Tag Archives: cilantro

Thai Cuisine

Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia that has not been colonized by Europeans. Thus, its cuisine is authentic and has only been slightly influenced by bordering countries or traders.

Thai cuisine is very spicy and focuses on dishes which are well balanced in four areas – sweet (usually palm sugar or coconut milk), salty (fish sauce and salt), sour (lime in several forms and tamarind) and spicy (chilies). Meals served in restaurants are accompanied by a quartet of sauces brought to the table – fish sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, dried chili flakes, and palm sugar. Rice is served at most meals, (usually jasmine rice, but also sticky or glutinous rice) and sometimes noodles. Cucumbers are often served to cool the palate. I was told recently that additional ways to counter the spiciness is to add more rice, add sugar, or drink more beer!

Thai food was traditionally eaten by the right hand while seated on cushions on the floor, but today most Thais eat with a fork and large spoon. The fork is held in the left hand and is used to scoop or push into the spoon which is held in the right hand. Chopsticks are reserved only for noodle dishes.

The Thai pantry can be stocked from items available in the international aisle at a grocery store or a local Asian market. Lo’s Seafood in Portsmouth, NH carries Thai canned goods (coconut milk, fish sauce, tamarind paste), kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, fresh chilies (bird’s eye chilies or very tiny chilies are hotter than larger chilies), Thai basil and cilantro. Green, yellow and red curry pastes (hottest to mildest, respectively) can be made from scratch or purchased already prepared.

The following recipe for Chicken Coconut Milk Soup is one which we prepared at the Thai Farm Cooking School while I was in Thailand recently.

Tom Kaa Gai (Chicken Coconut Milk Soup)


½ c. water

¼ cup of peeled, thinly sliced galangal or ginger

1 stalk of lemongrass, sliced into one-inch pieces

½ cup halved grape tomatoes

½ cup sliced mushrooms

1-5 bird eye’s chili peppers

1 chicken breast, sliced thinly and cut into bite-sized pieces

1 can coconut milk

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1 stem of cilantro, finely diced

3 sliced scallions

1 T. fish sauce or soy sauce

½ teaspoon light brown sugar

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons of lime juice


Combine water, galangal, lemongrass, tomatoes and mushrooms in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to boil. Remove stems from chili peppers and crush open by banging down with your palm on the flat side of a heavy knife. Add chili peppers, coconut milk and chicken pieces to broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until chicken is milky white all the way through. Fold kaffir lime leaves in half along spine and remove spine of each leaf to release flavor. Add to soup with cilantro, scallions, fish sauce, sugar and salt to taste. Continue to cook over medium heat for 5 more minutes to intensify flavor. Finally add lime juice (soup will be too bitter if lime juice is added too early.) Lemongrass pieces, kaffir lime leaves, chilies and  galangal or ginger root should be removed prior to serving as they are all too tough to chew. Serves 2.






Shrimp Tacos

shrimp tacos


¼ c. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 T. red onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

¼ c. cilantro, diced

1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded and cut in small cubes

¼ head of cabbage, shredded

8 flour tortillas


Wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and place in oven preheated to 300 degrees F. In a large skillet, add oil and heat until it just begins to simmer (do not overheat!) Sauté garlic until tender and translucent, about 1-2 minutes. Add shrimp and toss with wooden spoon until opaque. Remove from heat and toss with cilantro, onions and jalapeno peppers.. To assemble, place cabbage on each tortilla, top with a large tablespoon of shrimp, add mango cubes and serve. Optional garnishes: guacamole, sour cream or plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, Sriracha.  Serves 4.

Week 46: Cilantro and Coriander

coriander plant

Coriander is considered both an herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used as a seasoning condiment. The Coriander plant is grown as annual which requires well-draining, fertile soil supplemented with warm summer climates to flourish. For leaf coriander, the plant is allowed to reach only about 9 to 15 inches in height. If left to grow further, it may reach about 5-7 feet tall, bears small white or light pink flowers by midsummer, followed by round-oval, numerous, aromatic coriander seeds. Flowering coriander is often planted in a flower or vegetable garden as it repels aphids.


