Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Fresh Coriander Seed
It's funny how here in the States we commonly use the term coriander to refer to the seeds of the plant that we commonly call cilantro but in most other English speaking countries the term coriander refers to both the seeds and the plants. Why don't we call it cilantro seed other than when we are sowing it? Or, why do we have to be different and call the plants cilantro? Actually, I remember years ago when some recipes referred to it as Chinese parsley. Talk about confusing. At least we don't have a problem with confusion about which part of the plant a recipe may be calling for if the author is not being specific.
My volunteer cilantro plants are in full bloom now and I noticed yesterday that many of them were sporting umbels of fresh green seeds - coriander seeds. Coriander is one of my favorite spices and in the past I've waited none too patiently for my cilantro, um coriander, seeds to dry on the plants before I collected them. Then, one day last year when the coriander seeds were nearly ready to harvest I thought to pop a few immature green seeds into my mouth. Hmm, pleasantly crunchy and the flavor was somewhere between fresh cilantro and dried coriander (thoroughly confused yet?), and the aroma, oh the aroma was amazing. Yum, yum, yum. But darn, the plants were done blooming and the supply of green seeds was minimal and there wasn't enough left to really do some experimenting in the kitchen. So yesterday I was excited to see these special treats appearing once again, but not only that, it was something in the garden that I could harvest (I can't wait to get my garden up and running again) and I had to come up with a way to use them right now.
I had just been to the village to pick up my latest share from Local Catch, the community supported fishery that I signed up for a few months ago. This week the selection was incredibly fresh wild King Salmon filets from the Monterey Bay. The fresh coriander would be a great match with the salmon, but I already had a plan for the salmon, just a simple pan roast that would probably burn the coriander seeds so I turned my thoughts to the accompanying vegetable - sugar snap peas (from the farmer's market, sigh). I had a little more than a half pound of peas, just enough for the two of us. I warmed some olive oil in a skillet and threw in a handful of pepitas (raw skinless pumpkin seeds) and the fresh coriander seeds that I had plucked off the umbels. Once the pepitas started to pop I tossed in some sliced red onion and the stringed peas and tossed it all together until the peas turned bright green. I then turned the heat down to the lowest setting, covered the pan and allowed the peas to finish steaming in their own juices. Once they were crisp-tender I seasoned them with some salt, fresh ground black pepper, and the juice of half a lime. Yum, but the coriander was so fragrant and flavorful that it was almost too much, next time I'll use about half the amount. I used all the seeds that you can see in the photo above. I served the salmon and peas with more lime juice and a drizzle of my best extra virgin olive oil.
Now I'm trying to think of more ways to use the fresh seeds. If I had some garden fresh veggies I would try making some pickles. If I had some garden fresh.... Well, I've got a fresh local pasture raised chicken for dinner tonight, time to put on my thinking cap and come up with a way to spice it up with some fresh coriander seeds. Hmm, maybe a coconut curry of some sort. Fresh coriander and lemongrass from the garden? Coriander, lemongrass, and fish sauce... Ok, I'm getting there.
How would you use a bunch of fresh coriander seeds?