For such a delicate-looking and innocuous herb, cilantro, which is the leaves of the coriander plant, is a little bit controversial. People seem to either love it or hate it. Cilantro looks like flat leaf parsley, but it has a tangy, almost citrusy flavor. Long used in Asian, Indian, Caribbean and Latin American cooking, cilantro gives a bright taste to salads, salsas, meat, chicken and fish. I think it’s the secret ingredient to summer dishes, though you can find it fresh in supermarkets all year round.
Given the chance, even the most skeptical can acquire a taste for cilantro. But another reason to love it is that cilantro is packed with FoodTrient qualities. From a biological standpoint, cilantro is related to other nutrient-dense plants such as parsley, celery, carrots, anise, chervil, and parsnip. This family of aromatic herbs and vegetables are anti-fungal and anti-bacterial as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are eleven qualities that make cilantro a super food:
When preparing dishes made with cilantro, for the freshest, brightest flavor, avoid cooking it as much as possible. That’s why you see so many recipes for fresh salsas that feature it.
From the Age Gracefully Cookbook, here are two recipes that make the most of summer’s bounty:
No cooking is required for this condiment. The strawberries, avocado, and cilantro all contain antioxidants. Strawberries are also very high in vitamin C and flavonoids, while avocados also provide glutathione, a detoxifying agent. I use this relish with my Summertime Grilled Chicken, but it also makes a great topping for grilled fish and a satisfying dip for whole-grain tortilla chips.
YIELDS about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries
1 diced medium-size avocado
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 Tbs. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. sugar
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
This refreshing relish will help boost your immune system and keep your skin young and elastic. Papaya is rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. It’s also high in potassium, which is also found in the cilantro. I use this salsa on grilled meats and fish, such as my Grilled Swordfish in Secret Marinade, and it’s also delicious as an appetizer with whole-grain chips.
YIELDS about 4 cups
2 cups cubed papaya, ripe but still firm
¼ cup seeded and chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped red onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
½ tsp. seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
2 Tbs. lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbs. lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.
You’ve probably seen and enjoyed Chinese lettuce cups, but here is a Mexican version from my Age Beautifully Cookbook.
Cilantro is full of antioxidants and disease-fighting phytonutrients. Chicken contains selenium, which protects cells from free radicals and lowers your risk of cancer. Selenium also increases resistance to infection. Avocados have oleic acid (also found in olive oil), which reduces your risk of heart disease.
½ cup orange juice
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. crushed garlic
¼ tsp. white pepper
¼ tsp. chile powder
¼ tsp. ground cumin
1 lb. organic or free-range chicken breast fillets
8–10 whole Romaine lettuce leaves
1 recipe Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds (2 cups) or your favorite guacamole
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 recipe Pico de Gallo (2 cups) or your own favorite salsa
¼ cup whole cilantro leaves