Few foods are as uniquely diverse as coriander, the plant that supplies both a spice and an herb. Its beige seeds are used as an aromatic spice in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. The pungent green leaves, used widely as an herb from China to Mexico, inspire either love or intense loathing. Coriander has multiple names, including Chinese parsley and cilantro, a Spanish variation of the word culantro, which are usually applied only to the leaves. The leaves resemble flat-leaf parsley, although at farmers' market I have seen locally cultivated coriander as large and frilly as a bouquet, with delicate little pink and white blossoms.

Thanks to its popularity in Latin American, North African, Middle Eastern and Asian cooking, cilantro tends to be more familiar than coriander seed. We use it all the time, in salsa, chili, on salads and to garnish soups. Thai cooks even use the brownish, carrot-like root sometimes left at the base of cilantro clusters.

Coriander seed, which resembles white peppercorns, is used whole and ground. Its complex flavor is sweet and faintly resinous, with citrus notes. The whole seed is used in pickling spice, crab boil and for making poached fruit. Ground coriander is important in Indian curries, Ethiopian berbere, and for flavoring baked goods like cookies and gingerbread. It is also used to flavor gin and in perfumes, thanks to its essential oil, linallol. Medicinally, coriander and cilantro both help digestion and may be anti-bacterial.

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Bringing cilantro and coriander together, I use them both in a burrito combining the flavors of India and the American Southwest.

East-West Burrito

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Makes 8 servings.


  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Pinch tsp. ground cardamom
  • Pinch tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups canned fat-free refried kidney or pinto beans
  • 8 flour tortillas (7-8 inch)
  • 1 1/3 cups cooked brown rice
  • 4 Tbsp. reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (loosely packed) cilantro leaves, roughly cut up
  • 1 cup prepared salsa


  • Combine ground spices in a bowl. Add chicken and press spices in so they adhere. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking.
  • Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Saut� chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and set aside.
  • Add remaining oil to the pan. Saut� onions and pepper until soft and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the chicken, mix in and set aside. Add beans to the pan and cook, stirring until they are warmed.
  • Warm tortillas in a large, dry skillet over medium high heat. Spread one-fourth of the beans in center of each. Top with rice, then chicken mixture. Add a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro leaves. Fold sides of tortillas over the filling, then fold in ends. Turn the burrito over. Serve with salsa sauce on the side.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
346 calories,
10 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat),
48 g. carbohydrate,
16 g. protein,
6 g. dietary fiber,
562 mg. sodium.

Diabetic Exchanges: 3 Bread/Starch, 2 Lean-Meat, 1 Fat