On a recent trip to Mediterraneo in Ridgewood, owner and chef Michael Velicu explained the history and uses of cilantro.
"Cilantro, or coriander, leads an exciting dual life as an herb and a spice. "Fresh coriander is widely available under the name cilantro or Chinese parsley, as coriander is the seed of the cilantro plant," Velicu says. "The entire plant and the seeds are properly named coriander, while the leaves alone are cilantro."
An essential spice in Mediterranean cooking, it is one of the most important ingredients in Moroccan food and it is also used extensively in Latin America and Asia. Ground coriander is commonly combined with ground cumin, and together they form the basis of numerous classic spice mixes, like the North African chermoula, harissa and ras el hanout.
Cilantro, used on its own, adds a tantalizing flavor to many dishes, but when combined with other ingredients, such as garlic and lemon juice or zest, it creates new, vibrant flavors.
Cilantro is available year-round and can be found in most supermarkets. It is a delicate herb that fades quickly, so choose bunches with bright green leaves and a fragrant aroma. Store in a plastic bag or place the roots in a container of water with the tops covered by plastic. Add cilantro leaves toward the end of cooking or just before serving.
Courtesy of Mediterraneo
• 1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 small garlic clove, minced
• 3/4 teaspoon lemon, finely grated