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Team Cilantro

Come to the green side



Cilantro is the Adam Sandler of the herb world: You love it or you hate it. Apparently, whether it tastes like the joyful rush of summer or something you'd use to get engine oil off your hands is at least partly genetic. One hopes that, along with curing cancer, scientists will one day find a cure the cilantro-aversion-afflicted so that every man, woman and child can enjoy a steaming bowl of pho with its proper garnish.

Part of me wants to believe people who hate it can change. Maybe you weren't born this way — maybe you just haven't met the right dish. Have you tried changing? I'll pray for you.

Even if you haven't drunk the green Kool-Aid, you may want to drink this. Likhi Tanski, the bartender at Gabriel's in Eureka, took up the challenge of concocting a cilantro cocktail for us. Not such a wild idea, since some gins, like Hendrick's, are made with the stuff. Tanski came up with a Mexican mojito ($7). He muddled a few leaves in the bottom of the glass and filled it with ice. He kept other leaves whole and shook them with ice, some pale gold St. Germain (a fragrant elderflower liqueur that's sweet enough to skip the usual sugar), a generous splash of Herradura Silver tequila and a squeeze of lime. Strained into the glass with a sprig of cilantro and a curl of lime zest, it tastes garden fresh and lightly sweet, like a snap pea off the vine with the zip of lime and the mild flavor of the herb. If you can still hate cilantro in this, there is no hope for you.

And yet, even for those of us who want to roll around in heaps of cilantro like a dog in a leaf pile, for whom there is never quite enough room in a soft taco, sometimes that big bouquet of fluffy leaves goes unused. Recipes only call for so much of the stuff, and in a week the delicate leaves whose perfume we inhaled with rolled-back eyes at the farmers market go all black and slimy.

Cilantro, Chinese parsley, coriander — whatever your name is, you deserve better.

Use up the rest of the bunch, stems and all, with this simple dip. There are those who will look at the sour cream and cream cheese and wonder about subbing in Greek yogurt to make it healthier. Not a problem. If it's nonfat, just make sure to strain off the water and dry the washed cilantro well. The dip will be runnier, but still yummy and very nice as a garnish for soup or grilled meats.

Cilantro Dip

Ingredients and method:

1 bunch cilantro, roots trimmed off

2 green onions, finely chopped

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 pint light sour cream

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/4 lemon


Gently rinse the cilantro and pat it dry with a paper towel. With a sharp knife, chop the leaves and stems as finely as possible. Save a sprig for garnish.

Mix the softened cream cheese and sour cream in a large bowl until smooth. Add the lemon zest and juice and mix well. Finally, mix in the green onion and cilantro. Salt to taste, keeping in mind whether you'll be dipping sweet spears of red bell pepper or salty chips. Cover and chill before serving.


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