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The great cilantro debate

Love it or hate it, there's no middle ground when it comes to this herb

Are you a lover or a hater ? There is no middle ground when it comes to cilantro — you either love it or hate it, there is no fence sitting here. In fact a vocal group of haters even took the time to dedicate an entire website to those who live to loathe the herb,, where they generously compare the flavour to Pine Sol flavoured grass clippings. I stand firmly on the love side, but let me just say that I do think it is possible to overdo it. Too much cilantro added to a dish can make it taste soapy and really unpleasant. The right amount can add a floral citrus note that frankly brightens up a lot of food. As an example, avocados really love cilantro; every fantastic guacamole I’ve ever had contained just the right amount. Black beans are a big fan as are fresh tomatoes and watermelon but I never would have thought about pears until recently when I had the opportunity to enjoy a pear cilantro margarita made with top shelf tequila, pear nectar, fresh squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and muddle cilantro that was so delicious and refreshing, it made me forget about the unseasonal monsoon going on outside. Cilantro, sometimes called Chinese parsley or fresh coriander leaves, is best removed from the often woody stems, roughly chopped and added to your dish at the last minute or as a garnish. Over chopping the leaves will make them black and slimy additionally lessening their appeal. Coriander is the dried seed of the cilantro plant and offers a completely different flavour and complexity to a dish. Seeds are commonly used in whole curries or ground and added to chilli, stews, barbecue rubs, sausages and sauces. The seeds seem to be less offensive to the haters than the leaves, but still take a beating online. Coriander seeds benefit from a little toasting in a dry pan before you grind them. To me, they taste a bit like lemon and sage and I wouldn’t consider making Mexican or Indian food without them. In the summer I make a fresh strawberry mango salsa with both ground coriander and fresh cilantro that is phenomenal on grilled fish or chicken. And because I can, when the cilantro is cheap and plentiful I make a big batch of pesto with lots of garlic, pumpkin seeds, parmesan cheese, olive oil and lemon zest that I freeze in small containers and whip out in the winter when I need a fix. It’s amazing what a little dollop of cilantro pesto can do for a squash soup or a cream sauce on roasted chicken. So if you are on the fence, jump off — come on over to the love side, we are eating really well over here. For another great cilantro cocktail recipe visit and let me know what you think. Angie Quaale is a local foodie and owner of Well Seasoned Gourmet Food Store.