This post comes courtesy of Kris Balloun, a member of the Williams-Sonoma content team.
Finally, a dream come true — I now have an herb and vegetable garden, just steps from my kitchen door. Earlier this year, I planted little starts of cilantro, parsley, oregano and half a dozen other herbs in our new raised vegetable bed.
As a budding urban gardener, I’m taking great pleasure in watching my herbs grow and planning meals around them, snipping off just what I need for a particular dish.
And I’m also discovering I have a lot to learn — starting with cilantro. As the weeks went by, my plant mushroomed, towering over the rest of the herbs. Every day or two, I clipped a few sprigs off the side of the plant to use in cooking, but you’d never know it. That cilantro continued to shoot straight up.
But this was not the result of my gardening prowess, as I found out when a friend and fellow gardener stopped by recently. He took one look at my monster cilantro and gently told me I should have been regularly cutting the plant back by snipping the center stem off at the top, a process that promotes more leaf production over time. My plant had been putting its energy into developing a tall, thick stem, he explained.
Oops. Oh, well, I’ve still had fun experimenting with ways to use my bumper crop of cilantro, whose delicate, lacy leaves boast a bright, citrusy flavor. I’ve tossed whole leaves into green salads. I’ve chopped the leaves and blended them into softened butter, along with chives and parsley, then stirred this compound butter into mashed potatoes. I’ve swapped cilantro for the parsley in sole meunière; the French might quibble with my adaptation, but I think the cilantro adds a nice freshness to this classic dish.
For more ideas, I turned to the Williams-Sonoma website and found some great recipes.
How could I improve upon my favorite coleslaw recipe? Add a handful of coarsely chopped cilantro leaves for a new flavor dimension. By the way, don’t shy away from the molasses — it lends an undertone of rich sweetness to the dressing that will leave your guests wondering, just what IS that secret ingredient?
|Tagliatelle with Cilantro Pesto and Chicken|
Whip up a batch of cilantro pesto — it comes together quickly in a food processor and uses up a ton of herbs. Then toss with pasta and top with pan-seared chicken breasts.
|Grilled Salmon Fillets with Mango-Cucumber Salsa|
Cilantro shines in salsa, which is extremely versatile: scoop it up with tortilla chips, tuck it into tacos or spoon it over grilled salmon, as in this recipe.
|Asian Chicken Salad|
Try this super-easy and colorful salad for a weeknight dinner. Combining shredded chicken, sliced bell peppers and chopped cilantro, it’s tossed with an Asian-inspired dressing that includes fresh ginger and sesame oil.
|Spicy Cucumber Salad with Roasted Peanuts|
Toasted peanuts and fresh cilantro lend an intriguing dimension to this Thai-style salad, which gets a spicy kick from a jalapeño chili.
About the author: Kris was raised in Kansas on JELL-O and frozen fish sticks. She rebelled at a young age by learning to cook, whipping up a batch of fluffy scrambled eggs that impressed her family. These days, she’s an avid home cook who loves to host dinner parties for friends. Her favorite techniques are grilling in the summer and braising in the winter. Now she’s landed her dream job — editing all of the recipes for Williams-Sonoma.