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…

when it’s too hot to cook: shrimp ceviche

When it’s 98 degrees out and I have no air conditioning in my apartment, office, or car, the last thing I want is hot food. So I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to make ceviche, which I’ve been wanting to experiment with for a while. I decided to go with a shrimp variety, just because I didn’t feel like journeying all the way to the really nice fish market to get something extra fresh, like red snapper, sea bass, or scallops, which wouldn’t be cooked first. The issue with ceviche is that the the fruit juice “cooks” the fish with acid, but doesn’t kill bacteria, so the fish has to be sushi-quality fresh. With shrimp though, you can flash boil it and then toss it in ice water before marinating it in juices.

For my ceviche, I started with a pound of shelled deveined medium shrimp. I removed the tails and

Refreshing shrimp ceviche with avocado, cucumber, jalapeno, and red onion

boiled them in a large pot with two tablespoons of salt for just about one minute until they turned pink, and then quickly put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. I then chopped them into smaller pieces an marinated them in the refrigerator (using a glass bowl, not metal) in the juice of six limes and two lemons for half an hour. Then I added a cup of finely chopped red onion and two minced jalapeno peppers (serrano would be even better, but I couldn’t find one that day) and marinated for an additional half hour. Right before serving, I tossed in a cup of fresh chopped cilantro, a diced cucumber, and chunks of avocado.

While delicious, it needed a bit of a sweet kick. Next time I will definitely add a bit of orange juice to the marinade, and maybe some diced mango! Also, this was enough for two main course servings and two full days of leftovers, so if you’re just going for appetizer sizes, cut the recipe in half unless it’s a big crowd.