Why is it every time we finish preparing dinner, eating dinner then cleaning up from dinner, it seems we have to start all over again; from deciding what to have, to making a list, assembling the meal, it seems as though the cycle just doesn’t end. Lord knows, it’s exhausting. To add to our woes, our families become bored and disinterested when the same meal is prepared over and over. I know I could eat salad EVERY SINGLE NIGHT but, for some reason, my husband and son revolt on day number 2. Precious little time and money also contribute to the problem. As luck would have it, I ran across an article in the New York Times cooking section that brought to mind something I keep on hand, in the freezer, that I had completely forgotten about. I puree large quantities of cilantro, fresh baby spinach, a little onion and garlic and a bit of lime zest together in the food processor and, after freezing the mixture in ice-cube trays, I transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic freezer bag for soups, stews and anything else that might need a blast of color or flavor. I had forgotten about them because my freezer is an ice-covered disaster. I label everything but the freezer’s small and packed…and…whatever. I can’t go into it. I’ll get all angry and mean. Just believe me when I say these cilantro cubes are just the ticket to wake up a dreary, tiresome dinner. I add five or six of these babies to a pot of rice cooking and my dinner has completely changed. My leftover chicken thighs stand up a bit taller next to cilantro rice and sliced tomatoes. Leftover steak and grilled shrimp or fish love cozying up to the bright and cheerful side dish. I prepare the cilantro puree in batches, mix it all together in a large bowl then divvy it up into the ice-cube trays. After the cubes have frozen solid I’ll put them in a labeled freezer bag, squeeze out the air and flatten the bag for easy storage in the freezer. I add a bit less water to the pot if I’m preparing rice, maybe one or two tablespoons less per cube. Towards the end of the rice’s cooking time I check to see if more water is needed and if the color is to my liking. If the rice has a little too much water I’ll remove the lid of the pot and allow that excess to steam off. I might add another cube or two or only water if that’s what’s needed. But I find cilantro rice is a welcome change from plain white or brown, jasmine or basmati. The spinach gives almost no flavor but deepens the rich emerald color. The onion, garlic and lime zest takes this condiment to another savory level. They take away the raw harshness that a strong cilantro taste can sometimes bring. I add no salt as I can season the dish itself later. So tuck this recipe under your bonnet and the next time you find yourself wanting to rattle around in the kitchen consider preparing this. Keep the cubes on hand and you’ll buy yourself shortcut and a culinary hack. Your sweet family will love you for it!
- 4 large bunches fresh cilantro, washed, dried and leaves roughly chopped
- 1 8-ounce bag baby spinach leaves
- 2 bunches flat leaf parsley, washed, dried and leaves roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
- zest of two limes
- Working in batches, combine all ingredients in your food processor pulsing until mixture has pureed.
- Transfer mixture to ice cube trays or storage containers and freeze until ready to use.