How to use your entire bunch of cilantro—stems and all—and make 6 summer dinners along the way.
One of the things I look forward to most in the summer is having a garden filled with fresh herbs, which allows me to cut only what I need, right when I need it. When cooler weather overtakes and my garden calls it quits, I struggle with buying fresh herbs from the store. A lot. Forethought has never been one of my strengths, which means that a giant bunch of herbs often winds up sad and withered in the fridge, only a few leaves or sprigs shy of its original size.
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But I’ve learned that even I can make my way through a bundle of something with a little planning and creativity. Cilantro—the herb that seems to fall into a “love it” or “hate it” category for most people—is a favorite of mine, especially in the summer.
Grilled Corn & Shrimp Tacos Cilantro and tacos are one of those hand-in-hand combos. They are among my favorite summer foods, especially when they’re filled with all sorts of grilled goodness. I start with a base of Greek yogurt and cilantro (which is pretty much my go-to, lazy-girl summer “sauce” for everything), add some minced jalapeños and some avocados that have been heavily doused in lime juice, then top them with a bunch of grilled corn and shrimp. There's a final sprinkling of more cilantro involved, too.
Deconstructed Salsa Pizza For this pizza, begin with a thin base of Greek yogurt, then add diced tomatoes and onions, some minced garlic, and jalapeños. Brush the crust edges with olive oil and top with Oaxaca cheese, then bake in a preheated 475° F oven until the crust is nicely browned (8 to 10 minutes). If you like, you can crack an egg on top of the pizza before you throw it into the oven. (I find my oven always overcooks them, so I like to fry up an egg separately and add it after the fact, to ensure I achieve runny egg perfection.) When the pizza has finished baking, top it with fresh cilantro and avocados.
Soba Noodle Bowl I love the freshness of lime and cilantro against the earthiness of soba noodles. Add some thinly sliced vegetables (carrots and cucumbers are a favorite; things like broccoli, kale, and avocado are welcome additions, too) and some alliums for kick (garlic or scallions both work well) to a bowl of cooked soba noodles. Throw in a hefty sprinkling of sesame seeds and some chopped cilantro. I usually opt for a few splashes of tamari, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to season everything, along with a healthy squeeze of lime or lemon, and a few dashes of Sriracha if I’m in the mood for a little heat.
Cilantro Stem Pesto The stems of the cilantro plant have a whole lot of flavor to them but are kind of tough to eat outright—this makes them perfect for pesto. To make a small batch, simply quarter a standard cilantro pesto recipe, using mostly the stems from the bunch. (It helps if you have a small food processor, as the larger ones don’t do so well with a small amount of ingredients.) Feel free to swap out the pine nuts—pestos are adaptable, after all. It’s delicious on heady veggie sandwiches, but is also fantastic in rice or noodle dishes (especially with some coconut milk), with fish or chicken, or even just grilled vegetables.
The Gin(ger) Rickey I am totally *ahem* appropriating this drink (name and all) from one of our local bars in Burlington. This has been one of my favorite cocktails to order for the past few summers, as it’s spicy, fresh, and downright awesome. To make one drink, fill the bottom of a rocks glass with cilantro. Add the juice of half a lime, then muddle. Fill with ice. Add 3/4 ounce of London dry gin and the same amount of vodka, then top with ginger beer. Stir lightly, and invite some friends over. (Note: For an extra ginger kick, muddle some bits of fresh ginger with the cilantro and lime.)
Sweet Corn Fritters with Sriracha-Lime Greek Yogurt I live for sweet corn season. I come from a family that has proudly proclaimed themselves “corn snobs.” (Really, my mother feels the need to declare this to anyone and everyone, especially if she’s presented with a particularly offensive big-kernelled ear.) Consequently, I spent most of my life eating unadulterated corn on the cob with butter, salt, and pepper. But these fritters have recently become a favorite of mine; they have a great texture and flavor from the corn and are made extra delicious by the cilantro, scallions, and a little bit of cheddar cheese. Add a simple dipping sauce of Greek yogurt, lime, and Sriracha and dinner's ready.
Makes approximately 1 dozen fritters
For the fritters:
1 cup flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 cup milk 1 egg Zest and juice of half a lime 2 cups fresh sweet corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears of corn, depending on size) 1/2 cup minced scallions 1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro 1 clove garlic, minced 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese
For the Sriracha-lime Greek yogurt:
1 cup plain Greek yogurt Juice and zest of half a lime Sriracha to taste
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).