Coriander is considered both an herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used as a seasoning condiment. Fresh coriander leaves are more commonly known as cilantro and bear a strong resemblance to Italian flat leaf parsley. This is not surprising owing to the fact that they belong to the same plant family (Umbelliferae).
The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the parts that are used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. They have a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. Coriander seeds are available in whole or ground powder form.
The name coriander is derived from the Greek word koris, which means bug. It may have earned this name because of the "buggy" offensive smell that it has when unripe. The Latin name for coriander is Coriandrum sativum.
Fresh coriander (or cilantro) leaves should look vibrantly fresh and be deep green in color. They should be firm, crisp and free from yellow or brown spots.
Whenever possible, buy whole coriander seeds instead of coriander powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly, and coriander seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle.
Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown dried coriander since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.
Coriander seeds and coriander powder should be kept in an opaque, tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground coriander will keep for about four to six months, while the whole seeds will stay fresh for about one year.
Since it is highly perishable, fresh coriander should always be stored in the refrigerator. If possible, it should stored with its roots still attached by placing the roots in a glass of water and covering the leaves with a loosely fitting plastic bag. If the roots have been removed, wrap the coriander leaves in a damp cloth or paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. Whole coriander will last up to one week, while coriander leaves will last about three days.
Cilantro may also be frozen, either whole or chopped, in airtight containers, yet should not be thawed before use since it will lose much of its crisp texture. Alternatively, you can place it in ice cube trays covered with either water or stock that can be added when preparing soups or stews.
Creamy Fiesta Dip
Copyright 2012, Christine's Pantry. All rights reserved.
1 (32 oz) plain yogurt
1 (1 oz) package fiesta dip
1 tablespoon chives
1 tablespoon cilantro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Place yogurt in a strainer lined with a paper towel and set the strainer over a bowl. Let the yogurt drain and thicken overnight.
In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with chips, carrots or celery. Enjoy!
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