Cilantro, not just for salsa

After high school, I took several years and did some exploring. These days, this kind of exploring has a name, ‘the gap year’. Well, my gap was much longer than a year. For a while I spent time working on organic farms. While living on a farm in Virginia, one of my many jobs was to harvest cilantro in the early morning. It was a pretty easy task; gently breaking the base of each stem and neatly bundling the delicate leaves together into small bouquets. During those early morning hours, I did not appreciate all the qualities this herb has to offer. In fact, several years passed before I began enjoying it again.

Cilantro is actually the name given to the leaves of a coriander plant. It looks similar to parsley, but is a little more succulent and very aromatic. Cilantro doesn’t store very well, so either pick it shortly before using or wrap it in a paper towel and refrigerate in a plastic bag. I leave the top of the bag slightly open. These tricks help extent it’s shelf life. After flowering, it produces the beloved coriander seeds so popular in Indian recipes. This week, my garden is producing gorgeous cilantro.



Cilantro Pesto Ingredients:
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 bunch cilantro
2 tablespoons or more pecorino sheep cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend. To store, put in glass jars leaving space for expansion and freeze. Remember to label the jar.


Pickled Peaches

These past few days there has been a slight crispness in the air and the fruits are hanging heavy on the trees. We went on a neighborhood walk today and picked plums, peaches, apples and buckeyes (not good for eating but good for putting in slingshots). Even though all the pickles from the Esoteric kitchen are live, raw ferments- at home, I still feel the autumn pull to put a few things up for winter. I have never tried savory peaches before, but these pickled peaches are damn good and made my Polish mother in law proud.

Sweet-and-Sour Peaches
adapted from Epicurious
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 6 1/2 cups cold water
  • 24 firm-ripe small peaches (6 to 7 lb)
  • 1 cup sugar ( and I added about a 1/4 cup honey)
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Special equipment: 6 (1-pt) canning jars with lids and screw bands; a boiling-water canner, or a deep 10- to 12-qt pot plus a flat metal rack; an instant-read thermometer

Prepare peaches:
Dissolve lemon juice in 6 cups water in a large bowl (to acidulate water).

Cut a shallow X in bottom of each peach with a sharp paring knife and blanch in 4 batches in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling water 10 to 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water and let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel peaches, then halve lengthwise and pit. Add peaches to acidulated water and let stand 10 minutes, then drain well in a colander.

Toss peaches with sugar in a 6-quart wide heavy pot and chill, covered, at least 8 and up to 12 hours.

Sterilize jars and lids: I used Weck jars this year, but Ball jars are an old standby.
Wash jars, lids, and screw bands in hot soapy water, then rinse well. Dry screw bands. Put jars on rack in canner and add enough water to cover jars by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered, then boil 10 minutes. Cover lids with water in a small saucepan and heat until thermometer registers 180°F (do not let boil). Keep jars and lids submerged in hot water, covered, until ready to use.

Cook and can peaches:
Add vinegar, spice, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water to peaches (sugar will have dissolved and will have drawn out peach juices) and bring to a boil over moderate heat, skimming off foam. Reduce heat and simmer until peaches are barely tender, about 3 minutes.

Remove jars and lids from water, reserving water in canner, and transfer to a clean kitchen towel, then divide peaches among jars using a slotted spoon. Return peach-cooking liquid to a boil, then pour into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top. Run a thin knife between peaches and sides of jars to eliminate air bubbles.

Seal and process jars:
Wipe off rims of filled jars with a dampened kitchen towel, then firmly screw on lids with screw bands. Put sealed jars on rack in canner and, if necessary, add enough hot water to cover jars by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, covered. Boil jars 20 minutes, then transfer with tongs to a towel-lined surface to cool. Jars will seal as they cool (if you hear a ping, that signals that the vacuum formed at the top of the jar has made the lid concave).

After jars have cooled 12 to 24 hours, press center of each lid to check that it’s concave, then remove screw band and try to lift off lid with your fingertips. If you can’t, the lid has a good seal. Store in a cool dry place up to 6 months. Promptly put any jars that haven’t sealed in the refrigerator and use them first.