It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe. So much going on these days at Glover Gardens and beyond. But sometimes, one just needs to be tactile and play with food.
So I made cilantro pesto, just because. It wasn’t needed for an immediate recipe, I just wanted to be creative for a moment.
I’ve been in love with cilantro pesto since discovering it in the Crabtree and Evelyn Cookbook more than 30 years ago.
It’s a really nice little cookbook, arranged in menus for different occasions. I can highly recommend it; it’s not dated.
The cilantro pesto in the cookbook is a sauce for cheese tortellini. It’s really good! The dish is served warm or room temperature as an appetizer, with toothpicks so that guests at a cocktail party can get individual bites. I’ve used this recipe many times at parties! In addition to cilantro alongside the parsley, it has dry roasted peanuts rather than the traditional pine nuts and doesn’t have garlic or parmesan – and it doesn’t really need then for the treatment of the slightly salty, tart cheese tortellini. But my version is more of an all-purpose condiment rather than a pasta sauce, and so of course, I built back in the cheese and garlic. Gotta have ’em!
So here it is, the Glover Gardens recipe for cilantro pesto as inspired by Crabtree and Evelyn, in advance of whatever The Grill-Meister might do with it tomorrow on Sandwich Wednesday. And there are more than 20 suggestions on how YOU can use it after the recipe.
- 1/3 cup mixed salted nuts or dry-roasted peanuts
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 cups cilantro (about one bunch), some stems included
- 2-5 whole cloves garlic, depending on their size
- 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar, or vinegar of your choice
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
- 30 turns of a pepper grinder, or 1/2 tsp. coarse pepper
Add the first five ingredients to a food processor and pulse until they are like a coarse paste, but still chunky. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil and then the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, taste, and add more if necessary.
You can play with this recipe! Some guidelines are:
- Only use a good-quality olive oil that you like the taste of; never a mass-produced one that has a chemical flavor.
- The olive oil can be flavored, if the flavor goes with cilantro and garlic, but you should use the flavored oil judiciously, about a third of the total oil. I like the African pepper flavored olive oil we buy in Pass Christian, Mississippi for this, but a little goes a long way.
- Use a vinegar that you like. Red wine vinegar creates a very traditional taste – nothing wrong with that! I use it sometimes, but sometimes I go with a flavored one, like the serrano honey white balsamic vinegar we get in Pass Christian. The honey component makes the pesto a little sweet, so I add more salt.
- Mixed nuts or dry-roasted peanuts work well in this recipe, but I like the depth of the mixed nuts a little better. Be sure they are salted, or you’ll need to add more salt.
- Never, ever use ‘parmesan’ from a green container. That’s not cheese, it’s sawdust! Only use Parmigiano Reggiano that you grate yourself, or get it pre-grated in the deli cheese section of the grocery store.
- You can omit the shallot if you don’t have one; the taste will be different and not quite as robust, but still fabulous!
- Don’t be afraid of cilantro stems – they hold a great deal of flavor.
- If you are one of the unlucky people with the ‘can’t stand or stomach cilantro’ gene, just use parsley. It will still be a really good pesto and slightly different from the norm.
Join Me in the Kitchen
What to Do with Cilantro Pesto?
You can use cilantro pesto in any way that you would use regular pesto. Here are some ideas:
- Like Crabtree and Evelyn did in their cookbook, as a sauce for pasta, whether stuffed, like tortellini, or angel hair
- As a schmear for a lovely crostini appetizer – small toasted bread, then the pesto, then a topping like a bit of steak, chicken, olive, fresh mozzarella, etc.
- As a dip for crudites – how pretty it would be with radishes!
- As a condiment for tacos of any kind – fajitas, fish tacos, shrimp tacos, ground beef tacos
- Spread atop cream cheese for a super-simple appetizer, or mixed into it, or goat cheese, for a spread
- As a condiment atop grilled chicken, beef or seafood (shrimp!)
- As a basting sauce for shish kabobs
- As a condiment atop a soup – like gazpacho or my cream of cauliflower soup
- Tossed with steamed broccoli, asparagus or green beans
- Tossed with grated carrots or shredded cabbage for a super-quick slaw (add more vinegar)
- Mixed with mayo for a sandwich spread
- Used straight as a panini spread (this is in my future!)
- Tossed with gnocchi
- Mixed with buttermilk and sour cream to make a salad dressing – cilantro pesto ranch, my friends!
- On an antipasto platter
- Mixed with a can of cannellini beans, chopped red bell pepper and black olives for a side salad
- As a sauce for macaroni salad, with chopped green onions, bell peppers, black olives and pearl mozzarella
- Brushed atop bread or rolls in the last few minutes of baking
- Mixed into a burger or atop a burger, or in meatballs or meatloaf
- Mixed with butter to make a tasty herb butter
- As a topper for deviled eggs
- As a pizza sauce
- Mixed into scrambled eggs, a frittata or omelet
- Spicing up your chicken or tuna salad
- Added to rice or risotto
- Dolloped atop mashed potatoes, or mixed into them
- And more… what you YOU do with it?
A Thank You is in Order
I’ve been quiet here because of busyness and a backlog of stuff I want to share that I haven’t gotten to yet (ummm, like Kitchen Remodel pics). But a reader named Aashna commented on one of my posts yesterday and reminded me why I do this: it’s just about sharing. Here’s the post she liked:
Aashna’s comment was: “I’m traveling to Paris with my partner in a few weeks, and this blog post was so helpful! Hopefully you’ve been able to come back in 2022!” A simple, appreciative affirmation got me out of writer’s block and stasis and back into the swing. Thank you, Aashna!
What’s for Dinner Tomorrow?
Tomorrow is Sandwich Wednesday, and I can’t wait to see what The Grill-Meister does with my cilantro pesto. I will share it here.