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jgm

Cilantro and chilies and lime, oh my!

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I well understand this is a minority opinion. I also understand I may be attacked online and in dark alleys for disparaging the holy trinity.

Go for it. I don't care.

What's tipped me over the edge is Mark Bittman's latest recipe in the NYT for a corn-and-tomato salad. He's put in what in my opinion is becoming a trite, way too predictable combination: cilantro, chilies, and lime.

Oh, how ****ing original.

I'm not saying this isn't a delightful, delicious combination. I'm saying "enough already, can we move on?"

This trio (along with black beans in some cases; did you know beans come in lots of other colors? Most restaurants and cooking magazines don't.) has taken over American cuisine, and I am absolutely sick of it.

There are all kinds of other flavors to add to just about anything, but everywhere I turn, the only thing I see is cilantro and chilies and lime. This is a fairly large planet, and I'm absolutely certain there are other directions to take just about any dish that's been riffed with this trio; I'm fairly certain I have probably never tasted or heard of several of them, but would very likely find them just wonderful. But we're stuck on this combination, and it's to our culinary detriment. The situation reminds me of my friend who won't quit her jerk-of-a-boyfriend because she believes there's no one else out there. She doesn't believe me when I tell her she won't find anyone else until she leaves this loser behind. We must stop this nonsense, and when we do, true love awaits!

My opinion of people who put ketchup on everything is easing. In fact, I think they're on to something, and I may join them.

Misery loves company. Do I have any company?

Jenny

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I'm not saying this isn't a delightful, delicious combination.  I'm saying "enough already, can we move on?"

Yes, we can. Now we can add in some fish sauce! Heaven!


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Are you suggesting something better? My local NJ farmer is selling his corn for $8.00 for 2 dozen ears, so I want all the corn recipes I can get for the next few weeks.

I made a corn salad this weekend (from an old Food and Wine recipe) with lime, vidalia onion, sour cream, and chipotle peppers. No cilantro but a common geographic heritage is clear. I'm cutting back on the lime next time, but it was yummy.

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Wellllll ... I can see your point if the cilantro/chilies/lime combo is being slapped onto just any old dish, thoughtlessly, in a flavor-of-the-month-that's-outstayed-its-welcome kind of way. However, at least here in San Diego where I live, cilantro/chile/lime is not a johnny-come-lately affectation, but in some communities a way of life. There are food traditions here (not just SoCal/Mexican, but also Vietnamese, to name just the couple I'm familiar with) that were doing cilantro/chile/lime long before it became fashionable, and will probably still be doing it long after it's been supplanted by the fashion flavor of the next month. So ... I guess I'm saying I'm personally far from tired of 'em, but then I'm not experiencing them as over-intruding where they wouldn't otherwise belong. :wink:

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$#&%!!! I was just getting ready to send you a black bean cake with lime sorbet, chile coulis and micro cilantro for review! Talk about bad timing... :raz::biggrin:

The combo is everywhere and arguably over-done but the problem is, it's f'ing good. There's not too many things that combo can make taste bad. It's in the limelight (sorry) but even if someday it's not, it will still be the "delightful, delicious combination" it's always been. For the areas of it's origins, it would be kinda like moving on from salt and pepper.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Saying you are sick of cilantro, chile and lime is like saying you are sick of the classic mirepoix or the holy trinity of southern cooking: celery, onion and green pepper. Flour, butter and eggs is pretty trite, too, but they come in awfully handy when it's time for dessert.

Maybe you just want a break from certain flavors right now. In that case, don't be mixing up any guacamole or pho or shrimp curry and join the Julia bandwagon: cook up a lovely Boeuf Bourguignon. Bon...etc.

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My goodness, we're cranky today, aren't we? Which other three ingredients would you recommend that The Minimalist use instead? Also remember that the first item on the ingredient list is bacon :wub:, which gives him a free pass on almost any other ingredient he chooses to include.

Here's the offending recipe.


Gene Weingarten, writing in the Washington Post about online news stories and the accompanying readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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Which other three ingredients would you recommend that The Minimalist use instead?

That's my point exactly. These "southwestern" flavors have taken over American cuisine to the point where we can't even think of anything else. Corn and tomatoes, of course, are a natural for this combination, but other flavors could be used as well. How about Cajun? Carribbean? Thai? Greek? I think there are probably several other flavor profiles (if that's what you would call it; I'm not sure about the correct use of that term) that I can't even think of because I've never had them... because we've allowed this particular combination to take over our cuisine.

My point is that we're stuck, and we've been stuck for a number of years, and it's to our detriment. These flavors are lovely and wonderful, and I do like them myself, but I'm very, very tired of seeing them EVERYWHERE. Actually, they are classic, as Katie pointed out, and it's virtually a no-brainer to add them to nearly anything because they can enhance so many foods.

