Cilantro Pesto

Once again, a recipe born from ingredient surplus!

I had to buy a package of cilantro for the Salmon with Sesame and Orange-Ginger Relish. I needed 1/4 cup. The package was as big as my head. So, extra cilantro lying around.

Now apparently, cilantro is a love-it or hate-it kind of herb. It has a pretty strong lemony fragrance, but I don’t find the taste as strong as the smell. It was pretty delicious in this pesto. However, it has been compared to the odor of the brown marmorated stink bug by one of my biology professors and apparently tastes like soap to some people. Now don’t you want to make this?

Even though there isn’t any basil, the familiar saltiness of the cheese, tangy lemon, and subtle pine nuts scream out “pesto” and the cilantro goes with it just as well. Try it on pasta, especially ravioli or tortellini; as a pop of flavor and color in summer vegetable soups; a topping for grilled salmon (drool); or simply as a dip for maybe… cherry tomatoes. Or Pop chips. Whatever floats your boat. A little goes a long way!

Cilantro Pesto

Adapted from a recipe out of Vegetarian Times Magazine that I can’t find online and was in the current issue, I guess June 2011?

1 bunch cilantro, leaves only

4 garlic cloves

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup pecorino romano cheese

1 tablespoon lemon juice (original called for lime but I only had lemons)

Sea salt to taste

Pulse the first 3 ingredients in a food processor, then drizzle in the olive oil with the processor running. I just eyeballed it to a good consistency. Add the lemon juice and pecorino romano cheese and mix until combined.

You could easily sub basil for the cilantro, but why do the same old thing? (Although it is delicious.) In fact, a variety of plants can be used in place of basil in pesto, such as parsley, coriander, arugula, spinach, sage, thyme,… alone or in combinations. I’ve only tried basil and now, cilantro.

PS: You want to mix in the cheese last, after the major processing because the heat from the food processor can lessen the flavor of the cheese.

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