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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What To Do With… Cilantro

No other herb evokes a more emotional response than the citrusy, fruity cilantro. Some people loathe it so much that even the smallest bits can ruin a night. Others, however, would give it a hero's welcome by throwing a ticker tape parade. And most definitely, I belong to the latter camp.

Cilantro is also one of those vegetables with many names: coriander, Chinese parsley, or Mexican parsley. In fact, at the grocery store today, when the cashier inspected the bagged leaves, it prompted me to say, “It’s cilantro.” I caught tiniest huff under her breath when she replied, “Actually, it’s coriander.”

Either way, it's delicious.

Most recipes call for only the smallest snippets of cilantro, but it’s sold in these glorious bouquets. After it has served its original purpose and is only but a delicious memory, the remaining leaves wilt away in my crisper forgotten. Perhaps its human nature to forget about herbs after they have served their initial purpose. But is that any way to treat such a loyal, easy going friend? It seems like a downright shame especially when it is so easily paired with seafood, Mexican cuisine and citrus.

1. Cilantro pesto: This is truly a summertime delight when cilantro is bushy and brimming out its spot in the garden. I always have pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil on hand, so this is easy to whiz up in the food processor and put into tiny freezer bags for a later date. When I want to use it, I just defrost, shave parmesan on top and toss with hot pasta.

2. Cilantro vinaigrette: Another quick use for bits of cilantro (stems and all) is to throw it into a dressing. Whiz a handful of cilantro, with 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Pour over a fresh salad or over boiled new pototatoes.

3. Lime Cilantro Compound Butter: Mix 1 stick of room temperature butter with a handful of cilantro finely minced (no stems), a squeeze of lime juice and the zest of one lime. Mix until fully incorporated. Pack into a ramekin or turn mixture out onto parchment paper and roll into a thick log (about 1 1/2” log.) Return to the fridge until solid. Add a pat to a grilled steak or hot steamy brown rice. Store the rest in the freezer until needed.

4. Fresh salsa: Slice and seed 4 roma tomatoes, dice into smallish squares. Add a 1/4c of finely diced red onion, 1 tsp of cumin, 1 half jalapeno, seeded and diced finely and about 1/2c chopped cilantro, and juice from 1 lime. Grind salt and pepper to taste.

5. Tabouleh Salad: Substitute part or all of the parsley of a tabouleh salad with cilantro for a different and fresh note.

6. Cilantro rice: Cook 1 cup of rice as per instructions. Toss hot rice with 1 cup of chopped cilantro (leaves and stems) and juice of one lime. (I have done the same with vermicelli rice noodles as well, and it’s so good.)

7. Cold Avocado Soup: This recipe was a great use for leftover buttermilk and a ripe avocado and it goes the same for cilantro.

8. Tuna fish sandwich: Mix 1 can of drained tuna (I like to plurge at times and buy the Italian tuna), with 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise (or drained yoghurt), add ¼ c of chopped cilantro leaves, 1/8 tsp of cumin, and salt and pepper to taste.

9. Add to salad: Consider tossing in a handful of roughly chopped cilantro to your next salad. It adds another dimension in flavour to salads and you can use less dressing with this flavour boost.

10. As a garnish extraordinaire: when there is fresh cilantro in the fridge, a great way to get use out of it is to add it as a garnish: guacamole, Vietnamese pho, vermicelli rice bowls, stir frys, and curries.


Alex Rushmer said...

cilantro pesto sounds great - would be really good stirred into a curry

Hungry Gal said...

@ alex

alternatively - you could make a lovely coriander chutney to stir into a curry - with ginger, chilis, garlic, lime and a pinch of sugar and salt. hmmm... in fact, stay tuned...

Lynnylu said...

Great uses for cilantro-my favorite herb. It's so hard to use it before it wilts. Enjoyed reading your blog!

Hungry Gal said...


why thank you... it's my favourite herb, too - but wilts so quickly... we threw our last couple of bits in a broccoli gratin tonight. it was delicious.

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MmM said...

Great ideas! Try also a ceviche, fish cooked in lemon juice then before eating toss with red onions and fresh cilantro!! it doesn't last long in my house....

Mitch said...
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