In college, FHE and I ate out quite a bit. There were a few local places we tended to frequent, but one institution received a few more visits than the others. Chipotle. Then known as Cha-pa-tul. (Yes, we knew how to pronounce it, but that’s just what silly – nay, idiot – college students referred to it as.) Nothing like the authentic Mexican fare we grew up with in the Bay Area, we became (embarassing, to some extent) smitten with their corn salsa, chipotle grilled chicken, and cilantro lime rice. We didn’t often eat inside Chipotle – it was more of a grab-and-run meal. One we’d then sneak into the library at all hours of the late morning, afternoon, evening, and wee hours of the morning. Especially during finals.
Despite all the accolades about Chipotle’s farm-raised meats, fresh produce, and cooking methods, we knew our beloved burrito packed a caloric punch and contained enough sodium to make us bouyant. My nutritionist mother-in-law gasped at the behemoth, carbohydrate-dense flour tortilla. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if we ate it once in a blue moon but, for a good school year or two, our moon was always blue. Slowly we weaned ourselves. And while FHE was reluctant to give up the wrapper to his portable meal, I was thrilled to see the introduction of the burrito bowl (a.k.a. a burrito sans tortilla).
These days, Chipotle is truly a once-in-a-blue-moon stop. Not because we don’t enjoy it – FHE might still be there several times a week if he could – but because it’s easier and more healthful to make a homemade version. Consider this “recipe” as a template – vary the protein to your liking (beans, tofu, shredded pork or beef, grilled chicken, leftover rotisserie chicken) and incorporate as many of the salsa ingredients as you have on hand or enjoy. (Tonight, we simply seared the salmon with salt and pepper.) With all those saved calories, you’ve more than earned a beer or churro to finish off your Mexican-inspired meal.
Cilantro Lime Rice, adapted from Chipotle
1 tsp vegetable oil or butter
2 tsp fresh cilantro
2/3 cup brown (or white) basmati rice
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat, stirring occasionally until melted. Add rice and lime juice, stir for 1 minute. Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil. At boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and add additional cilantro, if desired.
Add your choice of salsa ingredients and season with salt, pepper, and lime juice. Mix, chill, and serve.
1 large beef steak tomato or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small white or red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced (optional)
2 Hass avocado, peeled and diced (underripe today, so we didn’t add)
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/4 to 1/2 cup (loosely packed) chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ lime, or more
Salt and pepper, to taste