Oh, cilantro pesto, how do I heart thee? Let me count the ways! You were the impromptu, yet perfect, accompaniment to an otherwise basic quesadilla lunch and then, you were suddenly so much more than that! You were fresh and garlicky alongside baby carrots at snack time. You were aromatic and savory stirred gently into a bowl of ordinary chicken noodle soup. You upgraded my homemade hummus and made a quick, herbacious aioli blended with mayonnaise. You were good mixed into white rice with a squeeze of lime juice aside spicy chipotle-marinated flank steak. You were all the things! Swoon!
This little condiment is as simple to make as it is versatile. It’s also fairly inexpensive, which is a great thing in general, but especially for an item that can be used across different kinds meals and cuisines to make everyday foods something new again. Try it as a marinade for meats and seafood or stir some into your next batch of chicken salad. The uses for cilantro pesto are endless and a nice change from its beloved (but standard) sibling, basil pesto. What would you make with it?
Yields approximately 1 cup
1 bunch of fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
2 Tablespoons of pine nuts (walnuts or sliced almonds can be substituted)
2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice (about 1 large lime)
1/4 of a cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow pan over medium-low for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until it is lightly browned, about 2 additional minutes. Add the pine nuts and cook for 2-3 minutes, carefully tossing them in the oil after each minute. They are done when they turn golden in color. Remove pan from the heat and pour contents into a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the remaining ingredients and some salt and pepper. Process until all the ingredients are combined and the mixture resembles a paste. Store in an airtight container with a drizzle of olive oil covering the surface to prevent browning. Last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Note: You can also use an immersion blender if you’re without a food processor. In this case, you’ll want to pour the oil and garlic mixture on top of the other ingredients and then use the immersion blender so that they come into contact with the blades first and are properly pulverized. It may take a little bit more time to use the immersion blender and some stopping and starting to get all of the leaves minced and then combined, but it does work.
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