Quite truthfully, I remember telling a friend of mine back in 1990 that I had stopped reading cooking magazines on an every-month basis, because even then, it seemed that every recipe contained chilies. I had grown tired of these flavors 20 years ago, and I'm still tired of them.

I probably wouldn't be quite so tired of them if they weren't utterly ubiquitous. It seems to me that we've gotten lazy and we've allowed them to destroy our culinary imaginations.

Case in point: At the Heartland Gathering, we had a wonderful dinner Friday night at Bluestem. Even though one of the dishes was gazpacho, NONE of the courses we were served that evening contained the cilantro/chilies/lime combination. (You can imagine how grateful I was!) We did have an incredible fish course, which consisted of a Hawaiian walu, vaquero beans (which I'd never had before, and which were just wonderful), and a lemon verbena broth which was so delicious, many of us picked up our bowls and drank the last of it straight out of the bowl. This is a wonderful example of how we can enjoy even a fish-and-beans combination WITHOUT incorporating our current go-to, habitual flavors.

There are many, many wonderful flavors out there, and it's a shame we're not enjoying them.

Lemon verbena broth? With beans? Not black beans, but vaquero beans! Who'da thunk it? Thank God Colby Garrelts did. He'll forever have a special place in my heart.

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Yup, there goes my recipe for lime-chili icecream with cilantro sorbet, served with black bean biscuits. :wink:

Seriously I hear ya.

Its good, but its not the only possibility.

Chocolate volcano cakes are good too. Next ?

Although, I must edit to comment - crickets are especially good with lime, chili and cilantro. You might want to let Emma know.


Edited by Kouign Aman (log)

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Which other three ingredients would you recommend that The Minimalist use instead?

That's my point exactly. These "southwestern" flavors have taken over American cuisine to the point where we can't even think of anything else. Corn and tomatoes, of course, are a natural for this combination, but other flavors could be used as well. How about Cajun? Carribbean? Thai? Greek? I think there are probably several other flavor profiles (if that's what you would call it; I'm not sure about the correct use of that term) that I can't even think of because I've never had them... because we've allowed this particular combination to take over our cuisine.

My point is that we're stuck, and we've been stuck for a number of years, and it's to our detriment. These flavors are lovely and wonderful, and I do like them myself, but I'm very, very tired of seeing them EVERYWHERE. Actually, they are classic, as Katie pointed out, and it's virtually a no-brainer to add them to nearly anything because they can enhance so many foods.

Quite truthfully, I remember telling a friend of mine back in 1990 that I had stopped reading cooking magazines on an every-month basis, because even then, it seemed that every recipe contained chilies. I had grown tired of these flavors 20 years ago, and I'm still tired of them.

I probably wouldn't be quite so tired of them if they weren't utterly ubiquitous. It seems to me that we've gotten lazy and we've allowed them to destroy our culinary imaginations.

Case in point: At the Heartland Gathering, we had a wonderful dinner Friday night at Bluestem. Even though one of the dishes was gazpacho, NONE of the courses we were served that evening contained the cilantro/chilies/lime combination. (You can imagine how grateful I was!) We did have an incredible fish course, which consisted of a Hawaiian walu, vaquero beans (which I'd never had before, and which were just wonderful), and a lemon verbena broth which was so delicious, many of us picked up our bowls and drank the last of it straight out of the bowl. This is a wonderful example of how we can enjoy even a fish-and-beans combination WITHOUT incorporating our current go-to, habitual flavors.

There are many, many wonderful flavors out there, and it's a shame we're not enjoying them.

Lemon verbena broth? With beans? Not black beans, but vaquero beans! Who'da thunk it? Thank God Colby Garrelts did. He'll forever have a special place in my heart.

And then some knucklehead comes up with a green chile risotto for the main event.

:laugh:


That's the thing about opposum inerds, they's just as tasty the next day.

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And then some knucklehead comes up with a green chile risotto for the main event.

:laugh:

Errr... actually, at the risk of pandering to the "utterly ubiquitous", that sounds really good. :biggrin:


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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The green chile risotto was delicious, and was part of a multi-course dinner that had other dishes with southwestern flavors, and some that didn't. That dinner followed the Bluestem dinner, and a day of barbecue tasting. I'd say that rather than "ubiquitous", the use of chilies that weekend was nicely balanced. I had no problem with it at all!

My objections, in general, are in the area of "too much of a good thing" rather than "I hate this stuff". :smile:

Edited to add: another problem with this particular group of flavors, is that way too many people think that 'capsaicin overload' is a flavor. I routinely take one bite of such dishes and refuse to eat any more, because they're so spicy that it wrecks my mouth for a couple of hours.


Edited by jgm (log)

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I am with you! I love it too, but enough already.

It's like pesto in the 90's. any one else sick of that?

Uhhhh ... no, not sick of pesto. But then I was making it back in the early 1980s, well before it had its turn at flavor-of-the-month overexposure.

