23 April 2010

Cilantro Pesto

Pesto ranks up there as one of my favorite foods--always has been. Come summertime, there's nothing I like more than a bowlful of pasta rich with pesto's spicy blend of basil, pinenuts, olive oil, and parmesan cheese (particularly--sigh--if I happen to be eating it beach-side in Moneglia in the true pesto motherland). The only trouble is, it's not always summer. Sure, basil and even high-quality ready-made pesto are available year-round in grocery stores but I'm a pretty firm believer that food tastes best when it's seasonal. Although it's starting to get plenty hot here, and light, summer foods are beginning to seem like just what the doctor ordered, basil season has yet to arrive at my house.

As a kind of interim measure, I decided to try making cilantro pesto instead. For some completely illogical reason, in my mind cilantro doesn't fall under the same seasonality limitations as basil. It's ripe for the picking off the grocery shelf all year long! A quick googling turned up a lot of different cilantro pesto recipes but I ended up settling on one from a back issue of Gourmet to use as a guide. Unlike a lot of the other recipes, this one doesn't call for parmesan which, although it's apparently good, sounds strange in combination with cilantro. It also includes some Asian flavors which is what I was craving although a more Mexican-flavored cilantro pesto (without fish sauce and sesame oil--plus a little cumin and serrano or jalapeno pepper) would also be really good on lots of things.

As you can see from the photos, I tossed some udon noodles with the pesto and made a cold noodle salad (delish) but there are so many other things that could be done with this tasty green stuff. Some other ideas:
-toss with cooked rice and serve warm as a side to grilled meat or let cool and combine with veggies, pieces of cooked tofu or chicken and serve as a salad
-marinade for or dip/drizzle for grilled or baked tofu, fish, or shrimp
-rub under the skin of a roast chicken

This summer I think my basil pesto is in for some stiff competition!

Cilantro Pesto
adapted from Gourmet

2 cups packed cilantro leaves (about 2 medium bunches)
2 tablespoons pine nuts (blanched almonds would also be good)
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon fish sauce (veggie substitute soy sauce)--may want more to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (I omitted)
1/4 cup mild olive oil

-a few sprigs of mint--recommended!
-fresh jalapeno or serrano pepper to taste or some dried red chili flakes

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth--just a few minutes. You may have to stop a few times to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings.

1 comment:

laurel said...

Great picture Nis! Beautiful colors, and the recipe sound delicious. When I make I'll have to call it "Cilantro Sauce," though, to avoid ridicule by my husband and in-laws. Ligurians are total pesto snobs and don't consider anything "pesto" unless it's the absolute original recipe, and the basil is actually GROWN in Liguria. I can't imagine what they would say about the fish sauce. I personally think it sounds awesome, and since I'm the world-wide expert, what I say goes!