Coriander – Always the Bridesmaid…

April 11, 2013

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Despite its significant flavor and long history of health benefits, coriander is frequently overlooked come meal time. But that’s not coriander’s fault – it’s ours! Even though coriander isn’t much of a “leading lady,” it plays the supporting role so well that, with a little background, you’ll be emptying your jar of coriander gathering dust on your spice rack in no time.

To be clear, I’m talking about coriander seeds, not the leaves. The leaves are what we call cilantro, which everyone is familiar with. But it’s important to note that coriander seeds and cilantro have very different flavors and, though often used together, are not interchangeable. Coriander seeds have a sweet and spicy flavor, like a mixture between sage and lemon peel, and are often used in southeast Asian cuisine, including Indian and Thai dishes. Coriander and cumin seeds are toasted, ground and added to almost all curries – so if you’ve ever eaten a curry and wondered what that flavor was that you loved so much but couldn’t recognize, now you know.

As with any spice, you simply need to know what coriander plays nicely with in order to start using it, so here are a few tips. Middle eastern, Latin American and Asian flavors are safe. One thing that all of these cuisines have in common is the use of cumin. The other flavors you add will determine the country your taste buds visit come dinner time. Paprika, chili powders and oregano will taste more Latin American, while turmeric and garam masala will taste Indian. Here’s what I did with it:

Last minute additions not pictured – 1.5 cups cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Please note that this isn’t a traditional Indian dish. Though pitas can be found in parts of India, something like this would be more likely eaten with naan bread. That being said, it was still delicious.

Here’s what you do. Pour the coconut milk on the shrimp and add all of the spices. Mix that around good and let it marinate for a few minutes. Maybe 10-20 min. Pour the contents of your bowl, shrimp, marinade and all, into a heated non-stick pan and cook until the shrimp is just done. Remove from heat. Cut your pitas in half, open them up and layer like so:

Shrimp first
Cilantro next
Couple tablespoons of plain yogurt
Quinoa to top it off

The finished product looks pretty boring-

For dinner we’re having pita bread stuff with an obscure grain that nobody ever uses! Yay!

But the flavor is far from boring. If you feel more comfortable eating something that looks less anemic, you can chop the cilantro up a bit more and put it on top, but that’s your choice. Just so you know it’s there…

So don’t be scared. Start practicing with your coriander and make something new. What have you used your coriander for lately? Or maybe there’s a coriander-incorporating recipe you’re jazzed about but haven’t had the chance to make yet.

Feel free to ask any questions Google hasn’t answered for you yet. I’m sure I have a book somewhere I can find the answer in. :)
Peace out, internet friends.

What do you think?

  1. Yesterday I realized the beauty of coriander, I toasted the seeds and smashed them by hand in a wooden mortar (a first for me), I was actually just in a pinch and needing coriander for tiki masala but smell of the freshly ground seeds was so wonderful I found myself wondering why I ever by anything ground, it was so quick and easy to do it myself. This dish looks awesome I can’t wait to try some of these things and leave helpful (well mostly probably encouraging, “this is delicious!”) comments.

  2. Love coriander! You are right though- I always pair it with other spices. It is definitely the support flavor. I frequently mix it in to curries and even homemade taco seasoning. I enjoy the little twist that it adds. This recipe looks delicious- I need to give it a shot!

  3. Melissa says:

    OMG im making this tomorrow… I love how you explained the spices… one of my biggest problems as a novice cook is trying to decide which spices to use. I never know what goes with what and im always scared im going to ruin the whole meal if I put in the wrong spices… Idea for a post? maybe? :)

    • Hey Melissa, glad you found it useful! My wife bought me a book called “The Flavor Bible,” and it has changed my life. If you don’t buy it, I’ll be sure to share information from it often. :)

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