Epicurean Charlotte

Food & Wine Magazine


Is Hating Cilantro Genetic?

by Justina Huddleston
reprinted with permission from menuism.com

You often hear people say, “you either love it, or you hate it,” about certain things, and with cilantro, that certainly seems to be the case. Even self-professed culinary adventurers sometimes find themselves at a roadblock with the herb, complaining of a soapy or bitter flavor. Julia Childs hated cilantro so much that she told Larry King in 2002 that if it made its way into a dish she was eating, she would just pick it out and throw it on the floor.

Other people love the herb. Its unique flavor is found in cuisines all around the world, having spread across several continents from its native southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia, even making its way across the sea to central and south America (while it’s known as cilantro in most of North and South America, in Europe and other parts of the world it’s called coriander).

In spite of its ubiquity, it seems that people are split over cilantro’s culinary value. Its polarizing effect is so infamous that it has inspired several groups of scientists to search for a genetic link to revulsion of the herb. And it turns out there is one … maybe.

At the University of Toronto, geneticists polled a group of 1,400 young adults about their opinion of cilantro. They found that people of different ethnicities have distinct impressions of the herb. While only 3 percent of respondents with a Middle Eastern background reported disliking cilantro, a whopping 21 percent of those with an East Asian background reported an aversion to the herb.

Another study of 25,000 people, from the genetic analysis company 23andMe, found a correlation between aversion to the herb and one single spot located next to a group of odor-detecting genes—specifically, next to a gene that is responsible for picking up on the soapy aromas that some people report tasting in cilantro.

Yet another attempt to pinpoint the source of cilantro aversion studied twins. Based on their cilantro preferences, scientists were able to isolate three more genes that could be responsible for how we interpret the herb’s flavors.

In spite of this, Nicholas Eriksson, the leader of the 23andMe study, says that the influence of certain DNA isn’t absolute. This genetic predisposition doesn’t actually “make a huge difference in cilantro preference from person to person,” he told NPR’s The Salt. In fact, according to the data, just 10 percent of cilantro aversion is the result of any specific genetic variants. And even for that 10 percent, the influence of this sort of DNA “isn’t like your height, that you’re stuck with. People can change it.”

But how?

Jay Gottfried, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, has the answer.

In an interview with the New York Times, he explained that though someone’s brain may have an immediately negative response to the smell or taste of the herb, repeat exposure can help expand and change the brain’s perception.

He told the Times, “I didn’t like cilantro to begin with … But, I love food, and I ate all kinds of things, and I kept encountering it. My brain must have developed new patterns for cilantro flavor from those experiences, which included pleasure from the other flavors and the sharing with friends and family. That’s how people in cilantro-eating countries experience it every day.

“So I began to like cilantro. It can still remind me of soap, but it’s not threatening anymore, so that association fades into the background, and I enjoy its other qualities. On the other hand, if I ate cilantro once and never willingly let it pass my lips again, there wouldn’t have been a chance to reshape that perception.”

Meanwhile, anthropologist Helen Leach has suggested that, as with many other foods, the cultural opinion of cilantro has fluctuated over the years. Though cilantro was a very common herb throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, it fell out of favor near the turn of the 17th century. Leach found references to coriander in French and English agricultural books that inaccurately traced the etymology of coriander to a reference to crushed insects and bed bugs, and the books were generally disparaging of the herb. She theorizes that this was a reflection of a subconscious attempt by cooks at the time to distance their food from the medieval dishes and flavors of the past. While some people genuinely just disliked the herb, the widely held negative opinion of cilantro at the time was likely a result of cultural trends.

So, if you passionately hate cilantro but are bothered by having to constantly pick those little green leaves out of your food, there is hope. Surround yourself with cilantro-positivity and attempt to retrain your brain. To speed the process, cilantrophobes might want to try it in pesto. Crushing the cilantro leaves releases an enzyme that helps mellow out the more potent aromas and flavors.

And if you already love the stuff, try not to evangelize—no one wants an arrogant, cilantro-loving know-it-all friend to be proved right!

Seven Basics to Serving Wine and Glassware: You Don’t Have to Spend a Million Dollars to Drink the High Life

by Madeline Puckette

Wine is a peculiar beverage because even something as simple as serving it in different glasses can change the way it tastes. This simple guide aims to help with the basics of serving wine and picking glassware to ensure that your wine tastes the best it possibly can.

A proper glass will make any wine taste better

In 1986, Georg Riedel, a 10th generation Austrian glass maker, came out with a line of affordable, machine-made crystal glasses called Vinum. The line featured different glass shapes for different types of wine, which caused a lot of confusion. Consumers were accustomed to using just one wine glass, and the Vinum line seemed to be complete overkill. Riedel had a clever solution, though, and he started hosting ‘wine glass tastings’ to prove first hand the difference a glass can make.

