Stalking Padma in the Kitchen: Salad Course
Regular ESers know that I’ve been on a crusade to prove that pretty face Padma Lakshmi actually can cook. I’ve made my way through her appetizer and soup recipes, so now it’s on to course three: salad.
Cilantro is one of the most divisive foods on earth. Many people claim there’s a genetic aspect to it: If you’ve got the cilantro gene, you can’t get enough of it; if you’re born without it, the very thought of cilantro makes you turn into an angry, hulk-esque opponent.
Grace be to god, I fall on the cilantro-loving side of this supposed genetic divide. I really think it puts all other herbs to shame. But here’s the problem for us cilantro-fiends: you only need a little bit of it to season any food, yet it inexplicably is sold exclusively in gigantic bunches, which of course go bad before even the most devoted cilantrite can finish them. For years I’ve avoided buying the stuff because I’m always afraid I won’t be able to finish it. That’s where the genius of Padma Lakshmi comes into play yet again…
Cilantro as a garnish? Eff that! says Padma. Make cilantro the whole base of the salad. I’m sure plenty of others have though of this before, but I’ve never had it, so I’m crediting Padma. She suggests a Carrot and Cilantro Salad for ‘cool, crunchy bites in the middle of a hot meal.’ Her grated carrot and cilantro salad calls for white hulled sesame seeds, dried cranberries, and za’atar powder, whatever the hell that is. I didn’t get quite so complex–here’s my simplistic take on Padma’s salad, where I replace the crunch of sesame seeds with red onion:
– Chop one-half red onion and marinate it in the juice of 1 lime. Leave this for about an hour. It cuts down on the bite of the onion, which I personally think is just a little too intense to enjoy raw otherwise.
– Peel and grate two carrots.
– Pick off the leaves of one bunch of cilantro. (Goddamn, this is time-consuming. As you can see, I left a few stems on, which I don’t mind but might piss others off. Any tricks of the trade for quicker cilantro de-leafing?)
– Mix the carrots, cilantro, and onion together.
– In the onion bowl (which should still have a l’il lime juice leftover), mix together some extra virgin and balsamic to taste. I guess I did about 2 T olive oil, 1 T vinegar. Season with a dash of chili powder. Mix this into the salad. Salt and pepper and you’re done.
Evalutation: I love it. It really served as a cooling crunch in between spicy bites of my Breaded Sriracha Chicken, and I used the leftover on hummus-and-pita sandwiches. Definitely going in the permanent repertoire.
Grade: Four-and-a-half Padmas (out of a possible 5)