Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sunday Ban On Shrimp, Cilantro Is My Life And I Don’t Watch Bobby To See Random People Cooking

One of the reasons I love to watch the Food Network is to get inspired about what to cook. And sometimes it has nothing to do with the actual recipe that I’m seeing.

Over the weekend, I saw less than two minutes of Bobby Flay’s Grill It! and I HAD to make something Bobby-esque for dinner.

He had some music producer up to his rooftop grill to demonstrate his shrimp taco or tamale recipe…something. I don't even remember, because I didn't particularly want to see anyone other than Bobby cooking (except in a Throwdown situation, of course), even though I think the whole premise of Grill It! is that other folks show off their recipes. But it did get me thinking about tacos and stuff to put in them.

I wanted to find this guy's recipe just as a starting point and I made the mistake of going to the Food Network website. Silly me, just because it was on THE FOOD NETWORK... WHY do I ever go there? It's impossible. Then I Googled, Binged and Yahooed Shrimp Tamales and Shrimp Tacos.

It turned out after more searching that they were actually Shrimp Enchiladas! Sorry to the FN website this ONE time! I looked at the recipe all excited, only to find that the major ingredient was Mole Sauce. (Oy, days to make.) He DID give a bottled alternative, Dona Maria. I read the reviews (thank you, people, for taking the time to do that) and I decided EH! This was not the recipe for me.

More searching brought me to this - My quick sautéed Spicy Lime Chicken Strips on tortillas with tons of other stuff.

Why didn't I make shrimp, even though that was my first inspiration? It was Sunday and I NEVER buy (or order) seafood on a Sunday. Am I the only one left in the universe who does that? How can it possibly be fresh on a Sunday?

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A vital component of this assembly is Tomatillo Salsa. And a vital component of THAT is fresh cilantro.

This article by Harold McGee talks about why people don’t like cilantro*. I have 3 words for those people. GET OVER IT!

Nah, I don’t really mean that, because I know how you feel. I have a similar feeling about tarragon.

I do feel sorry for you, though, because cilantro gives an unmistakable edge (I know its detractors would say SOAPY edge) to things. I know there are high profile, cilantro-hating folks out there. The Barefoot Contessa can’t stand it. I don’t peg her as much of an ethnic food fan anyway, so she probably doesn’t miss it. And McGee mentions Julia in his piece. She REALLY hated it.

BUT there’s always hope. I NEVER liked cilantro particularly and after an unfortunate incident at a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris, I REALLY didn’t like it. Happily, I grew out of that.

Back to the Tomatillo Salsa…The first time I handled tomatillos and it said to BOIL them, I was pretty amazed that after cooking something in WATER that they could still have so much FRESH flavor. Recently, I’ve seen recipes where you boil the onions too. I really like that idea, because sometimes raw onions can be obnoxious.

If you hate cilantro, I’m sorry, because to me the tomatillo and the cilantro play off each other perfectly. I guess parsley or even a mix of parsley with basil and/or mint could be substituted, but you’ll have a different (non)animal. Let me know how that goes.

Most of the components here share two ingredients – cumin and lime. To me, they are a match made in kitchen-heaven.

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So this is the dinner situation:

Start with the salsa.

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Tomatillo Salsa

Click here for printable recipe.

¾ cup water

1 lb. tomatillos, husked, cored and cut into 4 to 6 wedges

½ cup onion, chopped

½ cup or a big handful of cilantro

1 -2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped

1 garlic clove, center stalk removed and pressed

1 tsp. cumin

½ tsp. Kosher salt

Juice of half a lime

Place water in skillet and bring to boil. Add onion and simmer for 5 minutes. Add tomatillos, cover and simmer for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop cilantro in food processor. Leave it in and add the garlic. Process again.

Add the tomatillos and onions with a slotted spoon or just drain quickly through a sieve. (You can save the liquid to cook rice in.) Add cumin, salt and lime juice. Pulse on and off until you get desired texture. I like it slightly coarse. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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I like to make rice and beans with tacos or tortillas, because it can go right in there with everything else (less meat), or you can have it instead of the tortilla.

Easy Black Beans and Rice

(serves 4)



for printable recipe.

1 can Goya black beans

1 cup brown rice and ½ cup barley

OR 1½ cups brown rice

3 cups liquid

Drain and rinse a can of black beans really well. There should be NO foam left. Add the beans to the bottom of a large pot. Stir in rice or rice and barley. Add 3 cups water or water mixed with stock or tomato juice or liquid left from cooking tomatillos for Tomatillo Salsa. Bring to a heavy boil. Cover and turn down to lowest possible heat. Cook for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and leave on back of stove for up to 45 minutes.

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This recipe will make a lot of chicken. You can cut it down by a breast of two. I like to use the chicken more as a garnish, especially if I’m having rice too.

Spicy Lime Chicken Strips for Tortillas (serves 6 to 8)

Click here for printable recipe.

2 lbs. chicken breasts (about 6 breasts)

2 tbls. chili powder

1 tbl. cumin

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tbl. olive oil

½ tsp. Kosher salt

Rind and juice of one lime (at least 3 tbls.)

Chili Lime Sour Cream

1 cup reduced fat sour cream

2 tsp. chili powder

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

rind and juice of half a lime

8 flour tortillas

Slice chicken breasts in half (as if you were making an open book, but you’re cutting them all the way through). Cut each half in strips widthwise. Place in large bowl with chili powder, cumin, cayenne, olive oil and salt. Mix together well. Let stand while you zest and juice the lime.

