Let’s start our series on herbs and spices with one of the more polarizing items on the list – cilantro.
It’s a cliché for most foods, but it’s true with cilantro; either you love it, or you hate it. This is because certain people (less than 20% of the population) taste cilantro in a different way than the majority of us do. To these individuals it literally tastes like dish soap, and cilantro can ruin an otherwise delicious salsa for them.
For the rest of us, cilantro is a delicious addition to many meals, especially Mexican food.
The plant is native to parts of Asia and Europe, but is now commonly used throughout the Western Hemisphere as well.
It’s possible you’ve heard other names used for cilantro. Cilantro refers to the stems and leaves of the coriander plant – in addition to cilantro and coriander, it’s also known as Chinese parsley.
Coriander seeds (whole or ground) are often used in cooking as well. These seeds have a nutty, spicy flavor and are often used in Indian cuisine along with cumin and curry. They’re also used for pickling vegetables and in certain types of sausage.
Cilantro itself (meaning the leaves and stems) has a fresh flavor that is sometimes compared to citrus, lemon, or lime. It doesn’t have any meaningful calorie content, but does contain certain vitamins and antioxidants. Like many leafy greens, it’s relatively high in vitamin K; those taking blood thinners like warfarin should be aware of the amount of cilantro they consume.
The best use of cilantro is usually to add it to a dish after most or all of the cooking is complete. This will help the leaves retain their flavor and texture.
Now for the fun part – finding some great recipes using cilantro. As mentioned previously, it pairs great with Mexican flavors such as salsa, chili, and lime. Slow cooker cilantro lime chicken is a great option, as is simply using chicken thighs and pairing these with beans, rice, or sautéed onions and peppers. Cilantro makes a great addition to a fresh salad as well as a marinade. If lime doesn’t appeal to you, try cilantro as a complement to coconut on baked tilapia. It even makes a great garnish on a hearty soup. Or just sprinkle cilantro leaves on your eggs with some of your favorite salsa.
I hope you’re a cilantro fan and found this blog post useful. If, however, you think cilantro tastes like soap, next week’s post may be more your style.