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Bread And Butter: Green Foods

There are plenty of naturally green foods out there: peppers, honeydew melon, lettuce, grapes, some kinds of cabbage. And then there are foods in my kitchen, and maybe yours, that are not meant to be green, but are. Old bread. Old cheese. Old sour cream. 

The color green can be tricky when it comes to food because one part of our brain tells us that it’s healthy—yum, green asparagus! And another part wants to chuck it onto the compost pile—eww, green Chinese food. This is a great week to consider green foods, with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner. A lot of you probably plan to celebrate by cooking up a big pot of beef stew and crusty soda bread. Or corned beef and roasted red potatoes.


Traditionally, I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by cooking green pancakes. I mix up a batch of regular pancakes, add a bit of green food coloring, then undercook the flapjacks on the griddle so that you can still see the green underneath the golden brown. They taste exactly like normal pancakes, except undercooked. It’s not really much of a celebration, to be honest, and hasn’t been since my kids left elementary school.


I’m going to make a call this year—as a form of celebratory feasting, the green pancakes just won’t cut it anymore. I want to experience the green. I want to taste the green. And I don’t want a green-stained stripe on my tongue from surplus food coloring after the meal. Here are a few ideas for your St. Patty’s day feast that go beyond green-tinted pancakes or mashed potatoes or what have you.


If you like deviled eggs, you’ll likely be a big fan of avocado deviled eggs. As gooey and pleasant as the dressed yolks alone, the addition of some lovely green mashed avocado adds some satisfying (and healthy) fat, and a smooth and attention-grabbing flavor. This recipe also calls for finely chopped cilantro and lemon—both the juice and the zest— to be blended into the yolk mash, in addition to a crumble of bacon pieces to top off your green vehicle of goodness.


Or, St. Patrick’s Day is as good an excuse as any to get your family drinking green smoothies. There are a lot of variations on this hippie favorite, but I like it with pineapple, mangoes, bananas and spinach. It doesn’t take much spinach to saturate your smoothie with color. You can show off your healthy bling whether you use half cup of baby spinach leaves, or three. Adding leafy greens to your smoothie gives you vitamins and fiber, which can help stabilize your blood sugar and lower cholesterol (which is a good idea if you’ve eaten too many avocado deviled eggs).


Okay, I know this is forcing some cross-hemisphere fusion cooking, but why not salsa verde chicken this St. Patrick’s day? New York Times Cooking has an exceptionally good slow cooker recipe that is spicy, saucy and easy. You can use it as taco or enchilada filling, or add some corn and beans and have a one-pot meal. The sauce gets its lovely muted green color from salsa verde, green chiles and jalapenos. And then the recipe asks you to sprinkle on top a bright chop of scallions and cilantro, no food coloring required.


Irish Americans wear the green as a reminder that they are Irish first and foremost. The colors of the Irish flag are green, white and orange, the green symbolizing the Irish nationalism, the orange symbolizing the Orangemen of the north and the white symbolizing peace. The folklore belief that green should be worn to "make you invisible to leprechauns," is actually an American invention. And Fun fact: St. Patrick the man is actually tied to the color blue.


So maybe you could even try blueberries this March. Or currents. Or blue cheese, just avoid whatever blue foods you find on the compost pile.