Friday, November 9, 2012

Cool weather means coriander.

    In North America, you buy cilantro or Chinese parsley. In the UK, Coriandrum sativum is known as coriander, and in France, it's called coriandre.
    Whatever the name, up until recently, you rarely saw it in rural France. Now I know two sources in Mirepoix market and one in Lavelanet's but I'm not sure that I've ever been able to buy it in any of our local supermarkets. Like a lot of produce around here, fresh coriander is only available in season. Fine by me. It's surprising how interesting your food life becomes, and how imaginative your cooking gets, when you don't have endless access to the full buffet table
     Which is why I'm so pleased that, now that the summer heat is long gone, I can grow coriander again. And God knows, I need it.
    I need it for those fresh punchy Asian salads that you sometimes crave in the winter as a break from rib-sticking daubes and bean dishes. I need it for soups, especially those lovely, light broth-based ones that you punch up with fistfuls of fresh herbs.
    I need a large handful of fresh coriander for the Portuguese dish of pork with clams, and for samosa pie.
    Anyone remember the fusion food that swept through restaurants in the 80s? Some was more collision than fusion but one dish that did stand out was linguine with chicken (or shrimp) and black bean sauce.
    No recipe. Just slice and brown onions, red and/or green peppers, garlic and chicken breast. Add a mixture of black bean sauce, hot chili sauce and chicken stock or water. Cover the pan and let this all simmer while you cook your pasta. Drain, top with the sauce and toss in lots of chopped coriander.
    The last couple of years I've grown my own in pots, planting more every couple of weeks so the supply never runs out. Here's the latest crop.

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