|Cilantro - Little Leaves, but Big on Flavor
|Growing up in the Southwest, salsas and heavily seasoned/spiced foods were (and are) the
norm in our family. One herb heavily used is the leaf of the coriander plant, called cilantro
here in the Southwest, Chinese parsley in Asia, and coriander in some parts of the Midwest.
Regardless of what you call it, most people either like it a lot, or not at all. And there is little
Cilantro has a light but voluminous earthy sweet and sour taste with citrus overtones. It is
almost always used fresh, rarely cooked. If used in cooked dishes, it should added at the
very end of the cooking process, right before serving, and typically done so as a fresh
finishing herb (and sometimes garnish). If added too early, it loses its rich green color,
turning brown, as well as losing most of its flavor. It is frequently used in Asian (except
Japanese), Indian, Mexican and Thai dishes. Cilantro is a spring-summer herb, but is
typically available year round in the Southwest. While it is available in dried form, it lacks the
quality and impact that the fresh leaf has, more so than most other herbs. This is due to the
volatility of its compounds (including alkanols and 2-alkenals, other aliphatic aldehydes and
alcohols, and nonane).
Some people visually confuse cilantro with parsley. Upon close examination, you will find
cilantro leaves are much thinner and typically smaller than parsley. Their shapes are also
slightly different. If in doubt, mash a leaf between your thumb and forefinger and smell. You
will know in a flash what you herb you smell. One more thing worth noting, the coriander
seeds taste different from the leafy herb, and do not make a suitable substitution in most
Flavor Affinities include:
Cilantro + tomatoes + chili peppers
Cilantro + chili peppers + coconut milk
Cilantro + dill + mint
Cilantro + garlic + ginger
Cilantro + lime
One of the snacks we enjoy at our home is my Cilantro-Serrano Chili Hummus. It has a
wonderful flavor and is a protein-packed healthy snack or side dish. It has become a
favorite with many of my clients. It takes just a few minutes to make in your food processor
and would be a healthy snack for the kids to enjoy when they are hungry.
Chef David Hall’s Cilantro-Serrano Chili Hummus
2 – 10 oz. cans, garbanzo beans
2 – large cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon, kosher salt
2 – Serrano Chilies
1 – bunch of fresh cilantro (most of the stems removed)
2 – 3 limes, juiced
Olive oil, to adjust viscosity
Drain the garbanzo beans, reserving the liquid.
Place the garbanzo beans, garlic and salt in a food processor and puree. The beans
will make a thick paste which might require adding a LITTLE of the bean juice to get it
moving. Process until you have a thick SMOOTH texture, without any “bits.”
Add the limejuice and Serrano peppers and process for about 20 seconds, enough to
finely mince the peppers.
Add the cilantro and pulse until minced, adding olive oil to adjust for the final
thickness of the hummus.
Since we eat gluten-free at home, we use unsalted blue-corn tortilla chips instead of the
traditional pita bread. The hummus is gone before you know it!
Chef David Hall, CGC
Copyright 2011, Thyme for a Chef, LLC. All rights reserved.