Healthy Tip: Celebrate Cilantro
No doubt there are things in this world we either love or hate: Certain politicians, certain subjects, certain insects, certain movies or movie stars, and certain types of foods, such as garlic, coconut, tripe, anchovies, coffee, chocolate or cilantro.
Cilantro: I love it; my sister hates it. It has a unique, unmistakable aroma, more overpowering even than its flavor — and that seems to be why we have this whole love/hate thing going on with it. Some of us who love cilantro tend to load up our dishes with it, which is perfectly fine unless
you have a cilantro-hater over for dinner. Planning a cilantro-laden menu? Invite me! Really though, you may want to check with your guests; remember that a bowl of fresh cilantro on the buffet allows everyone to season to taste.
Commonly found in Southwestern dishes, salsas and dips, cilantro is often referred to as coriander or Chinese parsley. You’ll find it abundantly in Asian dishes and Indian dishes, too. Cilantro is the leaf of the coriander plant, the same plant that produces the little coriander seed, used in many popular dishes around the world. Cilantro delivers vitamin K and other antioxidants. It’s commonly used as a medicinal herb and is recognized for its ability to aid digestion as well as keep foods fresh.
If you’re feeling adventurous and ready to slip into “cilantro-civilization,” I’ve got some great ideas to get you going:
- Add it to salsa, dips, marinades and sandwich spreads. Here’s a delicious Spicy Tomato Salsa with Cilantro and Chiles.
- Stir it into any tropical salsa made with papaya, cilantro, mango or pineapple. Try this dish for Pineapple and Cilantro Baked Salmon.
- Combine it with red onion, mango, jalapeños and chopped tomato – enjoy over fish, tempeh, pork chops or chips.
- Stir it into cottage cheese with minced onion and jalapeño – great for lunch!
- Stir it into hot cooked whole grains.
- Add it to sauces for beef for a refreshing taste. Or try this recipe for Pan-Seared Flat Iron Steak with Spicy Cilantro Sauce.
- Add to vegetable or grain salads. Like carrots? Here’s an idea for Carrot, Red Onion and Cilantro Salad.
- Try it in tuna salad, chicken salad, tofu salad, bean salad, or egg salad. Here’s a recipe for Sweet Corn and Black Bean Salad.
- Blend it into hummus. Try this Black Bean Hummus — the cilantro makes it great!
- Add it to pesto sauce for pasta, fish or grain dishes. I love this recipe for Arctic Char with Cilantro Pumpkin Seed Pesto. Substitute salmon too!
- Add to tacos, quesadillas, chalupas and burritos. Here’s an idea for Chicken Quesadillas with Cilantro or Black Bean and Cilantro Quesadillas.
- Use as a garnish for bean dishes, grain casseroles, soups and grilled meats.
- Add to Latin, Southwestern, Indian and Asian dishes as a garnish or part of the dish. Be sure to try this amazing Cilantro Chutney and these Portobello Spring Rolls with Cilantro-Tahini Dip.
- Stir cucumbers and cilantro into yogurt. Add a pinch of sea salt and a minced jalapeño. Serve as a condiment with just about any main dish.
- Stir into softened cream cheese, ricotta cheese or goat cheese. Spread over crackers or into celery sticks.
- Add to softened butter. Here’s a recipe for Red Snapper with Cilantro Butter.
When buying cilantro, be sure to look for fresh green leaves with no yellowing or browning. They should have that strong, famous, pungent aroma. Don’t wash it until ready to use, and store in either a jar with water, just like you would a bouquet of flowers, or in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. As with all fresh leafy herbs, try to use it within a few days.
Have you tried cilantro? Do you love it or hate it? Got a favorite way to eat it? I’d love to hear!