Tag Archives: cilantro

Mexican Chopped Salad with a Creamy Cilantro Dressing

Being that we’re having summer weather here in south Florida we’re well into our salads.  All my friends who grew up here are salad people, obsessed with cold, crunchy, live food.  Weekends and summers found us on the beach.  Junior and senior years of high school we spent at the club, that would be Dana, Andrea and me, lounging in the pool, playing tennis or catching rays.  All our plans were created there…whether it be a date, outfit or college.  Someone in our group, never us but somebody, always had a boom box blaring with the 70’s sounds of Doobie Brothers, Earth, Wind and Fire or Stevie Wonder that made us so happy.  We all knew they were good, good days.  We loved the waves rolling in the background.  We loved the ever so slight breeze which cooled the droplets of pool water running down our flat, toned tummies and lean, tanned legs.  We took delight in the smooth coral stone under our feet after burning up on the beach.  The in our dangerously low-cut black maillots, the three of strolled about the pool and beach as though we owned the place.  It was home to us and we were always welcomed.  We charged little dinner salads for lunch and chased them down with enormous iced coffees laced with half and half and who knows how many packets of Sweet’N Low.  Late in the day we moved our lounge chairs into the shade, under clusters palm trees set in islands of grass.  They were easy days.  Pretty and safe days.  Certainly not days that would prepare us for the hard knocks and bumps of life which we’ve all felt!   But I know this trio thoroughly embraced these times.   We each cried over different boys or our parents.  We danced on the beach as though no one was watching, and quite frankly, no one was.  And laugh.  My goodness!  A laugh a minute.  Even if we had to stoop to cheap humor by grabbing one of Dana’s majestic boobs and hollerin’, “Titty!” while leaping into the pool.  None of us remember not knowing one another, that’s how long we’ve been the closest of friends.  In all those years we’ve shared umpteen sleepovers and girl’s weekends and although the iced coffees have been upgraded to tequila we still go crazy over our salads.  Crispy, ambrosial and what we want.

This is the perfect salad if you have a couple of leftover ears of grilled corn.  We throw a few extra ears on the grill so as to have this salad the following day.  The recipe for this salad is just a guideline.  Add more or less of any ingredient depending on your taste.  If you’re not up to making your own tortilla strips, merely crumble a few tortilla chips over the salad right before serving.  I also serve this salad with grilled shrimp or fish on top as well as grilled boneless chicken breasts.  It’s delicious as a wilted salad, too.  Any all ready mixed, leftover salad topped with fresh tortilla strips or chips is fabulous.  Stay cool!

Mexican Chopped Salad with a Creamy Cilantro Dressing

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves
  • 1 1/4 cups cream fresca, sour cream or Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1-ounce package original Ranch dressing, not buttermilk
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into 1/8″ strips
  • 1 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 7.75-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ears grilled corn on the cob, kernels sliced off
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1 California avocado, cut into 1/2″ chunks
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • tortilla strips for garnish
  1. Place all ingredients for salad dressing in a food processor or blender.
  2. Process until smooth.  You will have small flecks of cilantro in the dressing.
  3. Transfer to a jar and chill until ready to serve.
  4. In a large bowl place all the ingredients for the salad, except the tortilla strips, in a large bowl.
  5. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of dressing over the salad and toss lightly.  Add more if necessary and gently toss to coat all ingredients.
  6. Taste for salt and pepper.
  7. Garnish with tortilla strips.




The base of all the best Puerto Rican dishes is sofrito, a brilliant blend of onion, pepper, garlic, cilantro and culantro.  I can’t believe in the five years I’ve been writing this blog I haven’t posted it yet.  I’ve searched high and low for the post but it ain’t there so here goes.  Sofrito is what makes Puerto Rican food dance in your mouth.  Simple and inexpensive to make, this is a Hispanic kitchen staple and should always be  in your kitchen as well.  Typically it’s prepared in large amounts then frozen in individual portions to be taken out of the freezer and used as needed.  You will taste sofrito in almost all of our chicken, bean and rice dishes.  Oh, and in soups and stews.  It is loved and used in Latin American, Spanish, Italian and Portugese cooking.  Every country, every town and every household has its own recipe.  Some use tomatoes, some don’t.  Some use bell peppers and cubanelles in addition to local sweet peppers.  In Puerto Rico a small sweet pepper called “aji dulce” is always used but as I’m unable to find them here in Fort Lauderdale I just stick with the cubanelles.

At the farmer's market in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Here you can find everything from fresh beef and goat from the mountains to fresh tamarind, mavi bark and all the island herbs a girl could want!
At the farmer’s market in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Here you can find everything from fresh beef and goat from the mountains to fresh tamarind, mavi bark and all the island herbs a girl could want!

