Lucky Comestible 5 (1): Fresh & Spicy Cilantro Sauce

[I thought it would be fun to run a little series over here at DDD: I'll profile one one of my favorite foods, or a food that I've recently discovered and enjoyed, over several days.  For this fifth edition, I'm focusing on cilantro. The series is presented on an occasional (and entirely arbitrary) basis, before I move on to the next lucky comestible. This is the first entry on cilantro.]

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[Pure emerald deliciousness, spooned here  on a Brown Rice Veggie Burger]

The other day, the HH and I were discussing the possibility of taking a short trip to Boston to visit my cousin CBC.  “That would be so much fun,” I blurted out spontaneously, “I’ve got a couple of friends in Boston!”  When he asked whom, I stammered,  “Well, blog friends.” 

Before I started blogging, I couldn’t have fathomed how one could consider a virtual (no pun intended) stranger to be a “friend.”  Yet it’s true–I feel as if I’ve made friends in cities across the continent and even around the world through this l’il blog, and my contact with them is often more consistent and frequent than it is with my “local,” live friends. 

Well, thanks to my blog reader, cookbook tester, and friend Courtney, I came home last week to a package that contained these:

courtneybags

Don’t you just love receiving gifts in the mail?  The GardenSac bags (on which the card and brown rice are resting) are made from 100% cotton and can be used for any kind of shopping.  And, as Courtney and I discussed, they’re terrific because the open weave allows you to easily see what’s inside.  With most stores here in the Toronto area recently switching to “pay-for-plastic” policies (and some offer credit if you bring your own reusable bags), this is a perfect, and very timely, gift!  And I don’t know how Courtney guessed, but I love wild rice.  I’ve already made a wonderful Confetti Salad with it–which I’ll blog about anon. Thanks again, Courtney!

And as if last week wasn’t already great enough, I found out that I’ll be presenting two recipe demos from Sweet Freedom (one on Saturday and another on Sunday) at the upcoming Vegetarian Food Fair in September!  Billing itself as “North America’s largest annual vegetarian festival,” and with stellar keynote speakers like Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (author of The Joy of Vegan Baking and The Vegan Table) and Brenda Davis (co-author of Becoming Vegetarian and Becoming Vegan), the Fair promises to be another spectacular event this year.  It’s scheduled between September 11 and 13 at Toronto’s Harbourfront.  Come on out and say “hi”!

Whew!  And now, time for some zingy, spicy, nutritious and delectable food!

Having grown up on a farm, my dad must have felt a strong affinity for the earth, because even after working six days a week and keeping incredibly long hours, he always grew a garden in summer.  Granted, it was a fairly small garden; still, growing up my sisters and I were regularly graced with fresh tomatoes in August, plus the occasional cucumber, red pepper, or propitious esculent each season.  

One year, he decided to try out sunflowers.  Why sunflowers? Beats me.  Maybe he thought they were pretty (come to think of it, if their wallpaper choices are any indication, my parents did lean toward all things floral). I remember being astonished at how tall the stalks grew, capped with golden saucers that towered over my own eight year-old frame, and how the actual seeds filled the center of the scalloped disk, encased in their rigid black shells. When summer ended, we roasted the seeds in the oven, and my sisters and I continued to snack on them through Hallowe’en (at which point they were unceremoniously chucked in favor of candy, of course).

Remember the Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman groaner, The Bucket List?  Well, self-indulgent male menopausal buddy flicks aside, I’ve recently been thinking about my own version of the list, and activities that are most important to me in my lifetime.  One of the items I’ve added to my personal bucket list is “grow a real garden.”  Believe me, this is quite the proclamation coming from She Who Shrinks from Anything Insectoid.  Also, a startling revelation from She Who Recoils at Anything Snakelike.  Oh, and don’t forget a shocking assertion from She Who Guards Against Anything Even Remotely Germ-Infested or Bacteria-laden. Why, then, it makes perfect sense that I’d choose to spend my time on my knees on the dirt, digging into earth rife with microorganisms, the habitat of myriad insects and worms–and often visited by garter snakes. 

I’m not sure what it is, but as I get older, I see what must have appealed to my dad about a garden.  Nurturing the seeds, coaxing infant seedlings until they stretch sunward, ultimately unfurling in full bloom, just taps into my (otherwise untapped) maternal instinct somehow.  (“And don’t forget having dogs, Mum!  That taps into your maternal instincts, too, right? Hopefully the ‘you must feed your children’ maternal instincts.”)

Which brings me to this post’s Lucky Comestible: cilantro.