Regardless of his profit motives, Riedel was right. Even novice wine drinkers noticed a sizable difference between certain glass shapes. Ten years later, Riedel was awarded Decanter Man of The Year for his contribution to the wine world.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to buy the entire line of Riedel, Schott Zwiesel, or Zalto glasses, it just means that you might want to figure out what wine glasses fit your drinking style, because it really will make your wine taste better.

Wine tastes better served slightly cool

Hopefully you’ve already experienced how wildly different your coffee, tea, or soda (luke warm Coke anyone?) tastes at different temperatures. This same ideology applies to wine. Also, some of the more delicate floral aromatics in fine wines are completely subdued at overly cool temperatures or burn off too quickly when the wine is too warm.

• Red wine tastes better when served slightly below room temperature from 53˚F to 69˚F (light red wines like Pinot Noir taste better at the cooler end of the spectrum).

• White wine tastes great from about 44˚F to 57˚F. (serve zesty whites on the cool side and oak-aged whites on the warm side).

• Sparkling wine does great at 38˚F to 45˚F (serve high-quality Champagne and sparkling wines at white wine temperatures).

TIP: If you drink affordable wine most of the time, serving it slightly chilled will disguise most ‘off’ aromas. A wine above 70˚F will start to smell more alcoholic because of increased ethanol evaporation that occurs as the temperature rises.

Perfect the ritual of opening a bottle of wine

There are many different types of wine openers, and the most popular with pros is the waiter’s friend. Most of us instantly get the logic of inserting a corkscrew into a cork and using a lever arm to hoist the cork out, however it’s the little details that bewilder us.

Cutting the foil: top lip or bottom lip? Wine sommeliers cut the foil at the bottom lip. This is the tradition because foils were previously made out of lead. Also, this method tends to reduce stray drips when pouring at the table. Foil cutters, on the other hand, are designed to cut the top of the lip. Cutting the top lip is more visually appealing and ideal for moments where the wine is on display (like at a wine tasting).

Where to poke the cork? Poke the cork slightly off center. You want the radial diameter of the worm (the ‘worm’ is the curlycue part of a wine opener) to be centered so that it’s less likely to tear the cork.

Keep the cork from breaking. It takes about seven turns to insert the worm into the best spot, although wine openers vary. Basically, the corkscrew should be inserted into the cork about one turn less than all the way in. Some fine wines have long corks and you can go all the way in.

Nearly every red wine tastes better decanted

Decanting is the one thing we always forget to do that greatly improves the flavor of red wine. The classic method is to pour wine into a glass pitcher or wine decanter and let it sit for about 30 to 45 minutes. The faster way is to use a wine aerator, which decants wine almost instantaneously. With the exception of very old red and white wines, almost no wine will be harmed by decanting it (including sparkling), so it becomes a “why not?” question!

If you buy very affordable wine (sub-$10) on a regular basis, it’s not uncommon to smell rotten egg or cooked garlic. This happens even on some fine wines. Despite their sulfur-like aroma, these smells are not from sulfites nor are they bad for you. It’s a minor wine fault that is caused when wine yeast doesn’t get enough nutrients while fermenting, often during large, industrial-grade fermentations. Decanting a cheap wine will often alter the chemical state of these stinky aroma compounds, making them more palatable.

TIP: Stinky rotten egg aromas in wines can also be removed by stirring the wine with an all silver spoon or, if you’re in a pinch, a piece of sterling silver jewelry. It’s the real deal!

Pour a standard wine serving

A bottle of wine contains just over 25 ounces, so it’s common to see it portioned out into five-5 ounce (150 ml) servings. Fortunately, there are many U.S. restaurants that pour a generous 6 oz. (180 ml) serving, which is a nice gesture if you’re paying by the glass. Either way, it’s about either four or five glasses to the bottle. Often, very large glasses may hold close to (if not more than) an entire bottle of wine, so watch what you’re pouring at home. Make sure to share!

Holding a wine glass

Now that your wine is in your glass, how are you supposed to handle the awkward top heavy glass? It seems logical to cup the bowl, however your hands will heat up your wine, so hold it by the stem.

How long does wine keep after opened?

Most wine won’t last through the night if the bottle is left open. Here are a few tips to preserve open wines for much longer:

• Wine preservers are awesome, use them.

• Store open wines in the fridge (or wine fridge if you have one!). This cold storage will slow down any development of the wine, keeping it fresh.

• Keep wine away from direct sunlight and sources of heat (like above your fridge or oven).

