Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Three great ways to use Cilantro

These recipes are for my best friend Carson. The flavors in these simple recipes remind me of her, with their bright clean flavors, beautiful colors and endless possibilities. All three recipes are perfect for spring and summer and can be made in advance, in large quantities for parties. Or just for you paired with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a Sunday afternoon.

Cilantro is a great herb and can be used to kick up a lot of classic recipes. Since I buy cilantro in large bunches I often have enough for several recipes. Here are a few I have played with lately, including my hand hacked guacamole.

Hand Hacked Guacamole

3 medium ripe avocadoes
1 medium onion chopped
1 small tomato (I like to use romanos)
Juice of one lime
1-2 serrano chiles
3 tbl chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic chopped
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1. Cut the avocados in half, and remove the pits with a spoon, scoop out the green flesh into a medium bowl.
2. Using two forks and a cross “hacking” motion mash the avocadoes into large chunks.
3. Mix in the chopped onion, garlic, cilantro, and chilies. Do not include the seeds from the chilies and remember that chili peppers can vary greatly in their hotness. Add a little at a time until you reach the desired level of heat and then thoroughly wash your hands and the cutting surfaces. Do not touch your face or other sensitive areas for a few hours. 4. Add the lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes just before serving.

Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation and browning of the avocado. Guacamole is all about what you like so feel free to get creative; I like to throw in a little fat free cottage cheese on occasion. I am also a fan of serving guac with celery and grilled pita points.

Cilantro Pesto Pasta

12 oz whole wheat pasta
2 c. fresh cilantro
½ c. pine nuts
½ half head of garlic
2 tbl white wine vinegar
drizzle olive oil *you could also use avocado oil
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
*optional crushed red pepper

1. In a blender or food processor pulse the cilantro, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil and white wine vinegar until it forms a smooth paste.
2. Boil Pasta until firm and drain, toss with herb paste.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste, you can also season with crushed red pepper for a little spicy kick.

The flavors in this pasta sauce are strong and bright and pair best with fresh lightly steamed veggies. Serve this pasta with fresh tomatoes, a little steamed asparagus or rapini, grilled chicken or shrimp. This dish can also be served chilled as a pasta salad.

Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2c. Greek style yogurt
1 lemon zest and juice
½ small onion finely chopped
¾ c. chopped cilantro
3-4 chopped cloves garlic
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients, cover and refrigerate. Let the flavors blend for a few hours or over night. Serve slightly chilled or at room temperature.

This can also be made with sour cream in place of the yogurt and lime instead of the lemon for a slightly more Latino taste. I have also used Cajun seasoning in place of the cayenne or just simple salt and pepper, all are great. I usually serve this alongside grilled shrimp or chicken. It is especially good in a pita pocket stuffed with chicken, tomatoes, and baby spinach.

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