Friday, June 18, 2010

Cilantro Pepita Pesto

This is another versatile sauce that has me drooling all over myself when attempting to describe its awesomeness. Fear not, cilantro haters. The nuttiness of the pepitas washes away cilantro's soapiness and turns it into the essence of fresh-cut grass and sunshine.

That's only the way I describe it right now, though, because it's summertime. In the fall, this pesto morphs into the essence of crisp air and comforting nights by the fire. Likewise in the winter and spring, this pesto recalls the best of what the season has to offer. It's a chameleon in its taste profile and it gets along with all manner of foodstuffs.

I particularly love this pesto with crackers, but that's because I love everything with crackers. This pesto is perfect with roasted vegetables such as butternut squash and cauliflower, and you could of course pair it with pasta, either as a sauce or filling. Like Romesco, you can use it to accompany fish, chicken, and pork, as well. Also like Romesco and the sandard basil pesto, you can freeze this stuff in tiny little portions, take it out when you crave it, and have it defrosted almost instantly.

This recipe doesn't make an especially big batch, though, so there's a good chance you'll eat it all before it sees the frosty depths of the freezer.

And there's one more thing I love about this sauce--it's insanely cheap to make. I mean, even pesto is cheap when you break down its use-to-cost ratio, especially if you grow your own basil, but this stuff is even nicer on the wallet. Why? Because cilantro is inexpensive and a good portion of the stems can be used, pepitas are cheaper than pine nuts, only a little bit of olive oil is needed, and no expensive Parmesan is required. I'll still always love basil pesto, but this pesto also holds a special place in my heart.

Cilantro Pepita Pesto
(Adapted from Epicurious)

  • 1/2 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1/2 cup packed cilantro sprigs
  • 1 samll garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

If your pepitas are not already toasted, toast the seeds in 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until seeds are puffed and beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate and cool. 

Pulse cooled seeds in a food processor until relatively smooth. Add cilantro, lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, and olive oil and puree mixture to a coarse paste.

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