For nearly eight years Deborah Madison and Edward Espe Brown cooked at Greens, a wonderful vegetarian restaurant operated by the San Francisco Zen Center.
Now they have left the restaurant, but with the publication of "The Greens Cook Book" (Bantam, Inc. $19.95), which they authored, one can prepare food in the Greens manner right at home.
Where "The Greens Cookbook" is particularly impressive is in its deployment of winter vegetables: a mouthwatering ravioli stuffed with winter squash, or Wide Green Noodles, Cauliflower and Broccoli with Mustard Butter.
Admittedly, seasonal cooking in northern California in mid-August, when fine fruits and vegetables abound, is not the ultimate test of a great cook. But seldom will those vegetables and fruits be showcased as marvelously as here. For example:
ZUNI STEW (6 servings)
1 1/4 cups pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pound tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled, seeded, and chopped; juice reserved
2 ancho chilies
1 pound mixed summer squash
4 ears corn (about 2 cups kernels)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons corn or vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, cut in 1/4-inch squares
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red chile powder, or more, to taste
8 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
4 ounces jack or muenster cheese, grated
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Whole cilantro leaves, for garnish
Cook the pre-soaked beans for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours in plenty of water with the salt, bay leaf, and oregano. Remove them from the heat when they are soft but not mushy, as they will continue to cook in the stew. Drain the beans, and save the broth.
Prepare the tomatoes, or use pure'ed charcoal-grilled tomatoes. Open the chile pods and remove the seeds and veins; then cut the chilies into narrow strips. Cut the squash into large pieces. Shave the kernels from the corn. Grind the cumin and the coriander seeds into a powder in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle.
Heat the oil in a large skillet, and saute' the onions over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Lower the heat, add the garlic, chile powder, cumin, and coriander, and stir everything together. Add a little bean broth, so the chile doesn't scorch or burn. Cook until the onions begin to soften, about 4 minutes, then add the tomatoes and stew for 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, corn, green beans, and chile strips along with the cooked beans and enough broth to make a fairly wet stew. Cook slowly until the vegetables are done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the cheese and chopped cilantro, and garnish with whole leaves of cilantro.
If you make this on the dry side, it can be eaten in tortillas with a salsa.
TOMATOES AND CREAM WITH TARRAGON PASTA (2 to 4 servings)
2 or 3 tomatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds in all
1 1/2 cups whipping or light cream
2 shallots, finely diced
1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
7 or 8 ounces dried pasta shapes or equivalent in fresh egg pasta
Bring a small pan of water to a boil, immerse the tomatoes to a count of 10 (or until skins break); then remove them and immediately rinse them in cool water. Cut out the cores, peel and halve them, and gently squeeze out the juice and seeds. Cut the tomatoes into nice-looking pieces 1/2-inches square, and set them aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While it is heating, prepare the sauce. Heat the cream with the shallots in a wide skillet. Bring to a slow boil, and when it begins to thicken (after 30 seconds), add half the herbs and all of the tomatoes. Allow it to reduce to the thickness you want; then turn off the heat and season to taste with salt.
When the pasta water comes to a boil, add salt, then the pasta. Stir, then cook until done. Scoop out the pasta and add directly to the cream. Heat for 1 minute, while turning over the strands of pasta with a pair of tongs to coat them with the cream. Add the rest of the herbs and several twists of black pepper. Serve the pasta in warm bowls and top it with the cheese