You know I am not a cilantro fan… When a recipe calls for cilantro I usually substitute with flat-leaf parsley or I just omit it at all.
But there is something I have learned about cilantro in the last few years… I can tolerate it, even enjoy it, when I use only the leaves and not the stems of the cilantro plant. The stems remind me too much of the taste of recao. It’s too strong for me and gives me acid reflux. I know… not pretty. I noticed this once when I was cooking the now-famous veggie sancocho recipe after a retreat. I did like Ina Garten and shaved the leaves off the stems of the cilantro and used only that to “season” the sancocho. The other “more experienced” cooks were appalled at my “waste” of perfectly good cilantro stems. But many of the soup eaters thanked me afterwards because the cilantro flavor was subtle and not over powering at all after a few days of fasting.
Fast forward to the other day when I wanted to make something to bring to a party and I had an over abundance of avocados in my hands. I decided to make an avocado without tomatoes so it would stay as creamy as possible without the watery residue tomatoes sometimes leave atop guacamole. At the store there was no flat-leaf parsley so I went with the traditional and very much cheaper cilantro.
This guacamole was an absolute hit… People were asking me for the recipe all night. I wished I had posted this recipe already so I would not have to repeat myself so many times that night.
1 large avocado, cut into small pieces
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
The juice of 1 green lime
A generous handful of fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
A drizzle of olive oil – about 1 tbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Mash everything together in a medium sized bowl.
- Let it stand in the fridge for a few hours so the flavors meld together.
You can make this with fresh avocados, but it also works with frozen avocados. Just defrost them and get rid of any water that separates from the pulp when the avocado is thawing.
Ever since I lived in Chicago a few years ago, where there is a huge Mexican population, I learned that Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated in September. I remember people riding outside their car windows carrying huge Mexican flags, parading themselves with pride.
So, if this is celebrated every year in September… why does every gringo I know believes Mexican Independence day falls on Cinco de Mayo? My belief on the popularity of Cinco de Mayo is for several reasons (and I am just speculating here):
- It’s simple to pronounce even if your main language is English. Try saying “dieciséis de septiembre”!!!! Rolling those “r’s” can be a challenge to many.
- May more or less signifies the beginning of warmer weather so gives people an excuse to party in shorts
- I truly believe a beer company started this as a promotional scheme to start selling beer in May rather than waiting until June/July when it’s actually hot.
Cinco de Mayo is not really an important holiday or celebration in Mexico. I am “friends” on Facebook with Chef Marcela Valladolid. And this is her perspective, as a Mexican, on Cinco de Mayo:
In reality, Cinco de Mayo is the date when the Mexican army drove away the French army at a great battle in Puebla. The Mexicans were never ever expected to win and they did. And for that… we celebrate!!!!
Nonetheless, for whatever reason Cinco de Mayo got popularized in the US, we use it as an excuse to celebrate everything Mexican. I wish I had a recipe for Mole Poblano in my blog to share with you all, but in the meantime, here are a few recipes that celebrate Mexico, France and combine a little bit of both…
Cordon Bleu Quesadilla
(In México, these are called sincronizadas because they’re made on Wheat Tortilla. True Quesadillas are made on corn tortillas)
Fried Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Poblano Pepper Rajas
Chopped Avocado Dressing
Veggie Tortilla Soup
A few weeks ago my Serious Eats Water Cooler group issued a challenge… let’s make CHILI!!!
I am not a chili girl at heart, as my introduction to chili was Wendy’s chili with meat and beans. Never a fan of beans, therefore never enchanted with chili.
Wanting to partake in the chili challenge, I decided to give a stab to a vegetarian chili recipe. Mixing my Puerto Rican root vegetable “roots” with a few Mexican flavors, this vegetarian chili recipe is hearty and filling like a sancocho but with a nice spicy kick from the salsa verde. This is certainly something you can adjust to your taste.
In regards to the chili debate – beans vs. no beans – this is certainly a bean-less chili that I hope will satisfy the most avid bean eater too. Enjoy…
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
One large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into cubes
One white sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into cubes
1 tbs sofrito
½ large green bell pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup whole kernel corn, I use frozen
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 1/2 cup water
½ of a can salsa verde – I used Herdez brand
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnishes, such as crumbled cheese, chopped green onions, sliced avocados, lime wedges)
- Heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, vegetable cube and sofrito. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover and sweat until the onions are tender, stirring often to prevent browning, about 8 minutes. Mix in the cornstarch. Add the corn, the water and bring the chili to a simmer.
- Place the green bell pepper in a processor and mix with the salsa verde. Blend just until smooth. Add the sauce to the pot.
- Cover and simmer the chili 30 minutes, until the potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips are tender and the chili is reduced to a thicker consistency. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.
I firmly believe that God or the Universe, however you prefer to say it, puts the right people in our path for us to learn and grow… And Annie Mariel has been a real blessing in my life. It’s as if God, in his all-knowingness, understands and knows exactly the type of person you need in your life at a certain time in your life.
We got along almost immediately since we met each other about 5 yrs ago in a conversational French class. We have lots of things in common – we’re both consultants, we both enjoy anything French, we both enjoy to travel, we follow yoga and spiritual practices, we are both vegetarians… bueno, almost vegetarians because Annie Mariel still eats seafood and shellfish on occasion. But she gets my idiosyncrasies of being vegetarian. She has passed on to me her love of running and we even applied to run the Amazing Race together… (oh boy!!!)
Annie Mariel is a great supporter and fan of KarmaFree Cooking… and for my last supper of 2012 she wanted to contribute by bringing a salad. She knew I was going to cook pasta. She asked me to make it as light as possible, so I pleased her by making the sauce all tomato, instead of mixing it with some cream or half and half, like I like to do on other recipes. She told me she would surprise me with the salad… and that she did.
This salad had a little bit of everything… and it was delicious! I asked Annie Mariel if I could feature her salad in KarmaFree Cooking and she agreed. I hope I make her proud. Try it for yourself…
ANNIE MARIEL’S COMPOSED SALAD
Sliced Red Onions
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Toasted Almond Slices
Crispy Fried Onions
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- In a large bowl add all the ingredients. Toss lightly to combine
- Dress the salad with vinaigrette.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sal and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Place all the ingredients in a empty glass or mason jar. Shake well to combine. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine well.
- Serve on top of your favorite salad.