Made Weekly

a cooking experiment: five recipes, five days, one ingredient
I don’t know why this recipe came to me, given the fact that I haven’t had a baked potato in ages. But somehow the idea for cilantro sour cream popped into my head, and I couldn’t not pair it with a potato. Some crunchy charred corn helps vary the texture. Once corn season has departed, you could easily substitute it with sautéed greens, caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, or another vegetable of your choice.

I don’t know why this recipe came to me, given the fact that I haven’t had a baked potato in ages. But somehow the idea for cilantro sour cream popped into my head, and I couldn’t not pair it with a potato. Some crunchy charred corn helps vary the texture. Once corn season has departed, you could easily substitute it with sautéed greens, caramelized onions, roasted mushrooms, or another vegetable of your choice.

Cilantro rice is a nice accompaniment to any Mexican meal, or combined with vegetables, tofu, or beans, it makes a great one-dish meal. 
For 1 cup of brown rice, I used about 1/2 an onion, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 seeded jalapeño. Add that to a cup or more of packed cilantro and use a few tablespoons of olive oil. Always test the spice of your chili before using it! 

Cilantro rice is a nice accompaniment to any Mexican meal, or combined with vegetables, tofu, or beans, it makes a great one-dish meal. 

For 1 cup of brown rice, I used about 1/2 an onion, 2 garlic cloves, and 1 seeded jalapeño. Add that to a cup or more of packed cilantro and use a few tablespoons of olive oil. Always test the spice of your chili before using it! 

Chimichurri is traditionally an Argentinean sauce used as an accompaniment for grilled meats. Some versions use oregano instead of cilantro, but I do not love the flavor of oregano in large quantities, and I do love cilantro….so here we go! Capers are also optional, but add a great briny flavor. 
This tangy sauce (similar to gremolata, which is served with osso buco) really cuts through rich, fatty meats…but is also very delicious on vegetables or stirred into rice, used as a pesto, poured over roasted potatoes, or served alongside empanadas. Just get creative!

Chimichurri is traditionally an Argentinean sauce used as an accompaniment for grilled meats. Some versions use oregano instead of cilantro, but I do not love the flavor of oregano in large quantities, and I do love cilantro….so here we go! Capers are also optional, but add a great briny flavor. 

This tangy sauce (similar to gremolata, which is served with osso buco) really cuts through rich, fatty meats…but is also very delicious on vegetables or stirred into rice, used as a pesto, poured over roasted potatoes, or served alongside empanadas. Just get creative!

Herb oils are a cinch to make, and are a wonderful finishing element to have on hand. 
Cilantro oil is awesome drizzled over soups (like gazpacho!), on top of scrambled eggs, or whisked with lemon juice or vinegar to make a vinaigrette. You shouldn’t cook with herb oil because heat will affect the flavor, but think of it as the finishing touch. 
Cover and keep in the refrigerator. It’s best if you use herb oil within a day, or it will lose its potency and within a few days it will go bad.

Herb oils are a cinch to make, and are a wonderful finishing element to have on hand. 

Cilantro oil is awesome drizzled over soups (like gazpacho!), on top of scrambled eggs, or whisked with lemon juice or vinegar to make a vinaigrette. You shouldn’t cook with herb oil because heat will affect the flavor, but think of it as the finishing touch. 

Cover and keep in the refrigerator. It’s best if you use herb oil within a day, or it will lose its potency and within a few days it will go bad.

Cilantro 101

I know, cilantro is polarizing. The only reason I accept that people might not love cilantro as much as I do is that their aversion is supposedly genetic. Cilantro-haters can’t help it, so I forgive them.

Many of the cuisines I love the most use cilantro frequently — Mexican, Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern. Cilantro has a wonderfully bright flavor that enhances and complements the strong spices often found in those cuisines. 

Cilantro / Coriander: Technically the plant is called coriander. Here in the US, we call its fresh, leafy version cilantro, and the dried seeds coriander. In other countries, the fresh herb is also known as coriander. 

Storage: Cilantro has a tendency to go bad quickly. My most successful storage technique is to wash it upon bringing it home and dry it as well as possible (in a salad spinner if you have one). Wrap in a couple of paper towels and store in a large ziplock bag, with the air pushed out. 

From root to leaf: The entire cilantro plant can be used for cooking — its pungent roots are often used in Thai curries, its stems are tender enough to chop up along with the leaves, and its seeds have a lemony, mildly spiced flavor.

WTF is Culantro?: Apparently another plant called culantro (also known as Mexican Coriander) exists, which is related in flavor but looks like a leafy aloe plant. I have yet to come across culantro, but when I do, I will be sure to report back. 

Cilantro haters, step aside!