I was also eating sushi way back in the early 1980s, way before you could find second-rate surimi-filled California rolls in every supermarket prepared-food chill chest. Just call me Ms. Out-of-Step. :laugh:

I may be way off base, but I think what I'm hearing here is that all these flavor-of-the-month food fashions can lead to a sense of overexposure/overload -- IF one is running in food circles that heavily over-indulge in flavor-of-the-month thinking. That would include certain publications, certain restaurants, etc. etc. etc.

And yeah, I totally sympathize. I recall the last time I ordered what purported to be a "spring roll" in a trendy non-Asian restaurant--the filling and the dipping sauce were so heavy in ginger that even ginger-loving me couldn't deal with it, it blotted out everything else. I resolved then and there to never order that flavor-of-the-month again in any restaurant that didn't have proven skills in handling it.

But outside those flavor-of-the-month circles, I'm still wolfing down spring rolls like a sonuvagun.

I guess I'm still coming down on the side of, if it's an appropriate flavor combination to the dish and to the meal, and it's executed with appropriate skill (for example not dumping in so much ginger, or chile, or what-have you, that it blots out everything else), then I'm happy with it. If it's just slapped on cluelessly and monotonously, just because it's fashionable, fuggeddaboutit.

Besides, deliberately avoiding a flavor combo, even if it would be a terrific and appropriate thing to do, just because "everyone else is doing it," is its own kind of mental trap, y'know? Anti-fashion is still a fashion statement. I'm not saying that's necessarily what I'm hearing here ... I'm just sayin'. :wink:

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Chipotle was a problem at one point. We had everything with the damn smoked peppers in it. Chipotle mayo, ketchup, mustard, yogurt, sauces (western or otherwise), wraps, sandwiches, and who knows maybe even desserts! That was overload.

I do not see much of a problem with the cilantro, lime chili thing. It's simply a classic combo in many cuisines like Southeast asian. When I see the CLC Mayo popping up, then I'll worry.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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It's worth noting how, in Bittman's accompanying text, he lays out that "typical" ingredients to accompany corn and tomato might be garlic, basil, and balsamic. Which to my mind is as "overdone" as cilantro, chiles, and lime, if not moreso. It's all perspective, isn't it?

Keep in mind, Bittman tends to compose his Minimalist recipes using common staples. By default then, they're going to include some standard go-to ingredients. His goal isn't to educate the masses with obscure ingredients and flavor combinations, far as I know.

And bottom line, if it tastes good (btw, cilantro, chilies, lime, avocado, bacon, tomato, and corn doesn't sound like it would suck in the least), well, doesn't that sort of prove *why* it's a go-to combo?

Christopher

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I can't eat chili in any form, so this fad, layered on top of the naturally chili-infested native New Mexican cuisine we have here in Santa Fe, has made it almost impossible for me to go out to eat. I can't wait until a new fad takes over; hopefully one I can tolerate.

Reminds me of when they put shoulder pads in every article of women's clothing, back whenever that was. I just wear what I've got, and wait till it's over...

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It never occurred to me that lime/chile/cilantro was a trend (I don't get out much), more like a tried and true flavor combo, as others have already posted.

Still, this thread came to mind last night as I was making Chris Schlesinger's orange-chipotle salsa from his Big Flavors of the Hot Sun cookbook. Besides orange sections and minced chipotle en adobo, it has fresh oregano (plus cumin, lemon, red onion and red pepper). And I was struck again how much I love this particular salsa.

Of course, it does have the dread trendy chipotle.

But maybe the Bittmans of the world would serve us better if they abstracted lime/chile/cilantro to citrus/hot/herbal and offered some variations on the theme instead?


Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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I think I'm beginning to realize that the food writers for major publications, TV chefs, and restaurants are in the same boat: they must cater to what their public wants. And especially when it comes to food, the public doesn't like change all that much. That's why certain products and flavors - chipotle, balsamic vinegar, pesto, etc., have been beaten into the dead horse category.

That's quite a generalization, of course.

Question: does anyone know what the catalysts have been for major shifts in focus? Who brought Southwestern flavors to the forefront? Who introduced us to balsamic vinegar? Pesto?

Anybody know, or have any ideas to toss out?

Could an organization like eGullet be part of a new direction? (Not that I'm saying we could all ever come to a consensus about what new thing to champion.)

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Interesting research indicates that random chance may play a much larger part than we think in determining these trends.


--

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Somewhere around here I have one of the kids' old books called "Disgusting Sandwiches" or something like that. It was divided horizontally in three, and you could flip through and create random assemblages by conjoining different pages.

I imagine something like this with all of the mainstream (or near mainstream - "tributary"?) flavourings being used to put together the "flavour combination of the season".

Perhaps there's one of these in play in the corporate boardrooms?

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