Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Herb of the week – Cilantro (again)

Back in June I did a blog on the love-it-or-hate-it herb Cilantro.  Most everyone has a strong opinion about this lacy green herb. Like it or not, you've probably eaten it in a Mexican or Thai dish at restaurants.  This time I wanted to share a new pork chop recipe I discovered on the Internet (location lost to my cut and paste, sorry!)  It is still rather warm here and cooking in the crock pot is always a great alternative to heating up the kitchen and with a cold salad (like the black bean salad below) this is a quick meal without the heat and annoyance.

Cilantro is from the parsley family but has an entirely different taste so we try not to use the two terms together much. Coriander and cilantro are actually two words used to describe the same plant.  Coriander is a spice and Cilantro is an herb.  Actually the leaves from the plant are called cilantro while the seeds that develop are known as coriander.  Once a plant begins to produce seed the leaves and flavor change so you can no longer harvest the leaves. Plants that are allowed to develop seeds can be harvested, you can cook with the seed or save it to seed a new crop.
To Grow

If you see the plants for sale, be aware that cilantro has a long tap root like its sister the carrot. You will have limited success transplanting cilantro. It takes about 45 days for cilantro to transition from seed to a harvestable plant.   The very best way to grow this herb is from seed. Sow a few seeds every few weeks to have it fresh when you want to add it to a recipe. Thin the seed (six to eight inches) and pinch the seedlings when they are about one to two inches tall in order to encourage more leafy plant growth. Then you can quickly toss the thinnings into a salad or a salsa. Cilantro needs full sun and can grow in some light shade in southern states. Although cilantro likes a sunny location, it is quick to bolt in the hottest part of summer. Cilantro plants like well drained soil and plenty of water. Plants grow well in containers and is attractive in mixed herb container plantings. Succession plantings are best because cilantro has a short life. When the plant blooms, pinch off the flowers and add to salads or use as garnish. Or, if your plants go to seed, harvest the seeds and dry it to use it as its spice coriander
To use
Cilantro is very popular in Mexico, Asia, and Italy as a garnish for delicious salsa, sauces for chicken and pork, and other great cuisines. Cilantro is usually added to recipes at the end to preserve its flavor.
Black Bean Salad Recipe (Serves 6 to 8)

1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, thoroughly rinsed, and drained (or 1 1/2 cup of freshly cooked black beans)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, defrosted (or fresh corn, parboiled, drained and cooled)
1/2 cup chopped green onions or shallots
2 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced, or 1 whole pickled jalapeño pepper, minced (not seeded)
3 fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
2 Tbsp lime juice (about the amount of juice from one lime)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sugar (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste

Make sure to rinse and drain the beans, if you are using canned beans.
In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, onions, jalapeno chile peppers, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, basil, lime juice and olive oil. Add sugar and salt and pepper to taste. (The sugar will help balance the acidity from the tomatoes and lime juice.) Chill before serving.


Cilantro Pork Chops in the Crockpot
4 pork chops, trimmed of excess fat
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped and divided
1/2 red onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
2 teaspoons chili powder, divided
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped

Heat vegetable oil in large non-stick skillet. Rub pork chops with salt and pepper. Place on hot skillet. Sear each side 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, place half of the chopped cilantro, red onions, half the cumin, half the chili powder, and salt and pepper in bottom of crockpot. Place seared pork chops on top. Place chopped tomatoes, remaining cilantro, remaining cumin, remaining chili powder, and salt and pepper on top of pork chops. Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
Serve with Spanish flavored rice (scroll to bottom of page to find it) and steamed broccoli.

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