Late summer is host to many amazing vegetables, so why not combine them all into one dish? Technically, yes, this does have tomatoes, but it also has a lot of other goodies. And it was a bit too complicated for me to photograph or describe visually, so here we go. Special Friday edition!
Ingredients1 red bell pepper1 medium eggplant1 medium zucchini1 medium yellow summer squash1 medium onion2 large heirloom tomatoes1 c. fresh breadcrumbs2 cloves garlic2 T. herbs de provence, or a combination of fennel seeds, dried basil, and dried thyme, crushed in a mortar & pestlered pepper flakessaltblack pepperolive oilparmesan or pecorino
Instructions1. Slice the eggplant into 1/2” thick slices. Brush both sides with a bit of olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes at 400°F. Remove from the oven.
2. Core the bell pepper and slice into rounds. Cut the bottom off the onion and peel, and slice into 1/4” thick rounds. Slice the squash and zucchini on a long diagonal into 1/4” slices. Cut the tomatoes into thick slices. Sprinkle all the veggies with a bit of salt.
3. Finely chop the garlic and combine with the breadcrumbs, black pepper, red pepper flakes, some olive oil, some of the herbes de Provence, and grated cheese. Toss with a bit of olive oil.
4. Coat the bottom and sides of a gratin dish with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some of the herbs de Provence. Layer vegetables into the gratin dish on a somewhat vertical diagonal, alternating types of veggies, until dish is filled. Sprinkle everything with a bit more salt and more herbs. 
5. Top with the breadcrumb mixture.
6. Bake at 400°F for about 45 minutes, or until the veggies are juicy and the top is browned. 
7. Eat. 

Late summer is host to many amazing vegetables, so why not combine them all into one dish? Technically, yes, this does have tomatoes, but it also has a lot of other goodies. And it was a bit too complicated for me to photograph or describe visually, so here we go. Special Friday edition!

Ingredients
1 red bell pepper
1 medium eggplant
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow summer squash
1 medium onion
2 large heirloom tomatoes
1 c. fresh breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic
2 T. herbs de provence, or a combination of fennel seeds, dried basil, and dried thyme, crushed in a mortar & pestle
red pepper flakes
salt
black pepper
olive oil
parmesan or pecorino

Instructions
1. Slice the eggplant into 1/2” thick slices. Brush both sides with a bit of olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes at 400°F. Remove from the oven.

2. Core the bell pepper and slice into rounds. Cut the bottom off the onion and peel, and slice into 1/4” thick rounds. Slice the squash and zucchini on a long diagonal into 1/4” slices. Cut the tomatoes into thick slices. Sprinkle all the veggies with a bit of salt.

3. Finely chop the garlic and combine with the breadcrumbs, black pepper, red pepper flakes, some olive oil, some of the herbes de Provence, and grated cheese. Toss with a bit of olive oil.

4. Coat the bottom and sides of a gratin dish with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some of the herbs de Provence. Layer vegetables into the gratin dish on a somewhat vertical diagonal, alternating types of veggies, until dish is filled. Sprinkle everything with a bit more salt and more herbs. 

5. Top with the breadcrumb mixture.

6. Bake at 400°F for about 45 minutes, or until the veggies are juicy and the top is browned. 

7. Eat. 

Serving something “two ways” sounds kind of cheesy, but sometimes it’s the best way to experience all the flavors of a given vegetable. Raw fennel is so different than roasted fennel, but amazing in their own ways. The same goes for tomatoes.
I roasted a bunch of stragglers I had left over and basically mashed them up with a bit of acid and oil to make a chunky vinaigrette. It’s also good stirred in with grains, like bulgur or quinoa, or israeli cous cous (which is a pasta). I kept this straightforward but a creamy cheese or crunchy nut would not be out of place in this salad.

Serving something “two ways” sounds kind of cheesy, but sometimes it’s the best way to experience all the flavors of a given vegetable. Raw fennel is so different than roasted fennel, but amazing in their own ways. The same goes for tomatoes.

I roasted a bunch of stragglers I had left over and basically mashed them up with a bit of acid and oil to make a chunky vinaigrette. It’s also good stirred in with grains, like bulgur or quinoa, or israeli cous cous (which is a pasta). I kept this straightforward but a creamy cheese or crunchy nut would not be out of place in this salad.

This is the simplest gazpacho I could think of. It happens to be really pretty with yellow tomatoes, but is just as easily made with red tomatoes (or red peppers, or both). You can add a bit of garlic or onion for some extra punch, but this is just simple and smooth and light as it is.
Straining isn’t necessary if you like your soup with more texture, but in that case I would recommend peeling the tomatoes first. Mark an X in the bottom with a paring knife and drop them into boiling water for a minute. Remove and put them in a bowl full of ice water. The skin will come right off. 

