Tag Archives: cilantro

Preserving and using your herbs – and a great pesto recipe

The end of summer means the end of an herb garden is near.

Depending on the weather, you may have several weeks to harvest fresh herbs, but I like to start cutting my plants back now and preserving as many as possible for winter.

If you have a sunny spot in the house, you can bring in oregano, rosemary, and lavender which will usually survive for several months inside. I’ve had mixed luck with basil but it’s worth a try.

Some herbs like rosemary and thyme are easy to dry, while others like cilantro and basil, do not dry well. This week, I have a lot of suggestions on which herbs to dry, freeze or use now (and a great pesto recipe to use up that basil).

First, let’s talk about basil, which is the most commonly grown herb. There’s nothing like fresh basil, but that flavor is hard to capture.  The best way to preserve basil is to make pesto and freeze it.

I recommend buying mini plastic storage containers to freeze basil in smaller portions (about ½ to 1 cup at a time). My husband is a teacher and one of his co-workers, Janice Queen, makes amazing pesto. I asked her to share her recipe. Something I really like about this recipe is it calls for almonds, as well as pine nuts (pine nuts are very expensive, so this is a more economical recipe).  The recipe also calls for a good dose of parsley, which is nice if you’re growing that, too.

Pesto is versatile: use it as a salad dressing, toss it with pasta and fresh tomatoes, or pour it over a block of cream cheese for a quick dip (serve with crackers and French bread).

Herb butters are another wonderful way to use up herbs, particularly rosemary and basil.  All you have to do is soften 1 stick of unsalted butter, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped basil or 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary. Then spread it on a slice of French bread.  It’s marvelous and an easy and inexpensive addition to a party. You can also add 1 tablespoon finely minced sundried tomatoes to the butter.

If I am serving it at a party, I serve it at room temperature, but if you want herb butter for your family, mold the butter back into a log, place it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for several days (rosemary butter will last longer than basil).

If you have leftover herb butter, use it in pasta, on vegetables, or spread a pat on a steak.

Another idea to use either fresh or dried herbs is to sprinkle herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary or a combination are my favorites) on a mix of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for a quick bread dip. You can use that recipe to marinate vegetables that you’re going to grill, too. Be sure to add salt to both dishes though.

Ok, now we’ve used fresh herbs, let’s talk about drying herbs.

Before you dry any herb, you want to rinse it gently and pat it dry with a paper towel. Only dry herbs that are in perfect condition, and discard any that are wilted or changing colors.

Certain herbs, like thyme and rosemary, dry beautifully. To dry these herbs all you have to do is cut off the stems, lay them on a piece of parchment paper on a pan and let it rest for about 7 days. After that, pull the leaves off and place in a spice jar away from sunlight or heat.

dried rosemary

I dry my rosemary and buy pretty glass jars and give it away at Christmas. Also, you can use dried rosemary to make an herb butter which is excellent on rolls or whipped into mashed potatoes and makes a good hostess gift.

Mint and oregano have a slightly higher moisture content and are better dried after you pick the leaves off the plant. Don’t let the leaves touch each other as this may increase the chance of the herbs molding before they have a chance to dry. Place the leaves on a paper towel on a baking sheet and cover with another paper towel.  Place them in an oven for 24-48 hours (turn on the light in the oven, not the heat). Leaves are ready when they crumble in your hand.

My favorite thing to do with cilantro is let it go to seed and then collect those seeds which are coriander seeds (and those are expensive in the store). Coriander seeds have great flavor. Another option though is to chop cilantro, place nearly 1 tablespoon in an ice cube tray and fill it with water. Freeze. This retains some of the original cilantro flavor, but will still not be the same.

Hopefully this will help you enjoy the last weeks of your herb garden and stretch that flavor into winter.

Easy Pesto

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or a combination (I usually use almonds)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups fresh basil, no stems

3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine the oil, garlic, almonds and Parmesan cheese. Then, feed in the herbs and blend until combined.   It is so easy and freezes very well.

Recipe was originally adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook.

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Mexican Inspired Corn and Bean Dip- easy and delicious

The inspiration for my warm, kidney bean and corn dip is corn on the cob in Mexico. In Mexico, you’ll see vendors hawking grilled corn on the cob rubbed with mayonnaise and chili powder and a dash of Parmesan. The Parmesan doesn’t seem like it would pair well, but it does.  That slight tang beefs up the flavor in the beans and complements the corn.

In this dip, I add corn, dark kidney beans (you can also substitute pinto), mayonnaise, green chilies, chili powder, cumin, lime, Parmesan and cilantro and warm it on the stovetop for about 3 minutes. Before serving, I add a handful of shredded cheddar. Serve it with tortilla chips. It’s best warm, but is still delicious when it cools.

I’ve served it twice and it’s been a huge hit!