I determined early that my garden absolutely had to contain cilantro–lots and lots of cilantro. Now, I know that cilantro is one of those herbs one either loves or loathes.  Like the ability to curl your tongue or whether or not your earlobes are detached, a penchant for cilantro appears to be genetically predetermined.  Some people perceive it as “soapy and perfumey” while others can’t get enough.  Having begun life in the former camp, I now find myself firmly entrenched in the latter.

Like so many herbs, cilantro (also known as Chinese Parsley) confers a plethora of health benefits besides the usual vitamins and minerals (though it’s no slouch in those areas, either–only 9 sprigs of the delicate plant provide almost one third of your daily Vitamin A, nine per cent of your daily Vitamin C, plus iron and calcium).

More importantly, the green pigment in cilantro represents chlorophyl, a powerful detoxifying agent and blood purifier. Cilantro is known to be a chelating herb, which means it draws heavy metals out of the system by encouraging the liver to produce bile so they’ll be excreted.  In his monumental tome, Staying Healthy with Nutrition, Dr. Elson Haas includes a recipe for “Anti-Radiation Soup” that relies on the cleansing properties of cilantro to help flush the body of toxins produced due to radiation.  I always have the soup after any necessary X-Rays (and, according to Haas, the soup was “shown to reduce radiation sickness after the Hiroshima bombing”). 

If you’re one of those people who comes down on the “loathe” side of cilantro, I’d urge you to give it another try.  You’ll find that the next few posts here at DDD will focus on this fragrant and fragile herb. Of course, you can always substitute parsley for some or all of the cilantro in these recipes– but why not live dangerously? That’s one more item you can check off your own bucket list.

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Other Posts in this Series:

Other Lucky Comestibles:

Last Year at this Time: Sweet and Spicy Tempeh

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Comments

  1. Wow–I never knew that cilantro has so many health benefits. I usually take the leaves off of the stems, but do you (and your readers) usually eat cilantro with the stems on? I’ve always been curious about this.

    I would like to have my own garden so I could start a compost pile. Compost intrigues me. :-)

  2. Sad to say, I’m one of those cilantro-haters… The sauce sounds like it would be nice if made with chives, though!

  3. i feel like i’m middle of the road in cilantro world :)

    yeah for blog friends!! and boston ;)

  4. I’m among those who *love* cilantro! I’ve tried growing some last year, but I unfortunately didn’t have much success. That says nothing on how easy or not it is to grow, though, as I’ve not been gifted with a green thumb. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck at the farmers’ market: I need to try your delicious-looking sauce… and certainly all the other recipes in the series!

    Now, you’ve given me yet another reason to want to go to Toronto! The Vegetarian Food Fair would be a great occasion for me to go again… Who knows, I may decide to just do it! :)

  5. Yum! I’m absolutely fanatical about my coriander!! I can’t wait to try this sauce! It looks amazing!

    I too wish to start my own garden. Sadly as a renter, there’s no where I can dig up to create one :( Not that it matters. I seem to have been born with a black thumb anyway much to my horror ;)

  6. I can’t understand people who don’t like cilantro. They must have been overdosed at some point, because I *love* the stuff. Sadly my garden is done producing cilantro. Perhaps it is time to plant again :).

  7. Alright, I can guarantee you I will be making this over the next few days. I wonder if I can sub tahini but the nut butter….anyway, I just LOVE cilantro, it is so fresh and bright, the perfect herb! I just recently found out that it is not only delicious but super healthy as well. As soon as we plant our garden you can bet we will have bunches of cilantro in there!

  8. I’m a cilantro lover! This sauce looks nice and creamy.

  9. Even thought the opportunity doesn’t arise often, I love meeting blogger friends. Two of them have evolved into solid, true friendships that have gone the distance, literally. I feel blessed.

    Cilantro sauce looks fab and is green icing on that burger cake. The brown rice looks almost like wild variety – is it?

  10. Even though I’m not too fond of Cilantro…I bet I would LOVE this sauce! It sounds perfectly spicy =)

  11. Courtney says:

    Awww…I think of my internet/blog acquaintances as friends too! I am so happy to have you as one of them :-)

    I used to loathe cilantro when I was growing up, but now I love it! I am going to get some at the farmers market this weekend and try your sauce recipe!

    Courtney

  12. i never thought i’d see the day when i’d be talking about online friends – but here i am as well! i feel so fortunate to know everyone through blogging – it’s such a sweet and loving (and friendly!) community! makes me most happyfaced, fo ‘sho!

    dan & i have a small garden, but we too hope some day to have a real garden! i want something big with lots of rows filled with vegetable love! maybe next year i’ll make it happen. our garden will have mucho cilantro as well (i would love some raised beds in boxes for herbs!) i used to abhor cilantro, but i finally decided i was sick of not liking it (i’ve done the same with beets, mushrooms, raw carrots, and cucumbers – i just gave in and tried ‘em until i liked them! ahahahahahahaaa). after about a year of trying it in this and that – making myself add it in to so many recipes, i’ve finally arrived – a true cilantro lover! w00t! dan & i will be giving your sauce recipe a whirl, Ricki – and on top of some veggie burgers, too! thanks for making our burgers & thanks so very much for the shout-out! you rock!

    hooray for the lovely gift of garden sac bags, and double hooray on getting to present two recipe demos! wahooooooo!

    hope you’re having a super stellar week! yay!

