Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Cilantro or Cilant-NO?

Cilantro and I are tight.  I love that fragrant herb and it loves me back.  But I recognize that for some of you, you might hear that we're getting cilantro this week and your first thought is, "Cilant-NO! That stuff tastes like soap!"  A few years ago, I learned that for some folks, cilantro only reads like soap or cleaning products on their taste buds.  This is not a case of having an unrefined palate (Julia Child herself despised cilantro), it's simply our taste buds being our personal food safety testers to keep us from harm.  Since cilantro contains the same or similar type of aldehydes found in soaps, certain chemicals and even in bugs, some people's taste buds pick up on the flavor and alert, "DANGER!  DANGER!  DO NOT EAT!"  Hence, why it reads like soap or cleaning products to many folks, it's their taste bud's way of stopping them from eating the perceived hazard.

So can those of us who love cilantro boast about having more evolved and intelligent palates?  Probably not, as I can shamefully admit to once eating an entire slice of moldy pizza and then reached for another before I bothered to flip on the light and see that my pizza was growing a sweater.  Like I said, shameful.  But the good news for cilantro-phobes is that some people have found if the herb is crushed or really finely chopped, that by breaking it down, it decreases the soapy flavor and only imparts that wonderfully fragrant note that those of us who love cilantro rave about.

Whether you love it or have always reviled it, we've got two great cilantro containing recipes.  For those of you doubters, in both of these you can just mince the heck out of the cilantro, let it rest for a few minutes and then toss it in.  Think almost a pesto consistency in how finely you mince it.  Click the link to view the first recipe, but the second is provided in this post...

Thai Chicken Quinoa Bowls

If you have an aversion to quinoa, you can easily toss this with white or brown rice, and since it has a Thai flavor profile, you might even try tossing it with rice noodles for a bit of a riff on Pad Thai.  Pass the Sriracha!

Healthier Three Layer Taco Dip

Layer 1:
8 oz Neufchatel 1/3 less fat cream cheese (I use Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese for dairy-free)*
8 oz reduced fat sour cream (I use Tofutti Sour Supreme for dairy-free)*
1 package low-sodium taco seasoning**
1 tsp chipotle pepper (or less to control the heat)**

Beat all ingredients together until well-blended and creamy.  Spread in the bottom or a deep dish or pie plate.  Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow this layer to set up and firm up.

*When using the reduced fat cream cheese and sour cream, beware of the increased water content.  So drain any excess liquid off of the sour cream before using, and then make sure your subsequent layers are well-drained before adding them.

**Since determining the gluten-safe properties of most taco seasonings, I just created my own.  This is a great way to save on sodium, because even the low-sodium seasonings are still too high for my taste.  Alas, I made mine recently at about 2 am and thus didn't measure, but I did a blend of garlic powder, paprika, ground black pepper, chipotle pepper, and a dash of salt.  So add a few dashes and season till you get the taste you want.  You definitely want the smoky heat of the chipotle in this layer, so to keep from going overboard on the heat you can up the smoke factor with more paprika.

Layer 2:
1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped fine and patted dry with a paper towel

Evenly spread over cream cheese mixture.

Layer 3:
4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 chopped sweet onion
1 chopped and seeded jalapeno pepper
3 Tbsp minced, fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime or lemon

Mix all ingredients together in a separate bowl and then, using a slotted spoon to allow for drainage of excess liquid, evenly spread over top of romaine.  You'll likely have left over pico de gallo, so save to use as a plain salsa or for topping homemade tacos, grilled fish or chicken.

No comments:

Post a Comment