I have lots of cilantro plants in my garden. How can I preserve it for the months ahead? I stand to lose most of my harvest because we use cilantro only once a week in Latin- or Asian-inspired meals.
— Bill D., Central Point
Just like freezing fresh basil as pesto, cilantro can be handled almost the same way.
Portland author Willi Galloway's "Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening" suggests pureeing cilantro with olive oil to form a loose, pestolike paste. Pack the paste into ice-cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, transfer cubes from trays to a zip-close, plastic bag and store in the freezer for up to nine months.
For the short term, try making cilantro oil to drizzle over poached fish or grilled chicken, whisk into vinaigrette or stir into mayonnaise. Start by washing the herbs well and drying them completely. Store the oil in the refrigerator and use it within several days. If stored longer, it can become contaminated with botulism and must be discarded.
Here is celebrated chef Jacques Pepin's recipe for cilantro oil from "Essential Pepin: More Than 700 All-Time Favorites From My Life in Food."
1 bunch (4 ounces) fresh cilantro with stems, roots trimmed, washed and dried well
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive or peanut oil
In a minichopper or blender, puree the cilantro with the salt and 1/3 cup water. Transfer puree to a saucepan, heat to a boil and immediately remove from heat.
When puree is cool, pour into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the oil, cover and shake well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow flavors to develop.
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