Vail’s Simply Seasonal: People either love or hate cilantro
May 24, 2011
You either love it or you hate it. There seems to be no middle ground in opinions about the herb we know as cilantro. And whether you like it or not, cilantro is widely used in cuisines around the world.Mexican and Southwestern U.S. dishes feature cilantro in salsas, salads, burritos and various traditional items. South American and Latin American specialties use a signature of cilantro in marinades, soups, and stews. The Spanish use it to flavor sauces, Indians use it in flavor curries, in the Middle East it’s used to flavor vegetables. Across Asia, cilantro appears regularly. “An easy dipping sauce for spring rolls or egg rolls can be made by starting with simple syrup,” said K. Singhaninh, executive sous chef at Restaurant Avondale. “Enhance the syrup with lime juice, fish sauce, minced chili peppers and chopped cilantro.”Cilantro is rich in Vitamin C; considered an appetite stimulant and aid to the digestive system, it is no wonder its lacy leaves and distinct flavor complement everything from legumes to meats to shellfish to vegetables. So why is it so unpopular with so many? The olfactory profile of cilantro shows that its chemical composition is similar to that of some lotions and soaps. You may hear cilantro described as soapy. Our brains are triggered by our sense of smell to accept or reject based on experience. For instance, if the brain registers soap by an item’s aroma, the message sent to the mouth is don’t eat.Can you move past this conflicting brain trigger? Absolutely! Start by trying Chef K’s delicate cilantro lime butter recipe below, a great accompaniment to fish or chicken. Use sparingly to start, and you will train your brain “yes” to cilantro.Cilantro slaw 5-6 cups shredded cabbage 1 cup firmly packed cilantro leaves, minced 1/4 cup lime juice 1 Tablespoon honey 1 Tablespoon water1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds salt and pepper to taste In a large nonmetallic bowl, mix all ingredients together. Serves 6.Pasta with shrimp and cilantro pesto1 pound penne pasta1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined1 bunch fresh cilantro5 cloves garlic, minced1 tablespoon fresh lime juice1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper1/2 cup walnuts or pecanssalt to taste1/2 cup olive oilBring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and return water to a boil. Cook pasta for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain well. In an electric food processor or blender, blend cilantro, garlic, lime juice, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, nuts, and salt. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and blend the pesto. Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches your desired consistency. Saut shrimp in olive oil until starting to become opaque, about 2 minutes. Add pesto to shrimp and continue to cook another few minutes till shrimp are cooked through and pesto is hot. Pour over cooked pasta and toss. Serves 4.Salmon with cilantro lime butter 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided2 Tablespoons soy sauce2 Tablespoons vegetable oil2 pounds salmon fillets, 1 inch thick1/4 cup butter, softened1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantroGarnish: thinly sliced lemon and lime wheelsIn a glass baking dish, combine two tablespoons lime juice, soy sauce and vegetable oil, blend well. Add salmon, turn to coat. Cover dish and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes. In small bowl, combine butter, 2 teaspoons lime juice, and cilantro. Mix well and roll into a log, one inch in diameter. Wrap in wax paper and freeze until firm. Oil grill rack and pre-heat grill. Place salmon on grill over medium high heat. Cook 10 to 17 minutes or until fish flakes easily, turning once. To serve, slice herbed butter into 1/2-inch rounds. Place one slice butter on top of each hot salmon filet and add lemon and lime slices decoratively. Serves 4-6.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur (www.larkspurvail.com), at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale (www.avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa and features a West Coast-inspired, market-driven menu.