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Green "Everything" Sauce
A green tahini-yogurt dressing for all your summer needs
I’m surprised by how verdant our garden is. Actually, Romain keeps saying, “C’est normal…,” but I’ve never really had a garden nor a live-in gardener.
I’m not really a great gardener — and if you want a good chuckle, The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden is a hilarious read by William Alexander about a man and his quest for his own garden…and how far he was willing to go to get things growing. (And how much he was willing to spend on it.)
I didn’t crunch the numbers here, but Romain has been planting and watering and moving rocks around while I focus on our compost and using the bounty.
No one is happier than I am that we managed to outwit the birds this year, putting netting over the raspberries — which has ‘netted’ us fresh berries every morning*. I’d like to say I’m going to have enough one day for a batch of raspberry sorbet or a few jars of jam, but when the raspberries are this good, it’s hard to do anything else to them but eat them.
We’ve got a lot of fresh herbs including verveine (lemon verbena, above), and we’re hoping the basil bursts forth this summer so we have plenty for pesto. The tarragon and sage have exploded after going dormant all winter, and the fresh oregano came back, too, which is a new herb to Romain (it’s not widely found at markets in Paris), and if it were up to him, we’d put it on everything. That’s how I feel about tarragon and basil. I suppose there are worst things that people can disagree on.
The first crop of figs is ripening now, although a family of pests has decided they want to fight us for it, and I’m not willing to share. So we are locked in a battle of the bugs. In the meantime, I’ve been making fig leaf ice cream in the new ice cream machine, which I’ve been admiring for a while, that I finally treated myself to (it was half-off, so I succumbed), and retired the one I’ve been using since I wrote The Perfect Scoop.
We’re not growing vegetables due to limited space, so I’m sticking to things that are harder to find in Paris, fruits like jalapeños and piments d’Espelette (Basque peppers). After some digging online, I managed to track down Sweet 100 and Sungold tomato plants in France, so we’re growing those fruits too.
I’m pretty adept at using fruits but am not an especially creative cook when it comes to vegetables. Like fruit, the best thing to do with either is to present them as simply as possible, letting the fruits and vegetables themselves shine. If you’re going to add something to a plate, it should enhance, not hide, the main ingredient…especially when you have vegetables…er, I mean fruits**, such as these lovely little eggplants.
Susan Spungen (who writes theSusanality newsletter) is someone who does know how to be creative with vegetables and wrote a whole book on the subject: Veg Forward: Super-Delicious Recipes that Put Produce at the Center of Your Plate.
Susan’s main technique is to start with what’s at the market, keeping the basic recipe (and ingredient list) simple, then getting creative with the sauce. There’s a sugar snap pea and radish slaw with buttermilk dressing, grilled Savoy cabbage with peanuts, fresh mint, and a rousing Thai-inspired sauce, as well as a smoky corn salad dressed with yogurt, lime juice, feta, and jalapeños (which I hope to have soon!), plus shaved cauliflower with chickpeas, and freekeh (smoked wheat) with a green sauce laced with tahini, which sounds right up my alley.
Sadly, the weather in Paris isn’t conducive to growing corn, because that smoked corn salad sounds good…but I do see it more and more at the markets and produce stores, although it’s not like the sweet corn in the States. Scallions also aren’t as prominent in French grocery stores as they are in the U.S. But we make up for that when all sorts of alliums appear in the spring, including ail nouveau, or new garlic, also known as spring garlic.
Ingredients like tahini and Greek yogurt are available in France at Arabesque épiceries such as Sabah, although I couldn’t resist bringing a jar of extra-special Seed+Mill tahini (and some of their otherworldly halvah) back from the States with me.
Since I’m giving shout-outs to brands, I also pulled out my bottle of Red Boat fish sauce, which I saw being made when I went to Vietnam. Romain and I tasted fresh mangoes with fish sauce salt, which was a revelation, but as they advise, a little fish sauce goes a looong way.
Susan is one of the best recipe writers out there, and although the recipe called for 2 teaspoons of yondu, a vegetable-based umami seasoning, or fish sauce, I cautiously added just one teaspoon at first. Then I tasted it and added the second one, as called for in the recipe, as it turned out to be exactly the right amount.
Also…the night I made and served it, we liked the sauce. But the next day, everything melded together into a beautiful and more cohesive sauce that was great with stove-grilled steak and charred bulbs of new garlic.
Green “Everything” Sauce
Although the yondu, or fish sauce, is optional, it’s really good in this sauce. You can leave it out or add a few anchovy fillets to give the sauce some extra oomph. I also might try it with lime juice instead of the lemon.
Next time, I would definitely put some fresh dill in this sauce and basil…now that ours is big enough to pick.
Susan recommended thinning the sauce with some water, which, right after I made it, looked runny enough so it didn’t need any. But as the sauce sat, it thickened up (as shown on the roasted eggplant photos in the post). We were already halfway into the bottle of rosé, and I didn’t want to get up and thin it out for a picture, but you may need to add some warm water to the sauce to thin it out before serving.
1 cup (240g) plain Greek yogurt
1 cup packed (20g) aromatic herbs, such as tarragon, parsley, mint, basil, dill, and sage
2 scallions, green and white parts, cut into pieces
1/4 cup (65g) tahini
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and patted dry
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
2 teaspoons fish sauce or yondu, or 2-3 anchovy fillets
Big pinch of cayenne pepper
A bit of warm water
Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.
Mix until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add a little warm water to get it to a spoonable consistency. (Susan says that it may need up to 2 tablespoons but I found less than that was necessary.) Season with a little more salt and lemon juice if desired.
The sauce will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.
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*Update: Well…the birds ended up getting the best of us and hoarded the next crop of raspberries for themselves, which wasn’t very nice. (But at least they left a few for us at the beginning.) I’ve been campaigning to build a more permanent wire enclosure rather than relying on nylon threads, which is taking some convincing. So perhaps by next spring I’ll have talked Romain into it. In the meantime, if anyone knows anyone in Paris who builds lockable wire cages from chicken wire, let me know…
**Apparently eggplants are actually berries.