  13. I think cilantro tastes great, and I had no idea it was so health enhancing. Just don’t try to sneak any anise into my food. (or black licorice or fennel. ugh.)

  14. Still Life,
    I tend to use only the smaller stems of the cilantro, though I know some people do eat the stems. It seems such a waste to throw them away!

    Hannah,
    Chives sound great for this–I bet a basil and parsley mix would be nice, too.

    ttfn,
    Yay Boston–I love it there! And you were one of those I was thinking of. :)

    Josiane,
    I, too, have a “black thumb,” but somehow my tomatoes are surviving. My cilantro, not so much! The Veg Fair is loads of fun with lots of talks, demos, lectures, exhibitors and free food! Worth a trip if you can make it.

    Vegetation,
    We rent, too, but our landlord is happy to have me grow veggies in a corner of the yard. Whether home grown or not, cilantro is deeelish!

    Shannon,
    From what I understand, it’s genetic. Just as some people can taste a certain bitter flavor that others can’t, some people have a bad reaction to cilantro. But since I’ve moved from hating to loving, maybe it can be changed!

    Voracious Vegan,
    I agree–not only is cilantro delicious, it’s beautiful, too!

    Lisa,
    Yay for another cilantro-lover! And the sauce would be just creamy enough for pasta, I think. :)

    Susan,
    I agree–blog friendships are every bit as solid as local ones. And as to the burger, no wild rice–just a bit too zealous on the chopped greens included! (But a wild rice-based recipe is coming up soon. . . ).

    Shelby,
    It’s worth a try, for sure! :)

    Courtney,
    Back at ya! And I, too, went from hating to loving. . . now I have it almost every day!

    jessy,
    I think you deserve the prize for “most upbeat commenter”! I always smile reading both your posts and your comments. . . and I totally agree about the blogging community. I love the way you desensitized yourself against disliking cilantro! And so glad you like it now. :)

    Andrea,
    I’m totally with you on the fennel and anise, though oddly, I used to love black licorice (well, the candy that was called black licorice–I think it’s quite different from the true stuff).

  15. Congrats on presenting your recipes! Sounds like a lot of fun.
    I live in a household where one person loves cilantro (me) and the other one hates cilantro (my bf). I’m still making this sauce, the bf can go and eat out. :)

  16. I make cilantro chutney (almost same way as this except for the butter)in bulk & keep it frozen. I cannot live without.. uses of this is unlimited. i even have this in my sandwich.

  17. Who knew cilantro was so good for you? Good thing I love it, I think my favorite way to eat it is just sprinkled whole on top of dinner. Your sauce sounds great!

  18. You and I are of like minds… I’ve been pouring some cilantro (and pepita) sauce over salads and steamed sweet potatoes for the past three days! This sounds lovely and yummy, Ricki… thanks for sharing it!

  19. That’s a great idea to feature specific foods! Thanks!

  20. Hooray for the food demos! I’m sure you’ll have so much fun (once they get started and the stress is out of the way at least)!

    Ohhh, cilantro. I wish I could stand the stuff, but it’s my #1 I can’t stand being at the table with you food. I’ve heard it’s a gene thing. But that sauce looks so beautiful!

  21. Cilantro is my favorite herb, so I am looking forward to making this!

  22. oh dear – coriander is not a favoured comestible of mine – I still find it loathsome raw but I have come around to appreciating it cooked in soups and stews – so I will continue to try it occasionally but can’t get too excited – but will be interested as always to see how you use it

    and I am sure it tastes even better fresh from your garden – I am only coming to gardening lately and it is a wonderful nurturing experience to go and see how your plants are doing

  23. Ooo wish I could come to the Vegetarian Food Fair! Sounds like fun. =) I got some plants not too long ago and it’s been exciting seeing them thrive (though not all of them are). I’d love a garden too but I’m just scared it won’t work. I’m on the fence about cilantro, but this sauce does look really delicious and hearing about the positive health benefits from it makes me more willing to eat it!

  24. Ah, ha. So the gardening insectoid has bitten. Marvellous.

    I love mine. It keeps giving me things; it makes me notice things; makes me ever-more mindful of the season.