The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest spices. It is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years. Coriander was cultivated in ancient Egypt and was mentioned in the Old Testament. Ancient Grecians used cilantro essential oil as a component of perfume and the Romans used it to preserve meats and flavor breads. Early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander for its medicinal properties, such as an aromatic stimulant.

Culinary Uses


Fresh coriander leaves are used as an herb, and are known as cilantro, or Chinese parsley, and bear a strong resemblance to Italian flat leaf parsley. The leaves are broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems with a citrusy flavor, which is stronger in the stems, so they should be chopped and added to recipes as well. Heat diminishes the flavor, so coriander leaves and stems should be used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many savory dishes in South Asian foods, Chinese and Thai dishes, Mexican cooking, and in salads in Russia. Chopped coriander leaves are a garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. The Portuguese are the only Europeans who continue to use cilantro as much as they did in the 16th century – combining it with chilies and huacatay (black mint) to produce a distinctive table sauce, and pared with potatoes and fava beans.


The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the parts that are used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. They have a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. Coriander seeds are available in whole or ground powder form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavor, aroma and pungency. Coriander is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine. In Germany and South Africa, the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread. The Zunis of North America have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chilies and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad. Coriander seeds are also used with orange peel to add a citrus character in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers.

Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits

The herb parts (leaves, root, and stem) of the cilantro (coriander) plant have been found to have many antioxidants and essential oils that have been used as analgesics, aphrodisiacs, antispasmodic medicines, deodorants, and digestive aids. Recent research (although done on rats and mice) has shown coriander to control blood sugar and to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Coriander seeds and fresh Cilantro leaves and stems differ in nutritional value. Cilantro leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Coriander seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, but they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.




Norman, Jill. Herbs and Spices: The Cook’s Reference.



Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos


This combination may sound odd, but these burritos are delicious and they contain five superfoods!


4-6 whole wheat tortillas

2 large sweet potatoes

1 T. olive oil

2 cans black beans, drained

1 clove garlic, minced

3 T. cilantro, diced

2 c. grated cheddar cheese

1 bunch scallions, sliced

2 avocados, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt


Bake sweet potatoes for 30-40 minutes or until tender in 350oF oven.  Cut in half and squeeze potato pulp from the skin into a small bowl.  Cut into small chunks or smash with fork.  In a saucepan, heat olive oil and saute garlic.  Add black beans and cilantro and heat through.  To assemble, place a tortilla on a plate, top with 2-3 T. of mashed sweet potato, add 3 T. black beans and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Heat in microwave for 40 seconds until cheese melts.  Remove from microwave and top with tomatoes, scallions and avocado.  Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and hot sauce.  Fold up the bottom and then the sides to form  burritos.  Enjoy!

Week 29: Edible Flowers

Edible flowers2

Winter in New England has been long and cold this year, but warmer weather is just around the corner.  Nothing heralds spring so much as tender young blossoms emerging from the soil!  Many of these flowers are edible and add color, flavor, aroma and elegance to entrees, salads and desserts.  I recently ordered an Edible Flower Garden kit from http://www.bambeco.com and can hardly wait for it to arrive!

The concept of using flowers in cookery is not new. Cooking with flowers dates to Roman times, and to the cuisine of China, India, and the Middle East. The Victorians, who associated edible flowers with elegance, candied violets to decorate cakes and desserts. Italian and Hispanic cultures gave us stuffed zucchini blossoms. Chartreuse, a classic green liqueur developed in France in the 17th century, uses carnation petals as one of its secret ingredients.

It was common to dry the petals and include them in tea blends. Popular tea flowers were hibiscus, rose, jasmine and bee balm. Bee balm was used as a tea substitute when black tea became unavailable during the Boston Tea Party in 1773. To preserve violets, medieval monks made a sweet syrup from the petals.