10 Smart Swaps to Make Baking and Cooking Better for You

reprinted with permission from brandpoint

Creamy sauces, cookies, casseroles, and cakes ... it’s natural to crave favorite comfort foods. However, it’s easy to overindulge on rich dishes and decadent desserts, especially if you’re hosting a gathering of friends and family. How can you enjoy amazing foods while bumping up the health quotient?

“Remember, when you’re cooking or baking, you’re in control,” says registered dietitian and nutritionist Lyssie Lakatos. “With a few smart ingredient substitutions and food swaps, you and your guests can enjoy favorite dishes and get more vitamins and nutrients.”

Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames, both registered dietitians, are known as the “The Nutrition Twins.” Together, they share their favorite strategies for cooking healthier, including clever ingredient swaps you won’t even detect in the finished dish.

When baking, eggs are a common ingredient. But not all eggs are created equal. Opt for Eggland’s Best eggs, which are locally-sourced from hens fed an all-vegetarian diet consisting of healthy grains, canola oil, and supplements like alfalfa and vitamin E. As a result, they have 10 times more vitamin E, five times more vitamin D, three times more vitamin B12, two times more omega-3s, 38 percent more lutein, and 25 percent less saturated fat compared to ordinary eggs.

Sour Cream
Swap full-fat sour cream for plain Greek yogurt in recipes, dips, sauces, and garnishes. Plain Greek yogurt tastes surprisingly similar to sour cream but offers higher levels of protein.

Butter in Cooking
Cooking smart means choosing healthier fats and using them in moderation. Instead of butter, try olive oil. While 1 tablespoon of butter has about 7 grams of saturated fat, olive oil only has 2 grams of saturated fat.

Butter in Baking
Oil can cause baked goods to get soggy, so a better butter alternative is applesauce or pumpkin purée for half of the called-for amount. The addition of applesauce or pumpkin purée reduces the fat content while keeping baked goods moist and delicious.

Bacon adds flavor to any dish, but a ton of fat. To get the flavor-boost of bacon without the excess fat, try using Canadian bacon, lean prosciutto, or turkey bacon. Whether beside scrambled eggs for breakfast or crumbled into a casserole, these tasty alternatives will surely satisfy.

Use less salt and add herbs to recipes to get succulent flavor. Whether fresh or dried, herbs satisfy the palate and add beauty of any dish. Have fun mixing and matching herbs to customize a recipe perfectly to your taste.

All those amazing glazes and desserts require sugar, but you need not rely solely on refined white sugar. For baked goods, lessen sugar and add vanilla or cinnamon to intensify sweetness. For glazes, try alternatives like maple syrup or fruit purees.

Classic comfort foods often require breading. For a healthy alternative to traditional white bread crumbs, try whole-grain breadcrumbs, rolled oats, or crushed bran cereal (or a mixture of them all!).

Rather than using entirely all-purpose refined white flour for recipes, try swapping half of the amount with whole-wheat flour. You’ll still get the desired consistency out of baked goods, but you’ll be eating more whole grains.

Iceberg lettuce is a popular option for salads and recipes, but to get more important vitamins (and more flavor), use arugula, collard greens, spinach, kale, or watercress instead. Insider tip: try buying a bag of mixed greens to enjoy a variety of nutrient-dense alternatives.


Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Want to start your day out with an indulgent, satisfying breakfast that features some of these smart cooking ideas? This recipe serves as a great breakfast and has vitamin-packed Eggland's Best Eggs, sweet potatoes, and turkey bacon. For more recipes, visit www.egglandsbest.com.

• 2 Eggland's Best eggs (large)
• 2 sweet potatoes
• 2 strips turkey bacon
• 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese
• 1½ tsp salt
• ½ tsp pepper
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Wash and scrub your sweet potatoes. Place on a baking sheet, pierce each potato a few times with a fork, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes.

When the sweet potatoes are finished, slice them in half lengthwise and let them cool. Scoop a bit of 'meat' out from the sweet potatoes to make room for the filling.

In a small nonstick skillet over medium heat, place two strips of turkey bacon. Cook until bacon begins to brown and crisp up. Place a napkin on top of a small plate, and when the bacon is finished, place onto the napkin to let the grease soak out. Rinse the skillet and place back on the burner over medium heat.

Place the eggs in the skillet, and cook on medium-low for about 3 minutes. Be sure not to overcook the eggs, as they will continue cooking after removed from the heat and will be placed into the oven later on. Break the eggs into four equal parts. Place each into the hollow parts of the sweet potatoes, and sprinkle each with salt and pepper.

Break the bacon apart with your hands into small pieces, and sprinkle over the eggs, then sprinkle cheese over the top. Set your oven to broil on high. Place the potatoes in the oven and broil for three minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve and enjoy!