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Mexican Inspired Corn and Bean Dip

1 (15-ounce) can of whole kernel corn

1 (15-ounce) can dark kidney beans or pinto beans

1 cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon canola oil

½ teaspoon cumin seed

1 (4-ounce) can of chopped green chilies

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Chop onion and set aside. Drain the beans and corn and set both of those aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cumin seed and cook 4 minutes. Then pour in the rest of the ingredients and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 3 more minutes until everything has melted together and is well combined. Serve with tortilla chips.

beandip chip

Green Tomato Salsa

My  Green Tomato Salsa which uses both tomatoes and tomatillos. It’s delicious with chips and wonderful on fish tacos. It pairs well with sour cream and cream cheese, so you can use it in a layer dip or pour it over a block of cream cheese for a dip and serve with tortilla chips.

When you’re salting it, be sure to taste it with a chip because that will add salt and you may over salt the salsa if you just taste it plain

Green Tomato Salsa

2 cups green tomatoes (cut into quarters)

6 tomatillos

Garlic salt

½ cup chopped red onion

1/3 to ½ bunch of cilantro

1 teaspoon lime juice

½ teaspoon cumin seed

1 jalapeno (or more to taste)

Preheat oven to 425

Place sliced green tomatoes and tomatillos on a baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

In the meantime, chop red onion, cilantro and deseed and chop your jalapeno. I am a wimp when it comes to spice, so I only use 1 jalapeno, but you can use several.

Add onion and jalapeno to a large bowl.

Place tomatoes and tomatillos in a food processor and chop. Then add the chopped cilantro to the tomatoes and process (you may have to do this in two batches). Pour into the bowl.  Add lime juice and cumin seed and stir. Add garlic salt to taste. The salsa is after 2 hours and even better the next day.

Options: If you want more contrast in flavor, only cook 1 cup of tomatoes and use 1 cup of fresh, finely chopped green tomatoes. It makes it slightly more bitter, but I adore the flavor and texture and it tastes really fresh.

If you want to add some sweetness, add ½ of cooked corn (about 1 ear of fresh corn or you can use canned).

Mango, Pineapple Salsa (serve it as an appetizer first and leftovers on pork, chicken or fish)

I love salsa. Fruit salsa. Smokey salsa. Charred salsa. Jarred salsa. Green salsa. You name it, I love it.

But I particularly love this Mango, Pineapple Salsa. One of my best friends makes a similar salsa and this is my version. My salsa won “Best Overall Salsa” at a friendly competition and it was up against an array of excellent salsas.

Aside from being delicious served on its own, this salsa is great on grilled fish or pork. I recently marinated pork chops for 24 hours in Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce (online) http://www.soyvay.com/flavors/veri-veri-teriyaki) and then pan fried the pork and topped it with the leftover salsa. It was fantastic!

 Pork with Mango, Pineapple Salsa

If you don’t have that sauce, use soy sauce, ginger, 1 teaspoon canola oil, 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar  and 1/2 a garlic clove for 3-4 pork chops. That makes a nice marinade. A pork loin marinated in Asian sauce, grilled and then served with this salsa would be spectacular.

This would also be great on chicken or fish tacos.

The key to this salsa is ripe, sweet fruit. Mangoes are hardly ever ripe when you buy them, so I buy them 3-4 days before I need to make this salsa. I also buy extras in case some are not sweet. Whenever I have to use avocados or mangoes I buy extra because you’ll often get a disappointing one in the batch. I bought 5 mangoes to be safe. There were all sweet, so I ate the others for breakfast.

Let this marinate for 2 hours or more before serving. You can adapt this recipe and add 2/3 cup drained black beans to this and it’s delicious, too. In that case, I also add 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

If you can’t find ripe mangoes, you can use the jarred refrigerated type, but fresh is always best!

I like to serve it in a margarita or martini glass for nice presentation. It’s such a refreshing salsa for summer. I adore it!

salsa2

Mango, Pineapple Salsa

2 1/2 very ripe mangoes, chopped fine

2 ½ cups finely chopped fresh pineapple

¾ of a medium red onion, chopped

2/3 of a bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 large jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine

1 teaspoon cumin seed

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Sea salt to taste

.Directions:

Chop all the ingredients and place in a medium bowl. Add salt to taste. Toss and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail — SO DELICIOUS

Why do I call this Mexican Shrimp Cocktail? Because it’s based on a dish I love at a local Mexican restaurant and that is exactly what they call it.

In flavor, it’s really a cross between a ceviche, salsa and shrimp cocktail. I love Ecuadorian style ceviche, which has tomato and lot of citrus. It’s served with popcorn on top, which sounds weird but is amazing. However, it’s huge pain to make. So I simplified the concept by using Zing Zang, which is one of my favorite Bloody Mary Mixes.

The I add fresh lime juice, cilantro, shrimp (cooked because I live in the Midwest and would not trust raw shrimp here), tomatoes, cucumbers and chunked avocado. This is divine. It’s excellent for a summer party because it’s light and people can serve themselves. It’s fun served in martini or margarita glasses.

Plus, if you have a garden, you can use the cucumbers and tomatoes out of it in this dish.

