The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

9:59 PM

Food of the Day - Cilantro

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

 Daily Ingredient
Along with general discussions about food and recipes, I think it is important to go into a little more detail about some of the food products out there that we can really use to make a dish something special. I will try to post an ingredient every day, with a little insight into how it can be used in your kitchen... Comments are always welcome!

One of my all-time favorite ingredients is cilantro. A powerful, versatile herb, cilantro is the leafy part of the coriander plant. Widely used in many types of cooking, cilantro can be used in dishes from salsa to curries to soups and salads.
Coriander Plant
Cilantro can be purchased fresh (usually stems and leaves) in bunches, dried, or chopped and frozen. However, I recommend using fresh cilantro whenever possible. The intense, slightly spicy flavor will add a characteristic pungence to your dish.
 Cilantro Leaves
 How Can I Get It?
Frozen cilantro is already chopped, and can be tossed right into cooking food.  Dried cilantro should be crushed in your hand or by use of a mortar and pestle before adding to food, to reduce the chance of large, unpleasant pieces being left in the food.  You can get both dried and fresh cilantro at virtually any supermarket or specialty food store.
Fresh Is Best
When using fresh cilantro, it is best to remove most of the stems (just cut the bottoms off), and chop the leaves using a medium- to large-sized sharp knife.  Pieces can be coarse or fine, depending on your preference and need for the dish you are making.  And unlike dried cilantro, the leaves of fresh cilantro are soft, and will not create an unpleasant contrast of texture in your food.  Plus, the flavor of fresh cilantro is much better!
When choosing a bunch of fresh cilantro in the store, look for freshness.  The leaves should be bright and green, without brown patches or wilting.  Cilantro can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days before it will start to grow soft, wilt, and eventually release its liquid and become mushy.  Always try to use your fresh cilantro as soon as possible.
Why Buy When You Can Grow?
I also recommend growing your own cilantro... This can be done by planting coriander seeds, or by purchasing a cilantro plant that has already started growing.  You can grow it in a pot, or in the ground in your garden.  This way, you always have quick access to fresh, delicious cilantro to flavor your favorite dishes!  Cilantro likes cool but sunny weather, and it will flourish if you take care of it.  For more information on growing your own cilantro, check out this site.
Use It!
Don't know what to do with your cilantro?  Making a fresh salsa is always a great way to use this wonderful, pungent ingredient.  Also, try pairing cilantro in Mexican and Asian dishes, with foods like peanut, shrimp, chicken, lamb, tomato, and even pasta!  Add it to guacamole, fish, steak, salad dressing, or Pad Thai... This versatile ingredient can be a great way to add some distinctive character and flavor to a multitude of dishes.

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