, a soufflé was puffing and browning in the oven.
I know I’ve already written about rhubarb twice this spring (and probably will again), have included greens and spinach in various recipes, and will likely repeat an asparagus recipe before the month is out. They’re all kind of green. I know we were excited for that fresh-green as winter drew to a close, and I know that we’re getting excited for the still-warmer weather that’s drawing closer. Maybe you’re a little bored with greens. So bored that you’re willing to pretend that a sad tomato gets the job done. I’m here to say, no, please don’t. You could use a tomato. But, oh, those greens. They were just picked! They just taste better. And tasting good is never boring in my book.
Tender greens soufflé
This is my standard soufflé recipe that I adapt to whatever I have around. I used to be perplexed by recipes that call for, for instance, 4 egg yolks and 6 egg whites, because really, what do you do with two extra egg yolks? One day I decided to just do 4 yolks and their respective 4 whites. The world did not end. In fact, I can’t really tell the difference in puffiness between the six-white and four-white soufflé.
I have stolen a tip from Deborah Madison that I think actually makes all the difference—infusing your milk (or half-and-half or cream) with herbs and an allium before making the white sauce for the soufflé.
You will need
4 eggs, separated
1 cup whole milk
4 or 5 bulbs and greens of green garlic, trimmed and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup mild goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
Chopped fresh parsley, more or less depending on how much you like parsley flavor, and extra for garnish
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups mixed greens (my souffle had spinach, baby collards, and dandelion greens, but this could be adapted to what’s available to you)
Bring milk, green garlic, and thyme to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring, being careful not to burn the milk. Lower to a simmer and let the garlic and thyme infuse the milk for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, remove thyme sprigs, and set aside.
In a thick bottomed pan, heat butter until melted. Add flour and stir until incorporated to make a roux. Cook, stirring for about one minute. Add in milk mixture, egg yolks, cheeses, and parsley, stirring. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring every once in a while, as the mixture thickens. When it begins to thicken significantly enough that it looks like custard, turn off the heat.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. In a metal bowl, beat the eggs whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg white mixture into the custard mixture until just incorporated. Transfer to a greased six-cup souffle or gratin dish.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the souffle is nicely puffed and browned on the top. Serve with a side salad and a glass of something fruity, white, and dry, like a viognier.