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Mexican Shrimp Cocktail

2 ½ cups Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix, chilled

2/3 cup chopped and peeled cucumber

1 cup chopped tomatoes

½ cup minced red onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Half a red bell pepper, chopped

12 ounces cooked small shrimp (I bought frozen precooked shrimp in a bag and defrosted it)

¼ cup lime juice, minus 1 teaspoon

2 avocadoes, chopped

Note: If you are not serving this right away, then don’t add the avocadoes until you serve it.

If shrimp is frozen, follow the instructions on the package to defrost it. I defrosted mine in the refrigerator overnight.

The Bloody Mary mix should be chilled in advance especially if you plan to serve this immediately.

Because of the lime juice in this recipe, you want to use glass or another nonreactive bowl.

Place Bloody Mary mix in the bowl and set aside.

Peel and chop the cucumber; chop the tomato, onion, cilantro and red bell pepper and add to the bowl.  Drain the water off your shrimp and add to the mix. Stir in lime juice and mix thoroughly.

Gently fold in chopped avocado. Serve. You can serve this plain or with tortilla chips on the side.

Asian Inspired Salad with Chicken, Edamame, Granny Smith Apples and Ginger Dressing

I must say, I chose the wrong color of bowl to showcase this delicious salad. I was STARVING when I made this and all I wanted to do was photograph it so I could gobble it up. I rushed and it didn’t pay off in terms of my photo. If I had just swapped out a white bowl for the green, this salad would look more appealing.

Let me tell you, it’s DELICIOUS, HEALTHY and very LIGHT. It’s perfect when it’s hot outside. My husband and I both commented on how good we felt after we ate this salad and how long that feeling lasted.

We are both trying to shed a few pounds, so I will likely be posting more healthier food options. Don’t worry, for you junk food lovers there will be plenty of indulgence, too.

This salad gets protein from the chicken and edamame; fiber from the apples, lettuce, and Napa cabbage. The ginger dressing is light and refreshing. And then there’s the flavor punch from the cilantro and green onions. Yummy! I love it and I hope you enjoy it, too. If you do, please share it.

Asian Inspired Salad with Chicken, Edamame, Granny Smith Apples and Ginger Dressing

Makes two generous dinner or lunch portions (we had a little leftover)

1 cup shredded Napa cabbage

4 cups shredded Romaine lettuce

½ cup cooked, shelled edamame

1/2 cup chopped carrots

1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 green onions, sliced

First full of cilantro

Two rotisserie chicken breasts

Dressing:

2 tablespoons canola oil

½ teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, plus 1 teaspoon

1 teaspoon ginger paste or finely shredded fresh ginger (I prefer ginger paste in the tube because it’s so easy and I can grab it whenever I need)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons honey

For the dressing, whisk all ingredients together in a glass bowl and set aside.

For the salad, chop all the vegetables and place in a large serving bowl or divide between two bowls or plates.

Remove chicken breast and pull off the skin. Chop the meat into desired pieces and place on top of vegetables. Toss with the dressing. Allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Peanut Sauce

Looking for something easy, light and refreshing in this summer heat?

Well, try my lettuce wraps. They are SO EASY and healthy.

They are versatile, too. You can add any vegetable you’d like. I have swapped soba noodles for rice noodles; added snow peas in my wraps; and love to add shiitake mushrooms!!! A little mint is nice, too. Thinly sliced daikon is great in these.

The more veggies, the merrier. The peanut sauce comes together in minutes. It doesn’t have any ginger, but you can add some if you ‘d like.I’d suggest starting with 1/8 teaspoon and going from there because ginger is potent.

There’s hardly any cooking in this recipe, so it’s perfect for people who don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen.

I hope you enjoy these.

Lettuce Wraps with Sweet Peanut Sauce

Serves 2

2 rotisserie chicken breasts, sliced

8-10 Bibb or Butter lettuce leaves, washed and dried

Two handfuls of fresh cilantro

½ cup shredded carrots

1 ounces of rice noodles

Sesame oil or your favorite Asian dressing

1 cucumber, sliced thin

1 green onion, sliced thin

Sliced bell pepper (optional)

Peanut Butter Sauce

¼ cup creamy peanut butter

½ cup boiling water

1 tablespoon brown sugar (do not make this heaping or it will be too sweet)

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

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First: cook your rice noodles according to package directions. They cook fast, usually in about 3 minutes. When they are done, drizzle with sesame oil or your favorite Asian salad dressing like Sesame Ginger. Rice noodles are fairly flavorless and this will add some depth of flavor and prevent them from sticking together.  If you want then to cool quickly, place in a metal bowl and pop it in the fridge.

Slice all the vegetables and place on a large platter or divide them between two plates.

Remove the skin from the chicken and place on a plate.

Make your peanut sauce.

For the sauce: Stir all ingredients together until they are combined. The water must be very hot to dissolve the peanut butter.

You can also make this on a stovetop in a small pot, but then it needs to cool before serving because the peanut butter will separate and become too thin while piping hot.

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Then make your own wraps by placing desired toppings in the lettuce leaves and then either topping it with peanut sauce or dipping in peanut sauce.

Sprinkle with sliced green onion and eat.