Coriander comes to us in two different forms: seeds and leaves. The seeds are similar to black pepper in size and shape, but are light brown in color. The leaves are what we know as cilantro, an indispensable herb in many kitchens. Coriander seeds have a nutty, citrus-y flavor, and are common in Central Asian, South Asian, and Middle Eastern cooking.
In the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar II used to keep coriander plants for his wife, Amytis of Media, to remind her of the land where she was from (what is present day Iran). This might seem like a fleeting romantic detail, but when coriander is included in a dish, it definitely establishes its presence. Coriander is also known to help ease stomach problems.
Even though you can buy ground coriander, it is best to buy it in its whole form and grind when needed, so that it does not to lose its flavor. Dry toast the seeds in a pan before grinding them up to release their flavorful oils.
Coriander is the main ingredient in our Mesopotamian Fish Salad and Aztec Tapule (A Mexican version of our traditional Lebanese tabbouli).
Cilantro is a wonderful last minute addition to many dishes. Chop up a handful of leaves and throw them in to salsa, guacamole, soup, or salad. It can even be used to infuse alcohol, such as vodka, to give it a unique, yet distinctive taste.