Cilantro Salad

Cilantro Salad Recipe

I went to a lunch in Oakland a few weeks back. It was one of those special lunches that passes all too quickly - a warm April afternoon, a stretch of tables pushed together under a booming canopy of white flowers, good company, Lillet blanc, and some of my favorite cooks arriving with something to share, family-style. It was a celebration of Deborah Madison's new book, and after all these years, I was finally able to thank her for inspiring body of work in person. All in all, a pretty great afternoon. I would have been more than happy to stay right where I was, long after the plates were cleared, as I imagine dinner under the blossoming trees would be magic. But, that's not actually what I was thinking about after I left. There was this one salad I just couldn't shake. It was made entirely of cilantro, tossed with a simple shallot-forward soy sauce dressing, toasted peanuts, and a vegetable. It was so simple, so bright, and it got me thinking about cilantro in an entirely new way.

Cilantro Salad Recipe Cilantro Salad Recipe Cilantro Salad Recipe

The Xinjiang salad was made by Carolyn Phillips from a Chinese cookbook specializing in the Northwest (you can see the write-up on her site here). You'll also also see it featured in her upcoming book on regional Chinese cooking being published by McSweeney's in 2014. She used red bell peppers, but I've been doing versions with whatever spring produce I have on hand, and you can see the asparagus version down below. Unless you absolutely loathe cilantro, you must, must(!) try this salad.

The key here is absolutely using the brightest, best cilantro you can get your hands on. The stems should be crisp but not at all tough. The leaves vibrant, with no shift in color (indicating onsetting spoilage).

Cilantro Salad

HS: You're going to make far more shallot oil (and shallots) than you need here. Keep the remaining oil refrigerated, and use it to drizzle over noodles, eggs, tofu, all manner of vegetables, etc. Or to use in a component in a vinaigrette. It's incredibly tasty and versatile. Also, please don't try this salad unless you have great cilantro - look for the brightest, best cilantro you can get your hands on. The stems should be crisp but not at all tough. The leaves vibrant, with no shift in color (indicating on-setting spoilage).

1 cup / 240 ml sunflower oil
1 cup / 3.5 oz / 100g evenly sliced shallots, ~20 small

6 ounces / 170 g asparagus spears, very thinly sliced
1 bunch of cilantro with stems

1/2 teaspoon shoyu / soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup / 2 ounces peanuts, well-toasted, then cooled
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

to serve: herb flowers (garlic chive flowers, chive flowers, etc), optional

Start by making the shallot oil, you can do this up to a few days in advance. Place the oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan or wok, over medium heat. When the oil is hot (a "test" shallot should bubble immediately), dial back the heat to medium, sprinkle in the shallots, and cook slowly until they are deeply golden, 15 - 20 minutes. Remove from heat, strain the oil off into a jar, and set aside. Place the shallots on a paper towel and allow them to cool and crisp.

In the meantime, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, salt generously, and cook the asparagus for just 15 seconds or so, until bright. Drain, and quickly transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again, and set aside.

Trim any tough stems from the cilantro, and give it a good wash. Dry completely.

Just before you're ready to serve the salad, whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, sea salt, and two tablespoons of the shallot oil. Place the cilantro, peanuts, asparagus, and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Drizzle the soy dressing over, and give a gently but thorough toss. The peanuts and asparagus like to find their way to the bottom, so be sure to scoop them back on top before serving with some of the reserved crisped shallots, and a few herb flowers on top (if you have them).

Serves 6.

Inspired by a salad brought to a lunch made by Carolyn Phillips who, in turn, references a Chinese cookbook specializing in the Northwest here. She'll be featuring the original in her upcoming book on regional Chinese cooking being published by McSweeney's in 2014.

Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 20 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Apologies, comments are closed.

Comments

  • This looks amazing! My only questions is how to prepare the cilantro--it looks like the leaves aren't completely chopped, but how much of the stem should I leave on? Can't wait to try this (tonight!) x

    HS: Hi Taylor, they're not shopped at all. Just leaves and stems....and i kept the stems quite long - 4-5 inches? Something like that.>

    Taylor
  • This sounds scrumptious. When my uncle moved to Texas from the midWest about a decade ago, he discovered cilantro. His taste buds were awakened! He became obsessed with cilantro. He called all of his friends in the midWest to tell them about Texans and their cilantro. He even made cilantro ice cream one summer. Suffice it to say, we are a cilantro-obsessed family, and this salad will be made! Thanks for the inspiration :)

    DessertForTwo
  • this looks amazing.

    Leah
  • How great that you got to meet Deborah Madison! Sounds like a lovely time. Such a creative salad! The dressing sounds absolutely perfect.

    Marie @ Little Kitchie
  • Inspiring and invigorating in thought - the cilantro sounds beautiful with the complimenting shallots and soy sauce - wonderful post with beautiful photography.

    Dan from PlatterTalk
  • Lovely idea, I use parsley a lot as a main component in salads but will give this one a go, sounds good.

    anna@annamayeveryday
  • LOVE your oil drizzles. I wish there could be a separate category in 'Recipes' for all your delightful drizzles!

    HS: That's not a bad idea Claudia - I do love a flavored oil! ;)

    Claudia
  • Wow! This looks amazing! Just made cilantro pesto. This appears to be a fabulous way to expand my cilantro repertoire. Thanks!

    Claudia
  • I love cilantro in anything! I was wondering, if you may happen to know, instead of shallot (which I'm not hot about), what else may possibly work in its place please?

    Charmaine
  • beautiful looking salad! here in japan, i haven't seen cilantro in market. as a person who loves herbs, i would love to try this salad someday when i can fresh ingredients.

    HS: Hi Yuri - I wonder if a version with a blend of Japanese herbs might be nice? Shiso, mitsuba, etc?

    yuri
  • Now I do love the sound of this....but coriander (as we call cilantro over here in England) is not growing in the garden yet. Will hastily grow loads more...becuase you can't really buy huge bunches of it here.

    Anonymous
  • I am addicted to cilantro and it never ever occurred to me to use it as a base in a salad. Thank you for the inspiration.

    Nuts about food
  • What a beautiful salad! When I first joined a local San Diego area CSA and had cilantro coming out the wazoo, I started making it into salads...it was all I could do to start making a dent in it. Glad to see this version. It's lovely!

    Averie @ Averie Cooks
  • My husband loves cilantro- he often jokes that he would put it on ice cream, he loves it so much. So, I must make this salad!

    la domestique
  • Interesting! I would have never thought of having a cilantro salad, but considering how fast it grows in the backyard, we could definitely get a few salads out of our plant!

    Diane
  • With how strong cilantro is flavored, the simple oil dressing sounds like it will be a good compliment. I have a fresh bunch of cilantro on my counter right now and will try this for lunch tomorrow!

    Shannon O'Donnell
  • Beautiful salad - I love each and every salad you post here, but I am particularly excited to try this one. Living in Bangkok, we have an abundance of the most amazingly fresh cilantro I've seen anywhere. I used to overlook the herb, and now I use it nearly every day - so bright and fresh.

    Jess
  • This sounds like an incredible salad. I would never have thought of using cilantro like this. I bet the flavours are amazing. Your photos are so filled with beautiful light too. Really inspiring. :)

    Caz
  • Where do you find herb flowers if they are not growing in your own garden?

    HS: Hi AM - I buy them often at the farmers market (this time of year is great), those fresh petals I don't use quickly, I air-dry, freezing can also work, but I find it strips a lot of the flavor/scent.

    AM
  • Comments are closed.

    Apologies, comments are closed.

    More Recipes

    Popular Ingredients