spicy cilantro pesto

It’s Tuesday, which means that any CSA veggies that we actually still have from the previous Wednesday night’s pick up are on their last legs… or have morphed into an unrecognizable brown mush. We had what used to be a beautiful bunch of cilantro and, while seriously sad and wilted, wasn’t in the mush stage yet and I thought it might still be useable. I started looking for ideas for using cilantro in bulk quantities, since I wanted to use the whole bunch all at once instead of throwing most of it away tomorrow. I was actually kind of surprised to find a number of variations of cilantro pesto, given that pesto is more of an Italian thing and cilantro is more of a Mexican/Latin American/Asian thing.

Just a note on cilantro: I love it, but some people hate it. Apparently even Julia Child was one of these cilantro-haters. I used to make fun of those people, until I found out that it’s actually a genetic trait that makes cilantro taste like soap to certain people. Now I just pity them.
If you’re not part of the group with the mutated OR6A2 receptor, you might enjoy what’s about to follow…

spicy cilantro pesto

There were recipes for cilantro pesto that were pretty much strictly the Italian version (parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, oil) but substituted cilantro for basil or parsley. There were recipes that went full-on Mexican/Latin American, using ingredients like lime juice, serrano peppers, and cotija cheese. Almonds, red onions, white wine vinegar, walnuts, sesame oil, lemon, coriander seeds, arugula, and smoked paprika all made appearances in other recipes. I ended up reading everything and then making up my own.


Here’s what I came up with (based mainly on what else I had on hand): Pulse the following together in a food processor (these are all guess-timates of amount, since I usually eyeball everything): 1 large bunch of sad wilted cilantro (feel free to use fresh, perky cilantro), 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tbsp lime juice, 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 3 large cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup grated parmesan, salt & pepper to taste, and two large dashes of cayenne pepper. It came out really fresh and spicy, with a unique flavor that’s a nice change from basil or parsley pesto.

grilled shrimp with cilantro pesto

I grilled slices of French baguette and made bruschetta with the spicy cilantro pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and a sprinkle of parmesan. We made it an all-pesto dinner night and used it as a dipping sauce for grilled shrimp too! Oh if only there were a pesto dessert idea, I would be eating that now…