How to Use Cilantro and Keep It Fresh
What is Cilantro?
Cilantro is a large leafed green herb. It is used primarily in Mexican, Indian and Asian cooking. The seed of cilantro is coriander, but the seed and the herb have very different tastes and purposes. Cilantro is aromatic, pungent and has a unique flavor that can augment just about any dish!
Health Benefits of Cilantro
Cilantro is an excellent source of nutrients. It contains:
- Vitamins K, A and C;
- folate; and
- beta carotene.
Cilantro can relieve abdominal discomfort caused by diarrhea and heartburn. It can prevent gas, abdominal cramps and nausea.
How to Keep Cilantro Fresh
Keep cilantro fresh by buying the freshest bunch that you can find. The leaves should not be wilted or brown. As soon as you get it home, wash the cilantro under cool running water. Shake it dry and pat gently with a paper towel. Holding the stems tightly, place the bundle of cilantro on a cutting board and cut the bottoms of the stems off straight across. Fill a jar or glass with water. Place cut cilantro stems in the water. Cover the leaves with a plastic bag, and place the glass of cilantro in the refrigerator. Your cilantro will keep for up to 2 full weeks this way!
Did You Know?
- originated in southern Europe and the western Mediterranean
- Is one of the oldest herbs mentioned in history
- stimulates appetite
- aids in digestion
- is known as Mexican or Chinese Parsley
How to Prepare Chopped CilantroClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Prepare Cilantro for Cooking
When I use cilantro in cooking I use the tops of the bunch, including the stems. If I am making a hot dish or using a food processor to make salsa, I may use more of the thick stem as well as the leaves. If I am using the cilantro as a topper or with minimal cooking time, I use only the tops with the small stems and cut the large thick stem off.
Probably the best way to prepare cilantro for cooking is to gently pluck the leaves from the stems and tear them. This is a great way to do it, but is time consuming. I use a more practical approach.
I simply place the cilantro in a bunch onto my cutting board and cut from the top of the leaves down to the thick part of the stem. I cut in small rows (1/8-1/4 inch) from the top down to the stem. This creates lots of small pieces of cilantro leaves. Once I have cut down to the thick part of the stems, I discard the thick stems. Then, I cut the cilantro pieces in small rows at a 90 degree angle of where I had cut before. Cutting the cilantro twice is enough to release the wonderful aroma and flavor of the herb. Be careful not too cut it too much as the leaves are delicate and can almost turn to a paste.
How to Use Fresh Cilantro
Anyone who has bought cilantro to use in a recipe has struggled with the question of what to do with what's leftover. While the herb is very tasty and aromatic, we have no idea of what to do with the rest. And so, it wilts, and we throw it out.
Here are some quick, no-nonsense ideas of how to use up fresh cilantro. The more I use it, the more I tend to add it to just about anything for a great touch of flavor. Get creative! When in doubt, add fresh cilantro!
Consider using fresh cilantro:
- as a topper for tacos;
- in salsa of any type;
- in cooking beans or lentils;
- mixed in salad;
- in your favorite soups and stews;
- in sandwiches;
- in pasta with a little butter, garlic and lemon juice;
- in guacamole;
- in poultry marinade;
- in casseroles;
- scrambled into eggs with sauteed onions and fresh spinach leaves.
The more you use cilantro, the more you will find it can be easily added to a wide variety of dishes and will only compliment the flavor. Before you know it, you will be using cilantro regularly and adding to your food all of the flavor and health benefits it provides. Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite way of using cilantro? I would love to hear about it! Please share it in the comments below!
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