Getting the Crunch from Cilantro

Interesting old article from the Dining & Wine section of the NYT (Nov 2010). Check out the comments section after the article for one by yours truly!  Article at:

Anybody who’s too lazy to pluck cilantro (or parsley) leaves off their stems before chopping knows that there’s plenty of flavor in those stems — which is one reason they go into the stockpot or a bouquet garni.

Of course, sometimes you want the pretty appearance of the leaves, and sometimes you want their softer texture: cilantro leaves, especially, are almost without crispness. But for most dishes, chopping parsley or cilantro means washing and (hopefully) drying the whole bunch, then taking a knife to everything but the thickest stems — and, between you and me, sometimes those too.

There’s a converse side to this, as I recently observed during an ear-ringingly noisy but delicious dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan. There my wife, Jackie, and I shared an elegant appetizer of thinly sliced raw scallops whose garnish included cilantro. But not the leaves at all: just the stems, cut with considerable precision into lengths of, oh, maybe 3/32 of an inch. This not only lent the desired flavor, but also provided a subtly crunchy textural element that added a lot to the dish. It also looked terrific.

Think of this when you want that crunch – which could be in a raw vegetable salsa or a salad, for instance. Remember that you’d want to cut them quite small – they wouldn’t be any fun to eat in long pieces.

Of course, this puts you back in the very position you’d been avoiding all these years: stripping the leaves off the stems.

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