Sofrito to Puerto Ricans is like oxygen to human beings.  The minute it hits the hot oil the onions, garlic and herbs open up.  There is always a head jerk reaction when a Hispanic smells this blend cooking!  It will perfume your home like nothing else.  As with most recipes this fragrant condiment is best homemade although it can be found jarred in most grocery stores in the international section.  If you try this recipe I’m pretty sure you’ll be adding it to many of your dishes.  Enjoy!



  • Servings: 3-4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 very large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cubanelle peppers, seeded and white inner ribs trimmed off, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro, tough stems cut off, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch culantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves, (optional)
  1. Add the onion to a food processor or blender and process until it becomes a thick, smooth paste.
  2. Add the garlic cloves and pulse until almost smooth.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and the cilantro and culantro are lovely green specks.
  4. Store in individual portions in the freezer.  I portion the sofrito and store it in air tight baggies but ice-cube trays also work well after transferring the frozen cubes to an air tight freezer bag.


Cilantro Rice will Save the Dinner


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!




Cilantro Cubes

  • Servings: 2 ice cube trays or 28
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 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



  1. Working in batches, combine all ingredients in your food processor pulsing until mixture has pureed.
  2.  Transfer mixture to ice cube trays or storage containers and freeze until ready to use.


Hot Stuff…Cilantro Parsley Hot Sauce


Happy Birthday to me!  Today is the day of my birth and, in celebration, my gift to YOU is a brilliant, green Chilean hot sauce; bright, fresh and intense in flavor called Pebre.  It is our family favorite. On weekends when I allow myself a piece of whole grain bread that I baked, I slather it on an egg white sandwich.  Magnifico! James, Jimmy and I spread it liberally over grilled meats and fish.  A slab of skirt steak with charred bits on the outside but rare and juicy on the inside is a beautiful thing to behold.  Pebre is the condiment that throws you over the edge at a good Hispanic restaurant whether it be a four star top-grade establishment down to the back corner of a humble, backwater convenience store or even gas station covering a warm, handmade tortilla just taken out of a styrofoam cooler sitting on the floor.  And easy?  Easier than falling off a log.  Plus it lasts refrigerated for a little over a week.  Does it get any better?  I think not.  So try it.  On grilled flank steak.  Grouper, dolphin, shrimp or lobster.  Pebre dances on chicken and as a dip for grilled bread?  OMG.  Give yourself a birthday treat and whip this up.  You’ll have a healthful new favorite.

Slathered on an egg white sandwich this is a positive luxury!
Slathered on an egg white sandwich this is a positive luxury!


Pebre or Cilantro Parsley Hot Sauce

  • Servings: 2 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1/2-1 cup premium quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 4 bunches cilantro, washed and dried, roughly chopped
  • 2 bunches flat leaf parsley, washed and dried, roughly chopped, stems discarded
  • 1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped, any dried tops discarded
  • 4-6 fresh garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 3 fresh scotch bonnet peppers, more or less to your taste, stem discarded
  • 1 lemon or lime freshly juiced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Taste for seasoning, transfer to a jar and cover with the lid.
  3. Refrigerate if you’re using it the following day or later than that.  Leave out at room temperature if you’re serving the sauce that day so the flavors marry.


In Jamaica They Call It “Fish Tea”

