Maybe spending eight years in New Mexico has caught up with me. Or maybe the influence of the 100+ degree weather has overridden my usual sense of taste.
Suddenly, I’m craving cilantro!
Not that there’s anything wrong with cilantro. I wouldn’t say I dislike it. I just don’t choose it for my menus. Ever.
Until now! I have been creating dish after dish with cilantro and absolutely loving the fresh, bright, green refreshing spark it adds as a garnish to pinto beans, in couscous salad, in pico de gallo and again today in tabbouleh salad.
The result? Lovely tabbouleh salad with plenty of veggies, chlorophyll from the greens, and a delightful sweet and sour dressing. And no cooking needed on this toasty hot New Mexican day.
Tabbouleh Salad (serves eight)
1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat and boiling water
Put the bulgur in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over it to cover 1/2 inch above the bulger. Let it sit until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Let the bulgur cool and fluff it with a fork.
Add diced veggies to the bulgur. Typically recipes have onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley with a lemon and oil dressing. But don’t feel restricted! Choose whatever you want to use.
On this particular day I needed to use up what was in my refrigerator. I diced one large cucumber, half a red onion, one yellow squash, one bunch of parsely and yes, one bunch of cilantro.
Tip: Wash the parsley and cilantro and spin them in the salad spinner to get them dry. Remove the thicker stems and don’t worry about the small tender stems then gently chop them up.
Dress with a citrus dressing. Instead of the standard lemon and oil, I used tahini, white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of tart cherry concentrate, juice of an orange, salt and one clove of crushed garlic.
Summer has hit very hard around here with temperatures over 100 degrees for the last several days. On top of that we are having the worst drought in history with no prediction of when relief will come.
What’s a cook to do?
One thing I have been doing is getting up early enough to cook something in the morning when the air is . . . well I wouldn’t go so far as to say “cool” . . but I figure early a.m. is when the temp is as low as it’s going to get for the day. Even so, I do not want to fill our home with heat from my stove and oven!
The other evening I was through with work and even though it was rather late evening, it was still mucho calor fuera and even though I had not eaten since about 11 a.m. (only breakfast and second breakfast). I still didn’t want to eat anything. Just too hot! But I knew I would eventually get hungry.
(And that’s the thing about summer, don’t eat, don’t eat, too hot to eat, and then Wham! Starving! Eat Everything!. I mean, what’s with ‘second breakfast’ lately? What am I, a Hobbit? I’ll let you know if I ever get that under control.)
I thought, “I should eat something at least. What could I possibly make that I might feel like eating?”
“How about a cold, creamy cucumber soup?”
So I got busy. There was a little cooking involved, but not much.
1. I minced a little red onion—very fine mince—and sauted that with a touch of olive oil until it was sweet and tender.
2. I added some soup stock. I used Imagine Foods Vegetable Soup Stock which is the only ready-made stock I have found that does not have cane sugar in it. (More notes about the soup stock later.)
3. I grated a bulb of fennel and a cucumber—both organic—and added that. I added salt, white pepper and then a little unsweetened coconut milk and some nutmeg. I adjusted the salt and then chilled the soup. Surely you could play around with the seasonings. A bit of cardamom perhaps? Or go for a hit of hot chili pepper?
Lovely chilled soup in three four easy steps!
4. Use the fluffy end of the fennel as a garnish. (That is, if you can. The fluffy tips of the fennel look lovely when dry and seem like the perfect garnish. But as soon as they get wet they rapidly collapse and resemble a wet Shih Tzu. So throw on that garnish and serve it fast!)
Now let me talk to you about the color. If you buy one of these ready-made soup stocks it’s going to be orangey-yellow because they use a lot of carrots or squash. And the flavor of this stock is very nice but definitely affects the outcome of the soup.
If you think creamy cucumber soup should NOT look like pea soup, and you want a more traditional white-looking soup, you should make dashi as your soup stock. This is not hard to do at all. Then you will have a clear broth to start with. Further, if you really want a whiter soup, you could peel the cucumber before grating it and then you would have much less green color.
I’m sure my photo of this soup would be much more picture perfect had I done that but I was looking for something very fast so used the packaged broth and I prefer to use whole organic foods whenever possible so I generally don’t peel my cucumbers. There’s lots of good stuff (nutrients) right under that skin!
When the soup was chilled, I served it to my Hubbin’ and myself. I thought probably the soup would be too mild for him and he might not like it. Wrong!! He did like it very much! We both enjoyed the flavors and felt refreshed after eating it.
Another tip about this soup is that you can keep it chilled in a container for work or travel and enjoy it as is! How simple is that?
Here’s a little tip for getting the most out of your cooking time, especially in the summer when most of us would really like to create fast, bright, nutrition-packed dishes without using a lot of heat.
The tip is: P A R S L E Y
Parsley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is the stuff that nearly every restaurant uses for a garnish on your plate. You know, the little green sprig of greens on a tiny stem that add color to the otherwise medium-dull plate of food.
I had never thought of parsley as a vegetable, as in—something you actually eat—until I met my friend Carolyn years ago and went to her house for lunch. She served parsley sandwiches! She used some homemade whole-grain bread with a bit of mayo, sliced tomatoes from her garden, a few slices of red onion and a huge bunch of parsley.
This turned out to be a delightful sandwich! I have indulged in parsley sandwiches ever since. I happen to prefer the “Italian” parsley which is the flat-leafed variety. And yes, if you do eat the little sprig served as a garnish, chlorophyll-rich parsley will help you cleanse your breath. Parsley is often eaten raw but it can also be added to cooked dishes.
Parsley can be washed, cut and dropped into a dish you are cooking and will rapidly turn bright green. When it is bright, it is done. This delicate culinary herb takes almost no cooking at all yet it has powerful nutritional properties. Usually I add parsley to a dish I’m cooking and turn off the stove. Gorgeous!
If you want to, you can wash an entire bunch of parsley by filling your sink or a bowl full of cold water and immersing the entire bunch still tied together. Shake it around and get all the sand and dirt out, then drain the bunch and untie it. That way you will not be chasing around small sprigs of the stuff in your wash bowl.