Posts Tagged ‘cilantro’

Why in the world have I NOT been making guacamole all my life?

The answer, of course, is that I spent most of my life eating (or, more specifically, not eating) the mediocre guacamole served in so many Mexican restaurants.

Overprocessed into a perfectly smooth paste and refrigerated well past the point of freshness, restaurant guacamole has always been something I avoided. I never ordered it, and never considered making it at home.

Thankfully, a restaurant finally changed my mind on guacamole a couple of years ago. When a friend ordered the dish at Cantina Laredo, the server made it tableside, mashing several fresh ingredients together with a fork. It was delicious. It was chunky. It was FRESH.

I thought maybe it was only my taste buds maturing, so in a couple of weeks I tried the guacamole at another Mexican place.  Nope. Back to stale and pasty. I realized that unless I witnessed the smashing of the avocados, the guacamole was likely to disappoint.

Still, I didn’t attempt to make my own. The husband wasn’t enthusiastic about the dish, and, having never dealt with avocados before, I was a little awed by the process.

Fast forward to last week. Somehow, guacamole is an official Super Bowl food, and Earth Fare was offering me two free avocados with a $5 purchase.

Please. I can spend $5 in Earth Fare without ever leaving the Wall o’ Grains.

I looked for a simple recipe, although now I realize that guacamole, like pico de gallo, is one of those dishes that doesn’t require a recipe so much as a healthy willingness to taste as you go. (Check.)

I settled on the California Avocado Commission’s recipe for Guacamole Autentico, which seemed beginner-worthy. It was a cinch to put together (turns out it’s extremely easy to work with avocados), and I thought it was delicious (the husband is still not a guacamole fan, although he readily ate a couple of bites to be nice).

Lime and cilantro are dominant flavors in this recipe, and not everybody likes cilantro. I would probably use two Serrano chilies instead of one next time for more heat, or I might just switch to a jalapeno. And I could totally live without the tasteless bits of Roma tomato, but a REAL tomato may have potential. I forgot to add hot pepper sauce, and I used plain old salt and pepper instead of sea salt and white pepper — still delicious. I mashed it all together with a potato masher, not a fork, because I was hungry and the fork method was taking forever. Just don’t get too overzealous with the mashing no matter what you use.

Guacamole Autentico

Recipe from the California Avocado Commission

4 servings

  • 2 ripe, fresh California avocados, peeled and seeded
  • 1⁄4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 ripe, medium Roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1⁄4 cup minced sweet white onion
  • 1 Serrano chili, seeded and minced
  • 1⁄4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • Hot pepper sauce
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • White pepper, to taste

Cut avocado into large chunks and mash coarsely in large bowl with a fork. Add remaining ingredients and blend gently; leaving some small chunks is fine. Taste and adjust seasoning with more pepper sauce, salt and pepper if desired.

Serve immediately. Eat with enthusiasm.

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I never thought I would own one salad spinner, much less two.

The OXO spinner that I purchased last summer, however, has seen more action in the kitchen than literally any other gadget I own.

Every week, more or less, I purchase a head of red or green lettuce, and often toss in a few ounces of the mesclun mix that Earth Fare sells by the pound.  Sometimes, though, the shopping days are off, and I need to wash the mesclun a couple of days after I’ve already washed the regular lettuce, meaning I either have to wash it again or dump it out while I wash the mix.

I also usually keep a bunch of cilantro wrapped in moist paper towel in the crisper. It needed a better home.

The obvious answer was a second spinner. A smaller spinner that wouldn’t take up nearly an entire shelf in my poorly designed side-by-side refrigerator.

I had it up and spinning without two hours of bringing it home today. When you bring home a gadget that you actually use the same day, you’ve picked a winner.

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About 10 years ago, my husband brought home a small bag of quinoa from the local health food store. I don’t remember if he called it a superfood, but he did note that it was packed with fiber AND protein, making it a rare grain indeed.

The problem was that we had no idea how to make it edible. We learned the mechanics of making quinoa pretty quickly: Rinse it thoroughly before cooking, and then simmer it like you would rice.

Our cooked quinoa was bland, however. We added broth. We salted. We oversalted. We added herbs. We added spices.

We gave up.

Fast forward to 2008. Quinoa is officially a superfood, and recipes abound. It’s also more readily available, so no more trekking to the health food store for expensive 8-ounce bags of grain.

I finally got my act together with quinoa last year, after I found a couple of basic recipes and started experimenting.

My first discovery: You REALLY need a well-made strainer with tiny holes to properly rinse the grains. Covering the quinoa with water and then pouring it off just makes a huge mess, no matter how careful you are. Just pour the dry quinoa into the strainer and turn on the tap for a minute or so, making sure the water runs over all the grains.

I adapted a Rachael Ray recipe as my go-to quinoa dish, cutting it in half and making a few tweaks. The original calls for a blend of cilantro, basil and parsley. I NEVER have parsley in the house, and I rarely have cilantro AND basil. Her recipe also called for a mixture of black olives and green olives; the husband determined that he preferred the dish with green olives only.

Splurge for the pine nuts: They MAKE this dish. I toast mine in a skillet over low heat until they’re slightly fragrant and starting to tan and I’m a little freaked out that I might burn them. So they’re probably under-toasted, but delicious nonetheless.

I get most of my quinoa at Costco, which sells it in 4-pound bags, and augment it with a pricier red quinoa from the bulk bins at Earth Fare. I don’t think the red quinoa changes the taste much, but it does make the dish more colorful.

The husband prefers quinoa as the base for chicken, but I eat the leftovers meat-free.

Quinoa with Herbs and Olives

(Adapted from Rachael Ray’s Quinoa with Herbs and Mixed Olives)

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup quinoa, well-rinsed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup pitted and thinly sliced green olives
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup cilantro or fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

    Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

    Stir in 1 1/8 cups water, season with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let the quinoa stand for 5 minutes. Add the olives, pine nuts and herbs and toss with a fork to combine. Season with salt to taste.

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