For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse, the soldier was lost. For want of a soldier, the battle was lost…Fast forward and the evil emperor rules the galaxy and enslaves the minions. As with the nail, so with cilantro. 

Cilantro, that green herb so small in appearance, so huge in flavor. Cilantro transforms salsas and empanadas into culinary delicacies. Cilantro – the secret weapon of serious chefs. So secret because an unobservant eater, while relishing big flavor, may not notice the tiny green specks seasoning the meal.

Recipes typically call for such minute amounts of cilantro that the uninitiated cook may consider omitting the cilantro ingredient. How necessary are those cilantro flakes? Especially during these uncertain times, the frugal cook may want to revolt at the grocer’s ploy to increase profits by selling cilantro only in large bunches. That grocer understands that most recipes require only a tablespoon or two of cilantro. But sell a tablespoon for a nickel when a bunch brings a dollar? “Never!” cries the grocer. Is it here that the activist shopper should take a stand? Unfortunately no, to skip the cilantro would be folly.

So, the cilantro-loving chef returns to the kitchen with excess cilantro. But our gourmet soldier is NOT defeated. Not to fear! Here is a recipe that uses that left-over cilantro. This recipe for grilled chicken and penne pasta calls for 1 1/2 cups of snipped cilantro. And the chicken needn’t be grilled, (lazy me, I nuked some boneless breasts instead). The pasta dish is quick to make, easy, and delicious. It’s perfect for a pot-luck party. Click on “continue reading…” for the recipe.

I had a friend’s super-bowl potluck party in mind when I was searching through Toni Brandeis Streckert’s cookbook, POTLUCK!: Home cooking from Wisconsin’s community cookbooks. Here’s the recipe originally donated by Roberta Whittier to the Cooksville Lutheran Church Cookbook.

Grilled Chicken and Penne Pasta

  • 1 1/2 cups snipped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound cooked chicken
  • 4 cups penne pasta

Place cilantro, cheese, garlic, oil, pepper, vinegar, and salt in blender or food processor. Process until well blended. Pour mixture over hot chicken. Serve with cooked pasta.

This dish of grilled chicken and penne pasta is attractive, nourishing, and, important for potlucks, can be enjoyed lukewarm. But the toughest criteria: Is it kid-friendly? Sorry, not really. It’s too flavorful and nutritious to be craved by people under 10. My kids called it “spicy”. Spicy? Hardly. This pasta contains no peppers, no chilies, no mustards, just the garden-fresh goodness of that delicious herb, cilantro, (and garlic).  But not to worry, potluck parties are often adult affairs. Take this chicken and penne pasta to your next potluck and you’ll hear positive reviews. You’ll be proud you’re serving up a taste of Wisconsin!

Here are some more gourmet foods and big flavors proudly made in America’s Dairyland.

Babcock Ice Cream

Babcock Hall Ice Cream

Sheboygan Bratwurst

Sheboygan Bratwurst Sampler

Valentine Kringle Gift Pack

Kringle Valentine Gift Pack

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