Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well huh.

My mother always told me to try everything at least three times in your life to make sure that you REALLY hate it.

I gave cilantro a good try. Several tries in fact. Honest to goodness fork to mouth tries...and I have to admit that I hate it with a passion. Not a fiery burning passion--that is reserved for eggplant--but with a passion none the less. And yet... I had a dish for supper that featured, no, highlighted that evil weed.

Let me go waaaaay back to my first few episodes with cilantro. Mostly this was the New Mexican tradition of making salsa with a few tomatoes and chilies and a few fist fulls of cilantro to "
add color". Bah. To me it literally tasted like soap. Spicy tomatoes and soap is not good eatin' in my book. So I swore off cilantro for a while and decided that later on I would try it again.

I moved out to a small town for college and was faced, yet again, with the greenery from hell in all my tasty Mexican and Thai foods. I love both of these cuisines and most recipes need something to put in the weed's place... but parsley and basil just never really did the trick. But I tried anyway.

Round three. CSA to the rescue.

Our local Community Supported Agriculture group sends my house a weekly box of goodness, but sometimes they foul it up a bit by adding in eggplant (which my housemates both like and I despise but can cook it well so it works) and cilantro (which two of us don't like and neither of us who cook can come up with anything for it but the compost pile). In this week's box was--you guessed it--a nice big heapin' helpin' of cilantro. Well huh. I figured that it would be another offering to the compost bin. But there was to be more to this innocent little bunch of green.

As my housemates left for the night I contemplated the demise of the foul weed in my fridge. I could bake it into dog biscuits to make them have fresh breath... or I could freeze it and give it to someone who really wants it... or I could give that third try a chance... ... Nah.

I sat down at my computer and was poking around the internet for inspiration for dinner and came upon a wonderful idea: Pesto! I have all the ingredients; garlic, cheese, oil, pine nuts, basi...


My poor lonesome basil plants have not taken the neglect well and, though there was a sizeable amount of various types of basil, there was no where near enough for the piles needed for pesto. Foiled by my lack of full garden again. Or was I...

I have used extra parsley in place of basil for a twist on pesto before... what if I made Cilantro pesto... it just might be edible if hidden under tasty cheesy garlicy goodness. On the other hand it might be a waste of my time and ingredients. Meh. If not the man would eat leftovers. I set to it with a slight stop off to see what the internet had to say about cilantro pesto.

The only consensus other than cilantro, oil, garlic, salt and pepper was that it really needs a spicy kick to prevent the soapiness and it needed some vinegar. Well now, if they are going to go right out and make sure to avoid the very thing I despise about the upcoming dish, then I would have follow through with the tip. I had no jalapeƱos, and the new crop of chilies is not quite out yet, but I do keep around chile flakes and cayenne so that would just have to do.

Since I don't really like raw garlic (well... my stomach doesn't) I tossed a few tablespoons of minced garlic and some olive oil into a dish and then sprinkled in some chile flakes and salt and pepper on it. I microwaved it till it for 45 seconds and then dumped it into the blender with pine nuts, the entire (4-5cups) bunch of washed cilantro (stem ends cut off, but most of the stem still on), a few black olives and brine, and 1/2 cup of feta cheese.

I let my blender go at that for a bit and came back to something decidedly not soapy. But it was missing something... more cheese! I added a 1/4 c. shredded parmesian and a 1/4c. sour cream to get the texture a little creamier and blended it more. It tasted heavenly. WAIT. I just said that something with the main ingredient as cilantro was real food! What was this world coming to!

I was now desperate for food. While I heated up some leftover Tinkyada gluten free pasta (best of all those gf pastas ever), I used the handy dandy soup feature on my blender to heat up the pesto to perfect sauce temperature and then... I ... ate up all that my pasta could possibly hold (plus a bit that I faked). I ate cilantro and liked it.

I guess that the third time really is a charm. Now I need to see if I can get my cilantro-hating housemate to get near it... she hates cilantro even more than me. That could be interesting.

So in case I need this later when the CSA box arrives with that bunch of green:
Cilantro Pesto
4-5cups cilantro--washed and bottoms of stems removed
1/2 c. pine nuts
1 1/2 Tbs. Olive brine + a few olives (or just use vinegar or Italian dressing)
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 c. feta cheese
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. red chile flakes
1 tsp salt.
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

Place garlic, chilie, pepper, salt and oil in a microwaveable bowl. Heat 45 seconds or until garlic is cooked a bit. Combine all ingredients in food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Heat, serve on pasta... bread... starch of your choice...

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