I’ve spoken about this in my Herbs & Spices class: cilantro is a love/hate flavor profile. Unless you’re a reformed hater. Like I am. And you can be, too.
I don’t make it a habit of linking to the New York Times. Let’s say I have strong opinions on the quality of what passes for news. However, the food section doesn’t count. It consistently has quality writing and subjects.
So my friend Mordecai sends me this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/dining/14curious.html
I wasn’t into the whole anthropology angle of the article. Yes, I took Anthro in college, and did surprisingly well. But I don’t buy the ‘evidence’ of cavemen and the planet being millions of years old. The only thing anthropology ever helped with is sorting through the strata of papers piled high in my office to identify which epoch I forgot about them.
Then I ate at Noah’s Ark in New Jersey. They had a beef wrap with cilantro that was hands-down the tastiest Latin food I have ever had the pleasure to eat, and that includes eating Mexican food prepared by Mexicans. And it was the counterpoint of cilantro that absolutely made that meal. It was indescribably delicious. And I was hooked. I remember thinking that it wasn’t soapy at all.
Cilantro is found in both Latin American and Middle Eastern cuisines. It was probably brought to the Americas by Arabian slave traders, but Wikipedia states definitively that it came in 1670. Did they find a dated package, I wonder?
Cilantro is what I call the leaves. Coriander is what I call the seeds. They’re really fruits, but don’t call them coriander fruits in the market; they’ll laugh at you.
Fresh cilantro leaves are used to flavor stews and salads. Add it at the very end or the bright flavor will be lost, especially in heavily seasoned dishes. The fruits are citrus-noted and very floral. I like experimenting with coriander. I even have some growing in my front garden. I planted it, it died, and now I have new plants cropping up!
The article suggests chopping it and letting it sit to dissipate the aldehydes that make it “soapy.” I can’t vouch for it one way or the other, but I do have someone I can test that theory on.