Wednesday, May 11, 2011

garlic + harissa > cilantro

About two years ago, I got into a bunch of blogs.  I'd never really explored the blogosphere and honestly, I can't tell you what made me reach out two years ago, but I can tell you what has kept me here.  There are blogs I read because I like the wit, there are some I love for the pictures, and yet others for the scathing sarcasm or descriptive eloquence.  I love words and I love looking at things of beauty.  I've also discovered I have quite a taste for what foodies/food bloggers call "food porn."  You want to know what really hooked me, though?

The recipes. 

I'm sure you kind of expected that since I'm kind of a recipe-hoarder, but it's true.  Especially in the beginning, if a blog I was following went too long without a recipe I found attractive, I usually lost interest in the blog.  Inspired by two things, I started my own blog.  One of those two things, if you're wondering, was my lofty aspirations of honing my skills in writing and recipe-creation so I could realize my dreams of becoming a successful cookbook author or maybe the next superstar chef just waiting to be discovered and put on display on the Oprah Show.  The other was that I enjoyed reading Isa's recipe intros as much as I enjoyed the recipes themselves.  I recognized that her humor closely mirrors my own and that our writing style is similar.  I thought to myself, "even if my recipes suck, at least I can write in a way that is entertaining enough to keep people reading until my recipes don't suck." 

I hope I'm right.

I also hope my recipes don't suck.

Anyway, as my little blog evolved and branched out a bit, I found that I don't get inspired to write recipes nearly as often as I have some amusing/traumatic/enlightening experiences in the kitchen, so I hope you'll find tonight's tale of discovery as amusing as last night's exploding tofu.

Tonight I made Potato and Cauliflower Burritos from the June 2011 Vegetarian Times magazine.  The assembled burrito pictures did not come out at all.  That's another thing I've enjoyed the last two years - the incredible progress I've made in my ability to take pictures of stuff that not only don't look awful, but actually make the subject look appealing (most of the time).  In addition to tasting really good, these burritos helped me to expand my learning into another dimension.

As you may have noticed, I rarely repeat recipes.  I realize this is not completely normal, but there are so many neat recipes out there, I want to try them all.  I've also turned every vacation into an opportunity to go to as many strange restaurants as possible and truly savor every meal I eat while away from home - whether I'm down the street at Horizons or on the other side of the country, testing out the San Fran Veg Scene (as I will be in July - yay!).  When I was flipping through the latest Veg. Times, I came across this recipe and immediately thought it would be fun to make and that Mister would love it.  I was right on both counts.  I think it could have been a little spicier, but I didn't follow the directions 100% (that's becoming a theme, actually) and instead of using a chipotle chili in adobo sauce, I squirted what I thought to be a healthy dose of harissa into the sauce.  I think it would have had the desired effect if I had squirted twice as much, so I'll keep that in mind for next time.

So, with the potatoes and cauliflower simmering away with what I had hoped would be a spicy red curry sauce, I grabbed my bag of cilantro from the fridge and started gathering leaves for chopping.  Then, I smelled it.

I'm not exactly sure how to describe "it," but here are some adjectives that seem to apply: strong, pungent, musty, green(ish), stinky.  I wish I had some $5 words to use here, but I'm still using that part of my brain to figure out if that's what fresh cilantro is supposed to smell like while simultaneously reaching an understanding of why so many [white] people can't stand this herb.  Part of me hopes I got a bum bunch while another part of me really doesn't want to contract some kind of Mexican supervirus 36 hours before my brother-in-law's wedding.

Why does cilantro smell so bad???  It doesn't smell that bad when it's dried and it doesn't smell bad at all when it manifests itself as ground coriander.  Did I get a bunch of half-rotten stalks or is that extraordinarily pungent scent supposed to accompany the bouquet in my fridge?

The Happily-Ever-After end of my story, though, is that dinner was really good - the flavors and textures worked together beautifully.  I increased the final garlic count from 2 cloves to about 5 and I decreased the prescribed cilantro from 3 Tbsp to 1, but the mixture was well balanced and tasty.  Mister and I each wolfed down two burritos (which would probably [rightly] be called dosas in another culture with better spices) and I can see this easy-to-prepare, fast-cooking meal becoming as regular in our "rotation" as any recipe is likely to become.


  1. they DID! Is that what smelled? guess I should toss the rest...

  2. Glad you're coming over to this side of the States. July will be beautiful in SF!

    Maybe the cilantro stalks got a little slimy?

  3. I also rarely make the same thing twice - too many recipes, too little time!
    I once hated cilantro (or we just call it coriander in its fresh form here), but then I taught myself to love it and now I am addicted. It does have a very distinctive smell, and that smell can dominate the veggie crisper. I actually do like its smell, but I am not sure if it was exactly the same thing you were smelling.

    (BTW, I do really enjoy reading your blog. I tend to be a lurker, rather thana frequent commenter, but I'm always happy when it pops up in my reader).

  4. I'm still kind of thinking something was wrong with my bunch - I have enjoyed fresh cilantro in dishes prepared by other people's hands, so I know I like cilantro...just the smell.... maybe it was just the overwhelming scent of the whole bunch at once.

    and don't worry, I know you're out there - I am also a bit of a lurker, commenting on other blogs less frequently than I read them.