This is the simplest gazpacho I could think of. It happens to be really pretty with yellow tomatoes, but is just as easily made with red tomatoes (or red peppers, or both). You can add a bit of garlic or onion for some extra punch, but this is just simple and smooth and light as it is.

Straining isn’t necessary if you like your soup with more texture, but in that case I would recommend peeling the tomatoes first. Mark an X in the bottom with a paring knife and drop them into boiling water for a minute. Remove and put them in a bowl full of ice water. The skin will come right off. 

Tomato, mozzarella, and bread. It can’t get much simpler than that. I considered just posting a tomato, sliced in half, with salt & pepper on it as my recipe today. It is, after all, one of the most enjoyable ways to eat such flavorful tomatoes. But I figured that was a cop-out, and this is nearly as simple but more satisfying as a European-style lunch. 
Substitute with any other favorite cheese, and add some basil if you’re feeling frisky. 

Tomato, mozzarella, and bread. It can’t get much simpler than that. I considered just posting a tomato, sliced in half, with salt & pepper on it as my recipe today. It is, after all, one of the most enjoyable ways to eat such flavorful tomatoes. But I figured that was a cop-out, and this is nearly as simple but more satisfying as a European-style lunch. 

Substitute with any other favorite cheese, and add some basil if you’re feeling frisky. 

Tomatoes 101

I don’t even know why we eat tomatoes in the winter. If any of you have read Barry Estabrook’s fantastic book “Tomatoland,” it’ll convince you to never buy another tomato grown in Florida (or really, any commercial tomatoes at all).

That leaves us with late summer market tomatoes, and they’re so much better than the tasteless, mealy, pink-fleshed things we call tomatoes in the grocery store that you’ll never look back. 

I put heirloom tomatoes in a salad at the wedding I catered recently and had someone talk my ear off for 10 minutes about how good the tomatoes were. “But they taste like tomatoes!” Yes, yes they do. 

Varieties: Heirlooms come in a few categories: Commercial Heirlooms, Family Heirlooms (I wish my family had heirloom tomato seeds!), Created Heirlooms, and Mystery Heirlooms. The main premise of heirlooms is that the seeds have been passed down for generations, or are varieties that have occurred naturally or have been in circulation for over 50 years. 

Appearance & Buying: Heirlooms can come in all kinds of colors, from flame orange to greenish to purple to bright yellow to mottled and striated. They’re more delicate than store bought tomatoes, so don’t squeeze them too aggressively or they’ll bruise (and be careful getting them home!). Just buy tomatoes that are firm, but not rock hard, with no soft spots or bruising. 

Storage: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT refrigerate your tomatoes. It ruins the flavor and texture. Store on the countertop and they should be fine for a few days. 

As a reformed tomato hater turned tomato lover, I invite you to tomato week! 

It’s not common to find scotch bonnet peppers in the northeast, so when I saw these beauties I jumped on them. Scotch bonnets are commonly used in Caribbean cuisine, specifically in a true Jamaican jerk seasoning. 
Habañeros are easier to find and have a similar shape, spice level, and flavor, which is quite fruity and hot. 
Their heat makes these peppers a fantastic combo with sweet and tangy fruits like blueberries and nectarines. If you’re looking for something more interesting to take to a Labor Day BBQ, this is the stuff!

It’s not common to find scotch bonnet peppers in the northeast, so when I saw these beauties I jumped on them. Scotch bonnets are commonly used in Caribbean cuisine, specifically in a true Jamaican jerk seasoning. 

Habañeros are easier to find and have a similar shape, spice level, and flavor, which is quite fruity and hot. 

Their heat makes these peppers a fantastic combo with sweet and tangy fruits like blueberries and nectarines. If you’re looking for something more interesting to take to a Labor Day BBQ, this is the stuff!

Poblano peppers are delicious — they’re usually the pepper used in chili relleños, an indulgent and cheesy stuffed pepper dish. They can vary quite a bit in heat, so before adding them to your salad, taste a piece.
When including poblanos in a recipe like this, their tough outer skin is best removed. Charring and then steaming makes it super easy to peel the outer layer of skin right off.
If you’ve got lime or lemon, add a squeeze (I happened to be out at the moment). You could also add a drizzle of olive oil, but because avocados are so fatty on their own, I don’t find it necessary. 

Poblano peppers are delicious — they’re usually the pepper used in chili relleños, an indulgent and cheesy stuffed pepper dish. They can vary quite a bit in heat, so before adding them to your salad, taste a piece.

When including poblanos in a recipe like this, their tough outer skin is best removed. Charring and then steaming makes it super easy to peel the outer layer of skin right off.

If you’ve got lime or lemon, add a squeeze (I happened to be out at the moment). You could also add a drizzle of olive oil, but because avocados are so fatty on their own, I don’t find it necessary. 

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