Sunday, February 17, 2008

Coriandrum sativum

I bought a bunch of cilantro last Friday thinking, mistakenly, that it was flat-leaf parsley looking unusually fresh at Weshop.

I was not happy. This would not go well on top of my pasta with portobello mushrooms and parmigiano reggiano! This was not the sweet rarity about which I was so elated, fresh - actually fresh! - parsley. No.

I really have not liked cilantro. I'm not alone; there's even a website for sore cilantro eaters. It began with some cilantro-jacked Annie’s salad dressing that left me feeling like Paul Newman egg-beaten à la Cool Hand Luke. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and cilantro was not a friend of mine. But I chopped it all up dutifully that day and saved the stems to make a broth, and minced the leaves for garnish. And cilantro has proved me wrong. Its incarnations have all been lovely. Last night, Silvie and I made meal of mochi that we stuffed with an aduki bean, mint, cilantro stem and arugula salad and broiled salmon in a lime and cilantro crust. Anna used some to garnish her soup, and soon I'm going to make guacamole.

It was enough to make me wonder, just what was this miracle herb I had so long neglected? I consulted The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld. Apparently, it’s an annual umbel, like dill and chervil. Cilantro is the leaf of the young coriander plant, Coriandrum sativum, an herb in the parsley family. My parsley gaff in perspective (at least they’re in the same family), at least I've buried the cilantro hatchet.

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