Two of the things I love about Nora Ephron is that she’s an outstanding writer and she loves to cook.  In fact, in her book “Heartburn” – a thinly veiled story about her marriage to Carl Bernstein – she talks about how, regardless of the vagueries of her life and marriage, there are certain principles in the kitchen that are as reliable as gravity.  She touched on this theme again in her interpretation of “Julie and Julia” when Julie Powell makes the chocolate pie after a horrible day working with the 9/11 Foundation.

I think it’s a theme we can all relate to – wanting something we can rely on when friends / loved ones / colleagues / traffic / grocery stores / schools / whatever let us down.  I don’t necessarily mean eating comfort food (although let’s be honest – sometimes mashed potatoes can make life a little more bearable).  I mean cooking food – everything from the preparation, the measuring, the technique, the assembly and the presentation.  Sometimes, when things are just too complicated, when your heart is broken (or at least bruised), when you’re so frustrated that your eyes hurt, when you’re so angry that, if you had a vein in the middle of your forehead, it would be throbbing – in times like those, the zen of knowing that you can take forked eggs, a little butter and a super-hot pan and make a light, fluffy omelet fit for a Frenchman is just … well … comforting.

What does that have to do with marinades?  Well, nothing really – but it does have everything to do with cooking.  With spending time putting things together.  With walking into the kitchen and leaving the rest of your life on the threshold.  With focus, basically – focusing on chopping (always wise), focus on measuring, tasting, getting the balance right.  I guess I just never cease to be amazed with how 30 minutes in the kitchen can be like 30 minutes spent meditating – all that focus spent on one thing really does help put things into perspective.  And, as Martha would say, that’s a good thing!

This is great with chicken or pork.

Yogurt, Lime and Cilantro Marinade

  • 4-5 heaping soup spoons of Greek yogurt
  • 1 red chili, seeded and roughly chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2″ piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • about 1 1/2 cups cilantro, leaves and stem, whole
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • pinch salt

Put the lot of it into a blender or the cup of a motor-boat blender and thoroughly puree.  Pour into a ziplock bag and marinade chicken breasts or pork loin steaks for a few hours or all day.  You can use this marinade if you’re planning to cook on a grill or in a lightly oiled pan over medium-high heat – in both cases, you’ll get a gorgeous finish on the outside.  If you want to bake, you can, but it won’t brown as nicely – although, you could probably pan sear it, first, then pop it in the oven to finish.