The most common flowers used in cooking are:

Alliums (leeks, chives, garlic, garlic chives) – Known as “onion flowers,” they include the blossoms from onions, garlic, chives, ramps, and shallots. Their flavors range from mild onions and leeks right through to strong onion and garlic. All parts of the plants are edible.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) – Both flowers and leaves have a delicate anise or licorice flavor, which remind some people of root beer. The blossoms are excellent in salads and make attractive plate garnishes and are often used in Chinese cuisine.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – Blossoms are bright white, pale pink, or a delicate lavender. The flavor of the flower is milder, but similar to basil leaves.  Some varieties have different milder flavors like lemon and mint.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – Also called Wild Bergamot, Wild Oswego Tea, or Horsemint, wild bee balm tastes like oregano, mint or citrus like lemon and orange. It is the main ingredient in Earl Gray Tea.

Begonias (Begonia X tuberosa) – Tuberous begonia petals are used in salads and as a garnish with have a citrus-sour taste. Stems, also, can be used in place of rhubarb. The flowers and stems contain oxalic acid and should not be consumed by individuals suffering from gout, kidney stones, or rheumatism.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis) – Also known as marigolds, the calendula had golden-range hued petals and flavors that range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery. Only the petals are edible and add a yellow tint to soups, spreads, and scrambled eggs. Sprinkle them on soups, pasta or rice dishes, herb butters, and salads. The sharp taste resembles saffron (also known as Poor Man’s Saffron).

Chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Tangy, slightly bitter, ranging in colors from red, white, yellow and orange, chrysanthemum petals range in taste from faint peppery to mild cauliflower. Blanche the petals first and then scatter them on a salad. Always remove the bitter flower base. Young leaves and stems of the Crown Daisy, also known as Chop Suey Greens or Shingiku in Japan, are widely used in oriental stir-fries and as salad seasoning.

Cilantro/Coriander (Coriander sativum) – Like the leaves and seeds, the flowers have a strong herbal flavor. Use leaves and flowers raw as the flavor fades quickly when cooked. Sprinkle to taste on salads, bean dishes, and cold vegetable dishes.

Dandelions (Taraxacum officinalis) Dandelions are members of the daisy family. Flowers are sweetest when picked young. They have a sweet, honey-like flavor. Mature flowers are bitter. Young leaves taste good steamed, or tossed in salads. When serving a rice dish use dandelion petals like confetti over the rice.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – Fennel has spiky yellow flowers that have a mild anise flavor. Use with desserts or cold soups, or as a garnish with your entrees.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) – Petals from the white variety of ginger is very fragrant and has a gingery taste on the tongue. They may be eaten raw or the tender, young shoots can be cooked.

Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana) – Impatiens, which have a sweet flavor, can be used as a garnish in salads or floated in drinks.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – Lavender flowers look beautiful and have a sweet, floral flavor, with lemon and citrus notes. They can be added to a glass of champagne, served with chocolate cake, or used as a garnish for ice creams. Lavender lends itself to savory dishes also, from hearty stews to wine-reduced sauces. Diminutive blooms add a mysterious scent to custards, flans or sorbets. NOTE:  Do not purchase and consume lavender oil, as it may be poisonous.

Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla) -\Lemon verbena sports diminutive cream-colored citrus-scented blossoms. Leaves and flowers can be steeped as an herbal tea, and used to flavor custards and flans.

Mint (Mentha spp) – The flavor of mint flowers are, as their name implies “minty,” but with different overtones depending variety. Mint flowers and leaves are great in Middle Eastern dishes.

Nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus) – Nasturtiums are my favorite edible flowers.  They come in brilliant sunset colors with peppery flavors. Blossoms have a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress. Stuff whole flowers with savory mousse. Leaves add peppery tang to salads. Pickled seed pods are less expensive substitute for capers. Use the entire flower to garnish platters, salads, open-faced sandwiches, and savory appetizers.

Pansy (Viola X wittrockiana) – Pansies have a slightly sweet green or grassy flavor. If you eat only the petals, the flavor is extremely mild, but if you eat the whole flower, there is a winter, green overtone. Use them as garnishes, in fruit salads, green salad, desserts or in soups.