WOW.  I just made the most outrageous, EASY, and fast, fish soup!  I’m trying to cool down with an ice-cold, crisp Pinot Grigio.  And, thankfully, it’s working.   It rained a bit today, and although the temperature dropped a stunning 4 degrees, I’m down for soup.  But I didn’t want some cook-all-day, roiling, thick, stew thing.  This is what I want… a gorgeously colored fish soup, always light and incredibly savory.  Dad gets a beautiful fish soup just about every Saturday at the Swap Shop, it’s so darned good but so darned expensive.  $12.00 for a cup.  Are you kidding?  Kiss my lily, white ass.  I looked all through my cookbooks for different recipes but they all did the “fish stock” thing.  I didn’t have any made or frozen and I just didn’t want to kill myself making it.  It’s fish soup, dammit, fish soup.  “I’m Gumby, dammit! Gumby”.  Well, that’s how I felt.  Anyway, I wanted something rich in flavor, but at the same time, light and pretty.  Apparently I wanted it all.  And guess what?  Through hard work and diligence I got it.  I started with a good knob of butter, maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons, and a good splash of olive oil in a medium hot dutch oven/stock pot.  To that I added an enormous onion that I had finely chopped and when it had cooked down, soft and clear, I added 7 or 8 finely chopped garlic cloves.  My feeling is, if I don’t have a good seafood stock then I need to unquestionably produce a broth that is strong, luxurious and full-bodied.  And I did.  After the garlic had softened sufficiently, I heightened the flavor by adding three large, peeled and cubed  red-skinned boiling potatoes, two whole scotch bonnet peppers, and a large bunch of fresh cilantro, washed and finely chopped.  We enjoy a lot of heat in our food and although scotch bonnets are small, they do pack a considerable amount of heat.  Fair warning!  I also threw in a good measure of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Actually, I added more than I usually would as the potatoes will soak up a lot of the salt; they need it to bring out their own flavor.  The shells of the shrimp had been saved and loosely wrapped into a bundle with cheese cloth and into the pot that went.  I found some saffron and tossed a few threads into the mix.  A little color is always good.  I chopped and included another onion to deepen the taste.  I also added a healthy glass of Pinot Grigio although a good chardonnay is lovely, too .  To the juice of four lemons I added six cups of water and into the pot that went. I brought it up to a good simmer and covered it.  I had set aside a large bowl with two pounds of shelled and cleaned shrimp and a couple of pounds of cod fillets cut into small cubes.  After poking around on the computer and watching a little junky daytime television with Jimmy, essentially passing the time, I tasted the broth to see what it needed.  Just a little salt and pepper.  After removing the bundle of shrimp shells I added the seafood and another handful of washed, chopped cilantro, to brighten the pot.  And I turned up the heat, just enough to cook the fish but not toughen it.  Two minutes later… voila.  It was gorgeous!  Just the right amount of heat, citrus and aromatics.  Even Jimmy liked it and he hates soup.  I think snapper, dolphin or wahoo would be outrageous in this and, of course, lime in place of lemon would be just fine.  Lemon grass would be lovely as would some marjoram.  Play around with it or focus on the flavor YOU like.  If you like the anise flavor use fennel in place of cilantro and add  a splash of Pernod.  I few chopped tomatoes might be nice.  And I ever so carefully took the scotch bonnets out and discarded them.  Soup is a luxury to me so if there’s any inclination to prepare it, I’m all in.  This is a fine soup, delicate and light, still satisfying and potent.  In MY kingdom, this would be the consummate meal if served in an individual, footed soup bowl in my formal porcelain pattern.  Would that it were.  Enjoy!


Game Day Salsa

Isn’t it just so great when you go to a tailgate party or to someone’s house to watch “the game” and they have a cold, savory salsa for dip with chips?  We never go out.  I’m such a stay at home person, I don’t go to parties, I rarely go to movies, I LIKE it at home.  Poor Jimmy. He would love to go out… drinks and a lingering dinner somewhere.  Not me.  I grew up having to be the socially perfect child/adolescent/teen/young adult.  I had to serve punch at the Museum. I had to help serve drinks at my parents cocktail parties.  When I came home from college, I guess it would have been Christmas breaks, my mother had always signed me up at the Museum fund-raiser, Promenade.  They always put me in that booth where you throw a baseball at a hole and the beautiful girl sitting on the diving board plunged into the murky depths of some barrel if you hit the target.  Did I mention who the beautiful girl was?  Did I mention I was told to wear my tee-tiniest bikini?  Did I mention it was always cold as all get out?


It never ended.  No matter what my age, join this, chair that, STAND UP STRAIGHT, put some lipstick on, smile, please and WILL YOU DO SOMETHING WITH THAT HAIR?  You thought they made that up for Skeeter in “The Help”?  Well, guess what.  We all had that cross to bear.  My best friends growing up were the daughters of the mayor, doctors, lawyers, architects and judges.  We were always on show.  But… I have to say, when we got in trouble, we could usually just slide ever so prettily out of it. I remember one time we were in somebody’s car, top down, the usual suspects, probably Andrea, Jodie, Dana and Martha and a policeman pulled us over, that bad-ass blue light just a whirlin’ around and there we were just drunk as pigs.  He came over to the car and shone his flashlight in our eyes, waving it all over, we were on Federal Highway right in front of Egg & You, and said, in no uncertain terms,  “if I EVER catch y’all drinkin’ an’ drivin’ I an going to personally call your parents and let them know exactly what y’all are doing!  Do you understand?”  Jesus.  We were just a mess.  And talk about a different time.  So I am done.   But when I DO go to a tailgate, cookout or to someone’s house I want something that isn’t going to throw my thighs into the next episode of “The Biggest Loser”.  And this is pretty great.  Use any bean you like, just take into consideration color.  You want a bit of contrast.  White corn stays crisp, yellow gets mushy.  And flavor is always a good thing!

Game Day Salsa

  • Servings: feeds a crowd
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • 1 15 oz. can organic black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can organic red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can organic white shoe peg corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup red onion, that’s about 1/3 of the onion, finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 jarred jalapenos, finely chopped, (optional, but we love it spicy)
  • 2-3 Key limes or 1 large lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed, dried and chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all of the above.  Cover and set aside for at least an hour for flavors to meld.
  2. Serve with Tostitos Hint O’ Jalapenos.

Now, wouldn’t you just love to throw a baseball at her?