I personally love cilantro. It is a staple in many cuisines. Without it, fresh salsa would be flat and flavorless, and what would a good bowl of pho be like without this fragrant herb to add a bit of freshness? While pesto is traditionally made with basil, I have seen variations that sounded good, incorporating cilantro. So I decided to give it a try.
It's hard to grow cilantro here in southern California, as it is a cool weather crop. I had some growing this past winter, and it did fairly well, but when we had a few hot days, it bolted and that was it. So, I consider it a real treat to get a bunch in the farm box or farmer's market.
If you do buy a nice bunch, or get one in your farm box, the best way to keep it fresh is to treat it as you would fresh flowers. I grab a big mason jar and fill it about halfway with water, place the stems in the water, and refrigerate. Can you tell the difference between these two bunches of cilantro below? One is a week old, and one arrived today - but both are fresh as can be. You can see how fresh it can stay with a little T.L.C. By the way, this is also a good way to store fresh asparagus.
I basically just took my regular pesto recipe (below), substituted the cilantro, and changed out the pine nuts for walnuts. Pine nuts are so stinkin' expensive these days, I hardly ever buy them. Not to say that I don't drool when I walk by the big bag of them at Costco, but when I see the $27.00 price tag, I quickly move past them and get a bag of walnuts or almonds instead. I toasted them in a 400 degree oven for about 5-7 minutes to bring out the flavor. For the cheese, I actually used some that I brought home from Italy (*smile*) but parmigiano or pecorino would be just great.
My trusty old retro Cuisinart - still going strong after 24 years of marriage! I just dump everything in and pulverize with a little olive oil, then add more oil to desired texture.
I usually freeze my pesto in small bags or containers. If you don't have freezer containers, just tuck regular ones (like mine) into Ziploc freezer bags. That makes for easy labeling, too (you don't have to label your containers).
So, what to do with pesto, you ask? I love pesto smeared on grilled chicken, salmon, or shrimp (I have some shrimp marinating in it right now for tonight's dinner- I'll skewer and grill them). It also adds amazing flavor to grilled veggies, is fantastic drizzled over caprese salad(thin with a little lemon juice), or even spread on a panini sandwich (I like rotisserie chicken, provolone and pesto). And of course, you can always stir it into pasta if you like. The possibilities are endless...a little goes a long way ... enjoy!
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups fresh basil
½ tsp. salt
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
Approx. 1 cup olive oil
In a food processor, combine all ingredients except oil. Process until smooth. Slowly add oil to desired consistency.
To store, pour into freezer containers and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.
Makes 12 ozs. pesto sauce. Recipe doubles easily.