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Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Culinary Curve

Good evening, dear readers

Sorry for not writing for the past few days. I've been busy with the baby and catching up on several seasons of Ghost Adventures. It was nice to see Zak and his fellow stooges come to Arizona and check out some places around this state.

All this week, my husband has been finishing up some community service at a local soup kitchen. Some months back, he was popped for speeding by a red light camera and was given community service in lieu of payment. He finally finished his community service today and the ticket was closed out for good upon delivery of the confirmation paperwork.

On Tuesday, after finishing his shift at the soup kitchen, the director let my husband take home some vegetables that had been delivered by a farmer's market. The bounty included fresh-picked spinach, snow peas, onions, a bag of pre-made salad and a small bag of cilantro. I was delighted with the spinach and the snow peas, since I eat spinach in my salads and the snow peas will go well with a stir fry I plan on doing this weekend, but the cilantro confused me. I like cilantro, but I'm the only one in this house who will eat it. What could I make with it?

Since the cilantro needed eating relatively quickly, I scoured the internet for some recipes. Some cilantro-lime or Thai chicken would have been good, except we don't have chicken (and rarely buy it raw because it's a pain in the ass to cook) or hot Thai chilies. I then stumbled upon a cilantro lime rice recipe, similar to what the Mexican food chain Chipotle uses in their famous burritos. I decided then that this was what I would make. I had all the ingredients on hand already.

Tonight's dinner. Those lumpy brown-looking things on the right are my limes. This is what happens when they sit in the fridge too long: they don't rot, they just dry up.


Unfortunately, my limes had been sitting a bit too long in the crisper drawer and were pretty dried out. I was determined to utilize what I could out of them, but some adjustments would need to be done to the whole dish to compensate. After diligently washing the rice, I began boiling it over medium heat. I cut the limes and then got some powdered chicken bouillon and garlic powder. This was an impulse move that was inspired by some other recipes I encountered while cruising online. I wound up putting a teaspoon of bouillon and a teaspoon of garlic powder into the boiling rice water. When the water had boiled down a bit, I started squeezing in what lime juice I could and including a fair bit of the pulp. Finally, using some kitchen shears, I cut the cilantro into the rice and added a spot of olive oil to keep the rice from sticking to the pot too much.

The result: edible, but not good.

You win, Chipotle


As it turned out, I put in WAAAAYYYYY too much cilantro. About 1/4-1/3 of the bunch in the picture would have been adequate for this one-cup batch of rice. To utilize that whole bunch, I should have scaled up the rest of my ingredients significantly to balance out all the flavors. Fortunately, the baby didn't seem to mind. She ate it along with me, but my husband wouldn't touch it. However, being the supportive husband that he is, he encouraged me to try making cilantro lime rice again some other time but with different proportions. Given that I'm learning almost from scratch how to cook, I counted my blessings that the overall dish wasn't rendered inedible for one reason or another.

Such mishaps, as minor as they are, are an expected part of learning how to cook. I'll have my brilliant moments, and my flops. This is how it is when learning what ingredients go well together and in what proportions. Even the best chefs in the world made a few dud dishes on their way to culinary greatness. The learning curve is generous.

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