Heat large skillet with a bit of oil or Pam. Add half the chicken and fry on medium high heat, until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes on the first side and 2 on the second. Remove to a plate. Cook the other half the same way.

Mix ingredients together for Chili Lime Sour Cream.

Just before serving, add all the chicken to the skillet, cook until hot about 2 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in rind and lime juice.

Heat 4 tortillas at a time between 2 paper towels for 60 to 90 seconds in the microwave.

Serve chicken immediately in warm tortillas with Chili Lime Sour Cream.

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Cumin Fried Peppers and Onions

Click here for printable recipe.

2 tbls. olive oil

1 large red onion, sliced

2 red peppers, cut into strips

1 big carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips

1 tablespoon cumin

½ tsp. salt

Zest and juice of one lime

Add oil to large sauté pan or skillet.

Add onion, peppers and carrots and turn to coat well. Cook on medium high heat without moving until onions start to brown. Stir well and add salt. Continue cooking until vegetables reach desired doneness. They can be slightly soft or full-blown brown and crusty. Take off heat and stir in lime zest and juice. Taste for seasoning. Serve soon.

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TO SERVE: Have the hot stuff reasonably hot. Place a bit of lettuce and then a tortilla on the plate. Add a scoop of rice and beans, a bit of chicken, the peppers and onions. Garnish with guac and chile lime sour cream. POUR over the tomatillo salsa. Start by picking it up…GOOD LUCK…then admit defeat and use your knife and fork.

Note: Please don’t buy taco seasoning. There is NO reason to. Just fry your meat and adds tons of cumin, chili powder, some paprika if you want, a bit of cayenne and lime zest and rind at the end. That’s good with ground beef, chicken, shrimp OR vegetables.

* Harold McGee adds an addendum to his article which will keep cilantro haters away from it even more. He says that there are preliminary studies which show that cilantro leaf extracts damage DNA, and therefore that cilantro could be a long-term health hazard, BUT nothing to suggest we stop eating it…YET. Aarrgghhh! I’ll keep a look out.


Ciao Chow Linda said...

I'm with you on buying seafood on Sundays - I'm suspect. But I'm a cilantro fan and would love some of all that you prepared.

Sue said...

I'm so glad I didn't make that up! The next time you have some tomatillos and cilantro handy, try the salsa.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Ah. I see what you mean about the double tortilla craving. We're obviously on the same wavelength.

I do love cilantro, but I'm the last person to tell anyone else not to dislike the taste of something. I've got the issues with olives, and seafood and blue cheese... I would seem like a hypocrite. Although if you tell me you don't like chocolate, I will call you a freak.

I've made a similar salsa with tomtatillos and cilantro and I agree it's awesome stuff.

DebCarol said...

Great post Sue . . . and great recipes. I used to be a cilantro hater but I love the kind of food cilantro is usually a part of. So I have acquired a taste for it - as long as its not overpowering. Agree with you on never using taco seasoning - it really is a salty mess. ~~ And I'll eat any kind of taco, except a fish taco.

Mary said...

Sue, this is my first visit to your blog though I can promise I'll be back often. This was a terrific, informative post and I loved every word and picture of it. I love new finds. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

Sue said...

Hey Rach,
Great minds...

You're right about judging people with food issues. For the first 15 years of my life, I could never let the cheese touch the bread on a cheese sandwich. Cuuuurrraaazzzeee.

Again, great minds... You're proof that just like me, cilantro haters can become fans.

I've never HAD a fish taco, but my California-based daughter has them all the time and says they're awesome.

Welcome! Thanks so much for your kind words. That's some gorgeous blog that YOU have. And those pictures! I'm glad we found each other.

Sheila said...

I'll be making THIS on Mother's Day. Sounds wonderful!!!!! I love cilantro - I tried to grow it last year but to no avail.

You've GOT to try fish tacos! You're daughter is right, they are AMAZING!

Emily said...

I can't tell you how good this looks to me right now. I love, love Mexican food. That salsa looks amazing! I love green salsa.

I recently started to like cilantro. Within this past year, I would say. But the five or so years before, I absolutely hated it. I wonder why people eventually crossover?

Sue said...

Hi Sheila,
I'm growing all my herbs in pots this year. I never grew cilantro, but I SHOULD.

Okay, I'll leave my mind open to the possibility of fish tacos.

Why, Em,
I'm so glad you asked about why you NOW like cilantro. Well, Em,
If the flavor doesn’t fit a familiar food experience, and instead fits into a pattern that involves chemical cleaning agents and dirt, or crawly insects, then the brain highlights the mismatch and the potential threat to our safety. We react strongly and throw the offending ingredient on the floor where it belongs.
“When your brain detects a potential threat, it narrows your attention,” Dr. Gottfried (says)… “You just get it away from your mouth.”
But he explained that every new experience causes the brain to update…its set of patterns, and this can lead to a shift in how we perceive a food.
“I didn’t like cilantro to begin with,” he said. “But I love food, and I ate all kinds of things, and I kept encountering it. My brain must have developed new patterns for cilantro flavor…which included pleasure from the other flavors…That’s how people in cilantro-eating countries experience it every day.”
Got it?

Gerry Dawes said...

I love fresh cilantro. "Soapy?" If you think it tastes soapy, don't come to my house for dinner! I am afraid I have gotten into the habit of using it instead of parsley, except in dishes from Spain, where the only place it is widely used is in the Canary Islands and is one of the components of the wonderful mojo sauces.