    Also, I could eat cilantro by the bucketful. Lovely recipe, Ricki. Bookmarking those burgers, too.

  25. What a wonderful sounding sauce! I’m in the “I like cilantro” camp and also staunchly in the “I hate dirt” camp, which is why I’ll probably never have a garden that I tend on my own. :)

    Have fun with the demos!

  26. I’m completely, 100% in the “LOVE cilantro” group – and I’m completely, 100% excited about your gorgeous cilantro sauce! Such a fantastic idea, mixing the sprightly cilantro with the creamy nut butter!

    Congratulations on presenting recipes at the Vegetarian Food Fair!!! SO awesome!! The folks who get to see your recipes are soooo lucky! I can’t wait to hear all about the event!

  27. Ricki that is so cool about the Vegetarian Food Fair!!! I love the keynote speakers! If only I were to be in the area in the autumn! I think it’s just wonderful that you’ll be doing some demos – excellent!
    I’m a big cilantro fan – in fact, I just realized I forgot to buy some when I went to market. Drat!

  28. kitchenspoon says:

    Hi Ricki, this sauce looks deeeeeeelicious! I’m working on a little sup sup now and think this sauce would go very well with our dinner. Yippee! Thanks for sharing. xo–j

  29. I’ll tell you what’s green: Me!

    I’m so jealous of all your lovely burger creations!

    I am still trying to create a recipe I am happy with!

    Yum! Cilantro! I never understand all the weirdos who don’t like it…

  30. I can’t decide what looks more amazing…the sauce or that burger! And hey friend, if you come to Boston, please let me know :-)

  31. Hi Ricki,
    This looks so yummy!
    I honestly had no idea you “did cilantro” this week!
    Great minds must think alike.
    Love this post, as I do them all on DDD.

  32. Hi Ricki,

    Its georgia from lady’s vegan kitchen – I know I haven’t posted forever – I have been working full time and finding it quite time consuming. But I have always been reading your blog – congratulations on your book coming out.

    I can’t really afford getting the book shipped from the USA but I was wondering whether you could visit this website:

    http://www.fishpond.com.au/Books/Cooking,_Food_Drink/Ingredients/General/product_info/product_info.php?products_id=14877019

    and click on the “author” link to see what you have to do to get this website (kind of like and Aussie Amazon) to stock it.
    I know a lot of friends who are also interested in the book – It would be great to get it into Aussie kitchens.

    Hope all is going well.
    Cheers
    Georgia

  33. Mihl,
    Thanks so much! It doesn’t make a huge amount, so it would still be perfect for one eater. :)

    Soma,
    What a great idea to freeze it! Thanks!

    Erin,
    Whole on top of dinner sounds good, too! But sometimes, I just want a sauce. ;)

    A-K,
    Mmm, paired with pepitas–sounds great! :)

    Nora,
    I like to switch things up a bit. ;)

    Jes,
    Sorry you don’t like the cilantro! But I’m sure parsley or another fresh herb would work well (basil comes to mind. . . ).

    Heather,
    Yay for cilantro lovers!

    Johanna,
    I love it raw, but don’t worry, there are cooked cilantro recipes to follow. :)

    Ashley,
    I wish you could come to the fair, too! I’m really not a great gardener (you should see all the weeds around my plants!) but I am hoping Nature knows what to do and I’ll end up with tomatoes and peppers!

    Lucy,
    Glad you like ‘em! The burgers were yummy, too. :)

    Vegyogini,
    I’m in the “I hate dirt” camp, too, but somehow this garden thing appealed to me. . . not sure why!

    Astra Libris,
    Thanks so much! And a cilantro lover is always a friend of mine :)

    Shellyfish,
    Yep, I’m very excited about hearing them speak. And presenting, of course!

    kitchenspoon,
    Glad you like it! Hope it worked well with the dinner. :)

    Alex,
    I adore cilantro too, but apparently some people just don’t have a choice. . . they’re genetically wired to dislike it!

    Michelle,
    I will absolutely let you know if I get to Boston! Would love to have a meetup! :)

    Winnie,
    Thanks so much! And thanks for the lovely words about DDD. :) Yay cilantro!

    Georgia,
    Thanks so much for the info! I’ve emailed them and will also email you privately. :)

  34. Great looking burger! Love cilantro!

  35. Recipe adopted! It’s so great.

  36. Yumm, this reminds me of the Afghan “chatni geshneez” (geshneez is the Persian word for cilantro) we make all year long — with raw walnuts, and no onion. We use it to dip chips, stir into vinaigrettes, soups, yogurts, and salsas, and to top just about anything else that needs a kick. It’s always in our fridge. We’re all “lucky” you posted this extremely versatile comestible ;)

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