Violets (Viola species) – Sweet, perfumed flavor. Related flowers, Johnny jump-ups or violas, and pansies now come in colorful purples and yellows to apricot and pastel hues. They are great in salads or as a garnish for desserts. They can also be crystallized. The heart-shaped leaves are edible, and tasty when cooked like spinach.

NOTE:  Do not use herbicides and pesticides on plants whose blossoms you want to use in the kitchen, and NEVER collect flowers from along the roadside or from the florist.  Not all flowers are edible and could make you sick if you digest the wrong ones. Remove pistils and stamens before using.  Only the blossom petals should be consumed.







Thai Chicken Curry

Spicy and filling, this chicken curry is great on a cold winter day!



2 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 t. minced fresh ginger

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips

1 1/4 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

2 T. curry powder

1 14-ounce can coconut milk

3 c. boneless chicken breast or thighs, cut into one-inch cubes


1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

2 T. fresh  cilantro, leaves and stems chopped finely


Saute garlic, ginger and bell pepper in olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until softened. Add 1/4 cup coconut milk, curry paste and curry powder and bring to boil, whisking constantly. Stir in chicken, remaining coconut milk, sugar and fish sauce. Cook about 7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, stirring often. Season with salt.  Serve over hot rice. Garnish with scallions and cilantro.  Serves 4-6.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

These burritos are quick and easy to prepare, completely vegetarian and so healthy!


4-6 whole wheat tortillas

2 large sweet potatoes

1 T. olive oil

2 cans black beans, drained

1 clove garlic, minced

3 T. cilantro, diced

1 bunch scallions, sliced

2 avocados, diced

2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Sour Cream


Bake sweet potatoes for 30-40 minutes or until tender in 350oF oven.  Cut in half and squeeze potato pulp from the skin into a small bowl.  Mash with fork.  In a saucepan, heat olive oil and saute garlic.  Add black beans and cilantro and heat through.  To assemble, place a tortilla on a plate, top with 2-3 T. of mashed sweet potato, add 3 T. black beans and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  Heat in microwave for 40 seconds until cheese melts.  Remove from microwave and top with scallions and avocado.  Garnish with cheddar cheese.  Fold up the bottom and then the sides to form  burritos.  Enjoy!

Quinoa Salad with Honey Apple Cider Viniagrette


1 c. dried quinoa

1 1/2 c. water

1/2 c. whole almonds, unroasted and unsalted

1 c. dried cherries

1/2 c. sliced scallions

1/4 c. yellow bell pepper, chopped,

1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped


1/2 c. olive oil

2 T. apple cider vinegar

1/4 c. honey


Pour the water into a saucepan, and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then pour in the quinoa, recover, and continue to simmer over low heat until the water has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Scrape into a mixing bowl, and chill in the refrigerator until cold.

Once cold, stir in the almonds, cherries, scallions, yellow bell pepper and cilantro.  Combine all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake to blend. Pour over quinoa, almonds, cherries and vegetables and toss lightly to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill before serving. Serves 4-6.


Tropical Caprese


1 Ripe mango, peeled and sliced lengthwise

1 ripe papaya, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

Fresh mozzarella

2 c. Baby spinach


Extra-virgin olive oil

2 T. fresh cilantro, minced


Place about 1/2 cup of baby spinach leaves on a plate.  Add a slice of mango and top it with a slice of fresh mozzarella and a slice of avocado. Arrange wedges of papaya around the edges of the plate.  Squeeze fresh lime juice over the salad and then drizzle with olive oil.  Garnish with fresh cilantro.  Serves 4.

Avocado Corn Salsa

Just in time for the Super Bowl party you’re planning! Here is another recipe courtesy of our summer in Carmel Valley.


1 – 16 oz. bag frozen corn, thawed and drained

1 small can sliced black olives, drained

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 ripe avocadoes, diced

1 bunch green onions, sliced

1/3 c. fresh cilantro, chopped

¼ c. vegetable or canola oil

Juice of one lime

¼ t. chili powder

½ t. cumin


Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently until well-blended.  Serve with tortilla chips.