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Product Talk: Cilantro, Pesto-Style


People seem to have a love-hate relationship with cilantro, with very few people I know having the opinion of “take it or leave it” when it comes to how they feel about its distinct taste.

I definitely fall in the category of those who adore the flavor of the vibrant green herb also known as coriander or Chinese parsley. But until recently, I only thought of adding fresh cilantro to my Tex-Mex or Asian recipes, brightening my salsas, salads and stir-fry dishes.

Cilantro is much more versatile than I realized until recently when a good friend introduced me to the delicious taste of cilantro pesto. She had replaced the traditional basil in pesto with an abundance of cilantro from her garden and served  it drizzled over grilled salmon. The flavor combination was amazing, and it opened my eyes and palate to many possibilities of cooking with cilantro that I had been overlooking.

Fresh cilantro doesn’t last long at all, but this recipe for Cilantro Pesto stores well in your refrigerator. If the olive oil in the pesto hardens, just return to room temperature or heat and stir before using. Pecans also taste great instead of walnuts…and I’ve now experimented with adding a handful of shelled pumpkin seeds or “pepitas” when I happen to have some in the pantry. Enjoy!

Cilantro Pesto

Ingredients:
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and dried well
5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
Sea salt to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
In an electric food processor or blender, blend cilantro, garlic, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, walnuts and salt. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil and blend into the pesto. Add more olive oil until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Store in refrigerator up to two weeks.

Serving Ideas:
Serve over cream cheese with crackers for an instant appetizer.

Toss with hot, cooked bowtie pasta.

Drizzle over grilled salmon or shrimp.

Serve as a dipping sauce with grilled chicken tenders.

Spread over pizza crust instead of traditional tomato sauce.

Spread thin layer inside corn tortillas when making cheese enchiladas.

Spoon a little into tomato or tortilla soup.


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