Cilantro-Almond Pesto

17 02 2012

Needed pozole yesterday (did you know it comes from the Nahuatl word for “foamy”? also, that it used to be made with human flesh? mine was, uh, chicken), so clearly required a heap of cilantro to crown it. The bunch was slightly mangy-looking even last night, thus necessitating immediate use – and what better than spicy cilantro-almond pesto on which to base an afternoon mexi-feast?

It’s rare that I cook beef, not due to any particular dietary concern but rather based on heavy veggie and fish preferences. Upon hearing my pleas for meaty advice, the carnicería guy across the street suggested lomo de entrecot, which I think refers to entrecôte cut from the sirloin. I rubbed it with a healthy coat of Evansville Magic Dust and let it come to just about room temperature, then seared it in a cast iron skillet with just a smear of olive oil. While I was supremely happy with the crust that developed, the center was reduced to a light pink – much too done for my taste. I had the heat cranked, the cut was perhaps 1/3 inch thick, and I did the first side 2.5 minutes and flipped for another 1.5 – will try shaving off a minute next time. Still mad delicious with the spicy, nutty pesto.

I modeled the salad after the constant accompaniment I remember from Cuautla, where you just dip a whole cucumber into chile powder and bite into crunchy spiced bliss. Today was cucumber slices and halved cherry tomatoes sprinkled with chile powder, cayenne, lime juice, and salt – not a bad facsimile.

Cilantro-Almond Pesto
slightly adapted from Simply Recipes.

2 cups cilantro, large stems removed
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1 small roughly chopped red onion
1/2 chopped and seeded serrano chile – next time I’d add the whole thing, but I’m a spice masochist.
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil – I used a bit less, I think. Added it by the teaspoon until the consistency looked right, and it tasted like I never wanted to stop eating it.

1. In a food processor – or with an immersion blender if you must (and I must) – pulse the cilantro, almonds, onion, chile, and salt until well blended.

2. With the food processor/immersion blender running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.

Makes about 1 cup. Whatever you don’t use, you can freeze. Line a ice cube tray with plastic wrap and fill in the individual cube spaces with the pesto. Freeze and remove from the ice tray, put in a sealed freezer bag for future use.

Vespa Fantasies/Cilantro Realizations

19 09 2010

I’m going to guess it traces back to that alluring orange beauty emblematic of imminent success on Piso Day: Em and I have been fantasizing about Vespas.

Lucky us, there is a certified Vespa Store about 10 minutes’ walk from our place. We seek it out and inquire into possibilities.

A new bike runs roughly 2000€; we’re thinking a used one could be found somewhere in Madrid at an even more dangerously affordable price.

Shopkeep José is very helpful, fueling our enthusiasm and offering further information. He recommends we visit the US Embassy to iron out the legal details; we make a note of it as a possible Monday plan.

With no further schedule for the daylight hours, Em and I engage in our most dedicated wanderings to date. Armed with vague aims of “gold heels” and “Mexican ingredients,” we head first to Plaza Angel on a vague recollection of a Latino market.

Paydirt! Black beans are quite the uncommon find in Madrid. I snap up two cans, making a wish known to the universe that I’d like to consume one of them for lunch.

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this market very highly – not too much else appealed (although I am glad to know of another location for coconut milk). We recall Fausto mentioning the barrio Cuatro Caminos as being home to many Central/South American immigrants, so I call up Charleen in the belief that she lives nearby and make plans to meet at the metro.

While on the surprisingly lengthy metro journey to Cuatro Caminos, Em and I unfold my rapidly deteriorating map to note that Charleen lives nowhere near the area whatsoever, and that I have absolutely zero idea how such a thought got planted in my skull. Ah well, it’s a wandering day for everyone!

Upon our exit from the metro, sugar-encrusted roasted peanuts from a nearby stall smell far too enticing not to devour. We contentedly munch while productively awaiting Charleen’s arrival by browsing a Carrefour, hoping for shelving and instead encountering a perfect yellow robe, plus tortillas and a baguette for later eats.

Just outside the Carrefour is another entrance to the Cuatro Caminos metro station, and something draws me in for a closer look. It’s common in these areas to to see black market vendors of pirated DVDs, knockoff sunglasses, and arrays of very likely pilfered goods, none of which I’m interested in purchasing – but this man has my number.

“Emily. Emily. Look. I think he has cilantro.”
Cilantro.” [runs, not walks, up to shady seller clutching bunches of green] “Es cilantro??”
“Si. Un euro.” [begins packing massive amount into plastic bag]
“Uhh – no necesito tanto -”
“Un euro.”
“Uh. Vale.”

Yesssssss. My only regret is not snapping a quick frame of the sketchy cilantro huckster. There’s no question I’ll be back…

Charleen shows her pretty face and we begin exploring in earnest.

A foray into an Ecuadorian bakery – which are ubiquitous here, by the way – reveals a Jamaican cornmeal flour that Charleen’s been dreaming about, plus various other goodies. No real vanilla, however; Taste of America may have a run on the market.

Lunch plans come together as though divinely mandated; it is blindingly obvious that the tortillas, black beans, and cilantro in our hot little hands were meant to be together as one. A frutería near Charleen’s piso in Principe Pío provides tomatoes, onions, and garlic; a carnicería offers “queso para sandwich” by the slice. Charleen’s kitchen gets a full workout, and we devour the results, unanimously agreeing that the cilantro is the crowning focal point in the mess of burrito glee.

A full kitchen is a happy kitchen.