The minute you take a seat at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, you know you’re in for a vegetarian treat. When we’re anywhere near San Fran, Greens is always on our radar for a seasonal meal (the menu changes every couple weeks).
Greens has some of the best “vegetable cuisine” (as executive chef Annie Somerville likes to refer to it) in the city, if not the nation. Somerville shops the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market twice a week, and numerous local farms deliver to the restaurant daily. It’s as if you had a table at one of the many farms—it’s that fresh.
Located in a restored and renovated historic warehouse of Fort Mason, Greens Restaurant offers a spectacular dining ambiance, all starting with a table-side view of the Bayside Marina with the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands in the distance. It opened in 1979 as part of the San Francisco Zen Center, which includes Green Gulch Farm, one of the restaurant’s supplies.
We started our meal with Grilled Hamada Farm peaches with Bellweather fromage blanc, Snyders honey and watercress. Farmers are the rock stars at this restaurant and are often featured by name on the menu.
Next came our first course: pupusas, traditional Salvadorian tortillas. Filled with summer squash, pumpkin seeds and smoked cheddar, served alongside salsa rosa and pickled vegetables, this dish’s flavors and textures didn’t fail to delight.
The green curry, one of Greens’ signature dishes, is topped with coconut risotto cake, grilled Japanese eggplant and summer squash. The restaurant’s attention to detail is apparent in every course, incorporating farm-fresh vegetables into beautiful, tasty garnishes. The curry, for examples, is served alongside summer beans flavoed with just the right amount of ginger and shallots.
To top off the summer grilling season, Somerville’s menu offered Fire-Roasted Poblano Chilies. “We grill [the poblanos] directly over an open flame until their skins blister and char, and let them steam in their own heat, so they’re easy to peel,” she says. Stuffed with quinoa, corn and goat cheese, this dish draws attention to the season’s heirloom vegetables, topped with Early Girl heirloom tomato salsa and served along Rancho Gordo heirloom beans.
You can try the chili at home with the recipe Somerville provided below or by picking up one of her acclaimed cookbooks, Fields of Greens (Bantam, 1993) and Everyday Greens (Scribner, 2003).
For dessert, why choose between the snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich, with house-made brown butter ice cream and fresh fruit, and the butterscotch pot de crème, with whipped cream and pecan shortbread? We opted for both! The result: Pure sweetness and, in the case of the ice cream sandwich, detailed artistry.
Recipe: Fire-Roasted Poblano Chilies
Courtesy Annie Somerville, Greens Restaurant
Yield: 6 servings
- 7-ounce jar chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce
- 2 pinches plus 1/4 tsp sea salt, divided
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 6 poblano chili peppers
- 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
- 1/4 large yellow onion, diced
- 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about two ears), thawed
- 1 or 2 jalapeño or Serrano chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
- 1/4 cup toasted unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 2 ounces mild goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/3 cup)
In food processor or blender, purée chipotle chilies and adobo sauce until smooth. Reserve 1 teaspoon and refrigerate remaining in airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 6 months.
In small pot, boil 1/2 cup water. Add quinoa with one pinch salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat, and let rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.
Heat an outdoor grill or gas range to medium-high. With heat-proof tongs, hold one poblano pepper over open flame, turning pepper until skin is charred and blistered. Transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining peppers, adding to same bowl. Let steam for 5 to 10 minutes, until soft.
Meanwhile, in a medium sauté pan, heat remaining oil on medium. Add onion and one pinch salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in corn, jalapeño and 1/4 cup water and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Wearing gloves, carefully peel away pepper skin, keeping stems intact. With paring knife, make a lengthwise slit from bottom to top of each pepper; do not cut stems. Scoop out seeds. Lightly grease large baking dish and place peppers split-side up. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To corn mixture, add quinoa, reserved chipotle chili purée, cilantro, oregano, sage, pumpkin seeds, cheese and remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Stir well. Fill each poblano pepper with 3/4 cup corn mixture. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Top with fire-roasted salsa.
Recipe: Fire Roasted Salsa
Yield: 2 cups
- 1 pound plum tomatoes
- 1 to 2 jalapeño or Serrano chili peppers
- 1/2 onion (yellow, white or red)
- 1/2 T. olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt, plus additional to taste
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 T. fresh lime juice
- 2 T. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Heat outdoor grill on high. Brush tomatoes, jalapeño and onion with oil, and season with salt and black pepper. Place vegetables directly on grill, and cook, turning once, until tomatoes and jalapeño are soft and blistered and onion is colored. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Coarsely chop onion and chop and core tomatoes; transfer to medium bowl. Wearing gloves, halve jalapeño lengthwise and remove stem and seeds; dice flesh and add to bowl. Add lime juice and additional salt and black pepper, to taste. Toss to combine. If desired, add additional lime juice, to taste. Stir in cilantro just before serving.