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The Daley Question

Saving the cilantro

Flavored oil is a short-term solution

Bill Daley

The Daley Question

July 30, 2013

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Q: I have lots of cilantro plants in my garden. How can I make cilantro-flavored olive oil that will last long enough without spoiling? I will lose most of my harvest, since we use it perhaps only once a week in our Spanish meals.

—Frank Morales, Western Springs, Ill.

A: Making a cilantro oil is easy. The difficulty lies in long-term storage; botulism is a risk with homemade, unprocessed herbal oils.

"Oils may be flavored with herbs if they are made up for fresh use, stored in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 3 days,'' according to the web site of the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga.. "Fresh herbs must be washed well and dried completely before storing in oil. The very best sanitation and personal hygiene practices must be used."

Jacques Pepin has a recipe for cilantro oil in his 2011 cookbook, "Essential Pepin: More than 700 All-Time Favorites from My Life in Food." The famed chef, cookbook author and television cooking show host, who lives in Madison, Conn., also recommends refrigeration and use within a couple of days. You'll find the recipe below.

Don't despair over your cilantro crop. There's another solution, says Willi Galloway, the Portland, Ore.-based author of "Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening."

Galloway suggests pureeing the cilantro in olive oil to form a loose, pesto-like paste. Pack the paste into ice cube trays and freeze. Once the "cubes" are frozen, remove from the trays and store in a sealable plastic bag in the freezer. You can then pop a cube into whatever you're cooking or you can defrost first in the microwave, she adds. Store these cilantro cubes in the freezer for up to 9 months, Galloway suggests.

Cilantro oil

Makes: 1/2 cup (strained)

"This oil is excellent drizzled on poached fish or grilled chicken,'' writes Jacques Pepin in his "Essential Pepin" cookbook. "Shaken well before each use, the flavored oil can be used as is, or you can strain out and discard the herbs and then remove and reserve the oil that rises to the top of the remaining liquid. Combined with vinegar and seasonings, the unstrained oil makes a great vinaigrette; it can also be used to make an herb mayonnaise."

1 bunch (4 ounces) fresh cilantro with stems, roots trimmed

1/3 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup olive or peanut oil

1.Process the cilantro with water and salt in a mini-chop or blender until pureed. Transfer the puree to a saucepan and bring it to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat.

2.When the puree has cooled, pour it into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the oil, cover, and shake well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to develop the flavor.

3.Use the oil within a few days, refrigerating it between uses. For a more refined variation, after the 2-hour macerating period, pour the mixture into a bowl lined with a clean kitchen towel and press through the towel into the bowl. Set the liquid aside for 30 to 45 minutes, then skim off the green oily residue from the top of the mixture and discard it. Pour out and reserve the green oil in the middle; discard the liquid in the bottom of the bowl. Refrigerate and use within a few days.

Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: wdaley@tribune.com. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.