Cilantro features distinctive, jagged leaves and a strong flavor that is often present in Mexican dishes, but the fresh herb pairs well with a variety of foods. Try cilantro in soups, on sandwiches, in sauces and in your casseroles. Growing your own cilantro gives you constant access to fresh leaves. If you purchase your cilantro at the store, however, avoid leaves and stems that are limp, wilted or uneven in color. Use the cilantro right away for the best flavor.
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Separate out the amount of cilantro you want to use in your recipe from the bunch.
Fill a bowl with cool water and swirl the cilantro around in the water to remove any dirt, bugs or sandy textures from the leaves.
Shake the cilantro leaves gently to remove any water left on the leaves.
Arrange the cilantro on paper towels and pat the tops of the leaves with another paper towel.
Discard any leaves that are yellow or wilted. If a stem's leaves are only a little wilted, cut off the end of the stem and put it in cold water. The leaves will perk up slightly, making the leaves usable.
Pull off the leaves you want to use for the dish. The thin stems near the leaves can go into your food, but the thicker parts of the stems are chewy, especially in dishes that aren't cooked.
Cut the leaves into smaller pieces with kitchen shears or a knife if necessary. Limit chopping if possible as the leaves bruise easily.
Stir fresh cilantro into salsa, guacamole, salad dressing or other sauces for a burst of flavor.
Sprinkle fresh cilantro onto sandwiches, into salads and as a garnish for pasta dishes.
Stir cilantro into soups, stews and chili in the last minutes of cooking. This allows the cilantro to flavor the soup without becoming too wilted.
Mix cilantro into casseroles before baking them. As high heat reduces the herb's flavor somewhat, garnish the casserole with additional cilantro after it is baked.
Prepare a marinade for poultry products from olive oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic cloves, cumin, salt and pepper. Soak the meat at least one hour before baking or grilling it for best results.
Add cilantro to sauteed meat or vegetable dishes at the end of their cooking times.