Cilantro – you either love it or you hate it. It tastes like soap or it tastes like Sunday nights at your cousins’ house with your aunt’s homemade salsa and salt-rimmed margaritas for the adults.
I am one who happens to love cilantro. I also love pesto – herby, salty, with a creaminess you can feel less guilty about and a slight crunch here and there from whatever nuts you’ve thrown it. The great thing about pesto is its versatility. Pesto does not require an exact formula and ingredients can be interchanged to suit your tastes. In addition, it does not need cooking, making it a fast and fresh sauce perfect for the warmer months. While this month is not yet exactly warm, the days are getting longer (yay sunlight!), which gives the promise of an eventual spring and then summer.
I had some leftover cilantro in my fridge from an earlier recipe and seeing as I wanted to use it up, I decided I could do a cilantro pesto. Using this recipe for inspiration, I eliminated the garlic and lime juice (for GERD’s sake) and substituted feta cheese for the cotija.
The result was flavorful and spunky, the south-of-the-border cousin of the more popular basil pesto. Even better, I hardly noticed the lack of garlic and lime juice in terms of flavor. I drizzled it over some shrimp and quinoa (I love shrimp!) for a delicious lunch one day and served it with my chicken and cheese quesadilla the next day. AND this pesto got Sam’s approval.
adapted from Simply Scratch
quantities estimated since, you know, I never measure anything (thanks Mom – you taught me well)
1 bunch of cilantro
1/4 cup nuts of your choice, toasted or untoasted (I used sliced almonds)
1/4-1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
salt to taste
1/4 tsp. ground cumin (optional)
olive oil or canola oil (added to your preferred consistency)
Gently rinse the cilantro to remove all sand or dirt. Shake dry and roughly chop just so it blends more easily. Pulse nuts and cilantro in a food processor until well mixed and no more cilantro stems appear. Add feta and cumin and blend. Drizzle in a bit of oil (a few tablespoons to start) and blend. Add more oil if desired (or to cut down fat, add warm water to thin out to your desired thickness). Taste for saltiness and add salt if necessary (remember the cheese will add a fair amount of salt). Serve over your favorite dish.
Recommendations: Serve with fish, veggie burger, quesadillas, shrimp, or on toasted sliced bread.