Cooking with Tammy Kelly: Meet my favorite herb — cilantro

Cooking with Tammy Kelly: Meet my favorite herb — cilantro

Cilantro is my favorite herb, but as I use it in recipes, I find — much like okra — either folks love it or hate it.

I love it. Its unique taste gives flavor to salsas, pestos, chicken and much more. Believe it or not, cilantro is one of the most widely-eaten herbs in the world, it is used in Indian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Caribbean, Mediterranean, North African and Eastern European dishes. The seeds are also known as coriander. The entire plant is edible.

One thing is for sure: It is packed with health benefits. Cilantro is low in calories and is packed with nutrients. It contains many phytonutrients — plant-based compounds that have significant health promoting properties.

Ancient physicians used it medicinally. It’s a powerful antioxidant and also has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It can lower your cholesterol and is also considered to be a digestive aid, helping to ease nausea.

Cilantro is rich in several vitamins like A, C and K. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and is important for healthy eyes, teeth and skin as well as cell growth and a strong immune system. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, helps boost your immune system, keeps your skin healthy, and is essential for tissue repair and wound healing. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting and is important for bone health. It is also rich in fiber and several minerals like calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and manganese.

Best Ever Cilantro Ranch Dressing 

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems

1/4 cup whole buttermilk

3 tablespoons canola mayonnaise

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 grated small garlic clove

6 cups torn romaine lettuce

1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes

1/2 cup matchstick-cut carrots

Whisk together finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems, whole buttermilk, canola mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, black pepper, kosher salt, and grated small garlic clove in a medium bowl.

 

Cilantro Lime Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breast (I often use tenders) 

2 limes approx. 4 tbsp. juice, juiced

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro*

1 tbsp. olive oil

In a large mixing bowl or large sealable bag, combine the chicken breasts, freshly squeezed limejuice, ground cumin, sea salt, ground black pepper, cayenne, and fresh cilantro.

Toss to combine and coat the chicken well.

Cover with plastic wrap (or close Ziploc bag tightly) and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, preferably 2-3 hours, to allow the marinade to work. (I am a big fan of overnight)

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with the olive oil.  Remove the chicken from the fridge and place in the hot oil.

Cook the chicken until well browned on both sides and cooked through, about 4-6 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees internal temperature.  Of course, you can bake the chicken in the over at 350 degrees, for about an hour covered.   Allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Serves 4, each serving contains; Calories 302, Fat 7., Carbohydrates 2g. Fiber .7g., 

Protein 54g. Sodium 400mg.

 

Avocado Sauce with Cilantro 

1 small garlic clove

1/4 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 ripe avocado

Place small garlic clove in a mini food processor; pulse until minced, about 5 times. Add plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt, cilantro leaves and stems, water, fresh lime juice (from 1 lime), kosher salt, and avocado; process until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Be sure to include the cilantro stems when blending the sauce.  Spoon this cool, creamy sauce over pan-grilled chicken or tacos. You can also thin with a little water and use as a salad dressing, or thicken it with a little more yogurt or avocado for a vegetable dip.

Serves 4, each serving contains; Calories 54, Fat 4g. Carbohydrates 3g., Fiber 2g., 

Protein 2g. Sodium 148mg.

 

Cilantro Lime Rice 

(I have also used cooked Quinoa, then fold in the cilantro, butter and limejuice)

1 cup white jasmine rice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon fresh limejuice

Rinse rice several times with cold water until water runs clear. Drain well in a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer rice to a medium pot. Add salt and 1 1/4 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 18–21 minutes. 

Remove from heat. Let stand, covered and undisturbed, 10 minutes. Use a fork to fluff, then gently fold in cilantro, butter, and limejuice.  Serves 4-6.

 
Shrimp and Grits, Fajita Style 

1 pound uncooked shrimp (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons fajita seasoning mix

1 cup quick-cooking grits

4 cups boiling water

1-1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend

3 tablespoons 2% milk

2 tablespoons canola oil

3 medium sweet peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips

1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1-inch strips

1 jar (15-1/2 to 16 ounces) medium chunky salsa

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, divided 

Sprinkle shrimp with fajita seasoning; toss to coat. Set aside.

Slowly stir grits into boiling water. Reduce heat to medium; cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese until melted; stir in milk. Keep warm.

 In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onion; cook and stir until tender and pepper edges are slightly charred. Add salsa, orange juice and shrimp. Cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp turn pink, 4-6 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup cilantro. Remove from heat.

Spoon grits into serving bowls; top with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro.

 
Strawberry Salsa 

2 pints cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 pint fresh strawberries, chopped

8 green onions, chopped

1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, strawberries, green onions and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk oil, vinegar and salt; gently stir into tomato mixture. Refrigerate until serving.

Yields 24 servings, each ¼ cup serving contains; Calories 41, Fat 4g. Carbohydrates 3g., Fiber 1g., Protein 0g., Sodium 53mg.

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