After spending some time weeding and watering in the greenhouse, Joe made an inspiring suggestion to me, “why don’t you make cilantro pesto sometime?” Now that the warmer temperatures have arrived, everything in the greenhouse is growing like mad. The lettuces are picture perfect and ready to harvest and a row of cilantro is at it’s best.
Cilantro, coriander, Chinese parsley, whatever you choose to call it, it’s one herb that people are rarely on the fence about. You either like it, or as I’ve heard often, feel it tastes like soap. Now maybe I haven’t consumed enough soap in my day, so I’m not sure what that’s all about.
Cilantro is one of our herb garden staples. It’s versatility takes it from Mexican to Thai, from salsas to curries. I decided to make a pesto that would accompany fresh Florida shrimp I purchased at our favorite seafood market, Hellers. Fresh, meaning never frozen, a rarity in this area. I decided to keep the pesto simple, no cheese, so that the bright flavor of the cilantro would shine through. Cilantro is the only herb I know of where the tender, and I must emphasize tender, stems have the same flavor and can be used along with the leaves. Limes would usually be my citrus of choice with cilantro, but since, I didn’t have any, they are quite expensive now and the ones I have purchased recently haven’t been that good, a juicy lemon would fill in quite nicely.
Toasted almond slivers added a subtle nutty quality to the pesto, walnuts or pine nuts are also good choices. I like to toast small quantities of nuts in a dry nonstick skillet on the stove top. I find that when I toast nuts in the oven I am opening the door so frequently to shake the pan to avoid spotty burning, it’s easier to do them on the stove.
I chose an oil relatively new to me, avocado oil. It is cold pressed, high in monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. It’s flavor is mild and buttery. It can be used for skin and scalp care as well, but mine will stay in the kitchen.
The cilantro pesto was an excellent accompaniment to the shrimp that I cooked in the grill pan. The addition of a little serrano pepper gave the pesto just enough heat.
As for some people’s dislike of cilantro, I read there is an essential oil found in the fresh leaves and unripe seeds that can be recognized immediately and not to everyone’s liking. It has to do with a genetic predisposition on how individuals perceive flavors. If you are a “hater” you are in good company. Julia Child is quoted as saying when asked what foods she hated most. “Cilantro and arugula, I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs they have kind of a dead taste to me.” Harsh Julia, that’s just harsh. For the rest of us who enjoy the crisp, bright flavor of cilantro this is a simple recipe worth trying.
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 1/2c packed coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1/2c avocado oil
- 1/4c lightly toasted slivered almonds
- 1 medium clove garlic
- 1t cumin
- 1t chipotle chili powder
- 1/2t kosher salt
- 1/2t or more to taste finely chopped Serrano pepper
- Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Use immediately or up to three days.