Cilantro is an herb that most people either love or hate. And some studies have indicated that the haters may actually have good reason; people with certain odor-detecting genes pick up a soapy smell and taste when they eat cilantro. However, scientists agree that although someone may have this particular gene, he or she may still be able to overcome their distaste for cilantro.
Depending upon which part of this herb is harvested, will determine whether the plant is called cilantro or coriander. Cilantro is the leaves while coriander is the seeds, so you actually get two different products in one plant! The two herbs, however, taste very different from each other and are not interchangeable. Cilantro is bolder with a unique lemony, floral flavor, while coriander is more mellow and earthy with slight citrus tones.
Cilantro pairs well with peppers and tomatoes and is commonly used in salsa or Mexican cuisine. It also matches well with avocado, chicken, pork, fish, lamb, lentils and rice. Cilantro looks a lot like flat-leaf parsley so when buying cilantro, rub your fingers over the leaves and sniff to ensure you are getting the right herb. Store cilantro much like a bouquet of flowers: stem cut ends in a jar filled with 1-inch of water, and replace water when it gets cloudy. It's best to loosely cover with a plastic bag to protect it from odors and other foods. Stored this way, cilantro will likely be good for up to 10 days.
Before using cilantro, wash and pat dry with a clean paper towel. When chopping cilantro, there's no need to pick the leaves off the stems since the stems will also have some flavor. Since it's not a very sturdy herb, it's best uncooked or added at the very end of cooking time to retain flavor and color.
Marinated Tomatoes (Printable PDF)
6 medium tomatoes
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
½ Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon brown sugar
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper to taste
Wash, core, and slice tomatoes about 1/8-1/4-inch thick; arrange on serving platter. Sprinkle tomatoes with chopped cilantro. Combine remaining ingredients in small jar and shake well. Pour over tomatoes. Cover and chill at least 3 hours before serving.
Yield: 6 servings
Nutritional analysis per serving: 60 calories, 2 grams fat, 15 milligrams sodium, 9 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams protein