Thursday, September 23, 2010

in a salsa state of mind

Bobby Flay told me I like cilantro; I just don't know it yet.

I said no, really I don't, but I kept giving it go. UGH!

I cursed at him. I called him insane. I tried it again. Hmm...... not too bad.

What I discovered in my quest to appreciate cilantro is that I don't like the stems. The revelation came one rainy afternoon in a favorite Thai hideaway.

The aging restaurant, seemingly too authentic for its strip mall setting, provides an enticing escape for corner table romance, the two-martini power lunch, or those just ducking in from a storm as Kevin and I did.

I've ordered #65 Thai Style Fried Rice with Shrimp a kazillion times but that day something was different. Without realizing it, I had been scouting out the normally scarce stems and stockpiling them on the edge of my plate. Like my sister used to do with green peas.

Armed with this new knowledge, I began, in my own kitchen, trimming the herb carefully and in doing so, my cilantro world exploded. Just like Bobby said it would.

Cilantro has no alter-ego. It is what it is and so many (oh so many) dishes aren't the same without it. Even a simple salsa like this one.

You'll like it. Trust me; I have it on good authority.

Now Bobby........... please, can you help me out with the raw oyster bar?

Fresh Tomato Salsa

1 Serrano pepper
4 ripe tomatoes
1 medium sweet onion
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 sprigs cilantro

Wash and dry the Serrano pepper.  Wearing gloves, slice the pepper in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Keep most of the membrane since heat is stored there. Chop very finely and set aside. Discard the gloves.

Wash, core, and seed about 4 tomatoes, over a strainer to save the juice. Coarsely chop, you'll have about 2 1/2 cups.  Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the chopping blade.

Peel and roughly chop no more than half of the onion. Add it to the processor bowl.

Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the tomato mixture and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add the reserved juice from the tomatoes. Pulse a few times until the texture is like you want. Transfer the salsa to a bowl.

Finely chop the leaves from a couple of sprigs of cilantro. Add them to the salsa along with half or all of the chopped, Serrano pepper. Stir and chill until ready to serve.

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