Monday, April 19, 2010

Sick & Cilantro

What do your tastebuds want when you're sick?

People talk about not being to taste anything, or everything tasting like metal when they're sick. Flavors definitely change for me, but I can definitely still identify flavor, and crave specific foods to satisfy what tastes good when I'm sick and stuffy.

For instance, to me, salt becomes sharper, to the point that I can't take much without foods tasting crazily oversalted. I know this specific taste change is the opposite for others, who I watch go wild salting, trying to be able to taste something, anything. Instead, I overdo the spiciness, pleased to sniffle and hoot and blow my nose a lot. I swear that hot chilies de-pressurize one's head for as long as the burning lasts. (I accidently typed "sweat" instead of "swear." Yeah, that's part of the scenario, too.)

A beverage that hits the spot when I'm sick is bubble juice. A toddler friend introduced me to this tickley throat remedy: spike your juice (orange, cranberry, whatever) with a healthy portion of seltzer, add lots of crushed ice, and let the freezing cold carbonation scratch and numb your throat.

Sharp fresh herbs are appealing to a sick me: tons of basil in garlicky bruschetta, tabouli ruled by parsley. Since I am currently yukky stuffy sick and there are no tomatoes yet, my craving has focused on an old favorite recipe: poblano cilantro pesto.

I've dug out my recipe notebook from college, when I went vegan and was learning how to put food together. Though the handwriting no longer looks like mine, it definitely is, with notes about vinegar cukes, green and yellow curry pastes, peanut dressing, cashew cheese, various veg patés and caviars, avocado cucumber soup, and that shredded veggie salad with lemon tahini and kelp powder that I ate constantly on toast. My book doesn't look like anyone's grandma's carefully preserved handwritten recipes, but it's got some treasures.

The poblano pesto recipe was passed along from a New Mexican friend who said it was from the 1989 Coyote Cafe Cookbook—all the rage in the southwest at that time. If you're not sick, but have the chemical makeup of a cilantro hater, the Times food section this week suggested that cilantro pestos may surprise you by not tasting soapy.
Poblano Pesto
  • 6 T pine nuts, roasted in a dry skillet
  • 6 green chiles, roasted and peeled
  • 4 to 6 T olive oil
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, washed very thoroughly
  • salt to taste
  • juice of 1 or 2 limes
  • 1 sweet red pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced.
Blend everything but red pepper chunks to a paste in a food processor. Gently fold in red peppers.
This can be used to flavor up anything you're eating. It's amazing with cucumbers, for some reason. But the best way to serve it to the uninitiated is folded into pasta, and served at room temperature.

Let me know if any cilantro conversions occur.


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