Wednesday, November 7, 2012

UnRecipe: Cooked Green Food Looks Terrible, But It Tastes Amazing

Salads look refreshing! A verdant pesto made with garden herbs looks great! But fully-cooked green food...? Not so much. Split pea soup? Baby poop. And green enchiladas? Don't even get me started. Which is why it's ironic that the one dish that tasted great looked so horrible. So, with that in mind, here, look at some fresh garden-grown tomatoes!

Food blogging subterfuge -- look at this thing, right now, and not the other thing! - Photo by Wasabi Prime
The last, gasping handfuls of our vegetable garden aren't a total blog-beard -- they were pivotal in my Green Food Frustration post. As with every year, I always wind up with a lot of green tomatoes. Our growing season in the Pacific Northwest is annoyingly short, and my patience for babying tomato plants wears thin. Cherry tomatoes are my favorite, as even the greenest little underripe buggers manage to ripen in a bowl on the counter if I let them sit long enough. But I always get optimistic and get a few large-fruiting tomato plants like Romas or Sweet 100s, which supposedly grow fast. I wind up with maybe a couple fully-ripened tomatoes and way more green ones, but like they say, when life gives you green tomatoes -- make green food.

Green (and yellow) food -- looks great when it's freshly picked! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I actually like green tomatoes, and not just for an excuse to watch that charming, yet surprisingly disturbing movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. Green tomatoes are tart and have a unique flavor all their own, so I like roasting them with an onion and blending it all into a sauce, usually salsa. I combine this with other green foods like cilantro, lime zest and juice, and season it with a lot of cumin and chili powder. Everything goes into the blender, I love it -- no fuss, no muss, and there's enough liquid from the roasted vegetables and a lime or two, to get everything blended to a smooth consistency. Shazam.

I did this with ripe tomatoes as well, which I have to say, the studies about certain colors like red, yellow or orange being more enticing to the appetite is totally right. It's basically the same salsa ingredients, just red tomatoes versus green ones, but the red salsa looks exponentially better. I made this with ripe tomatoes kindly given from another person's garden, one who is not as blessed/cursed with green tomatoes as myself. I added some of my own ripe tomatoes to the great vegetable roasting, as well as some tomatillos for tartness, as I didn't have fresh lime. A very tasty salsa, enjoyed warm or cold, I pretty much ate one jar's worth all on my own before eventually sharing the other jar with friends.

Let's face it, red salsa just looks better - Photos by Wasabi prime
I found myself with a couple of pounds' worth of green tomatoes towards the end of the season, so I repeated the salsa recipe and wound up with a pretty pesto-like mixture. I even threw in some roasted/peeled hatch chiles. But I didn't want to push myself along that same dark alleyway of me on the couch with a bag of tortilla chips and a big bowl of salsa for dinner the next few nights, so I thought: Green Enchiladas. In my mind, I envisioned enchiladas filled with chicken, the last of our garden's yellow squash and ricotta, to give it an extra creamy texture. I enriched the salsa verde with some Mexican crema, and that gave it a smooth, velvety texture to coat all the filled tortillas before baking. I covered everything with crumbled cotija cheese and into the oven these enchiladas went.

From green... to baby poop, but damn, it tasted good! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
And... baby poop. Heat just kills the fresh colors of food, especially green things, there's not a lot you can do about it. I remember buying crazy multi-colored bell peppers, and making the mistake of putting them into a stir fry and they turned dirty brown, even though they tasted fine. Not even a sprinkling of fresh cilantro or extra cheese was going to save these enchiladas. So why even bother posting? Aside from the fact that I love the idea of cooking stuff grown in our garden, and as super-grody as these enchiladas looked on the plate -- they were probably the best enchiladas I'd ever made! Doesn't that just kill you when that happens? What resembles little Junior's explosive diaper accident, was freakin' delicious. But the photos will never do it justice. Mixing ricotta with cooked chicken and vegetables, spicing it with some cayenne and cumin, makes for a wonderfully smooth enchilada filling. Think of a hybrid between Italian stuffed pasta and a typical enchilada. The ricotta and a light seasoning keeps it mild, which makes me think a typical red enchilada sauce would be overwhelming. The baby poop green sauce was citrusy, fresh, but rich from the combining of the crema. The night I made this, I had double servings, I loved it so much. I probably ate it so fast, I barely noticed the fact that it looked like hell.

I'm in love! But the object of my affection is ugly as sin and likely something you'd courtesy-flush before eating. So therein lies my food-quandary. I will definitely make this again, but it's a "Just Us," dinner, as the Mister had no qualms about eating Salsa Verde Turdy Enchiladas -- he pretty much bypassed all other leftovers for this green monstrosity. But take my Beauty and the Feast advice: even the ugliest of meals can still make your tummy very happy, even if your food blogger aesthetic is like, what-the-what?! 

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