Author: Sweet Green Kitchen’s Jen Jones
I figured out a few years ago that I could get a lot more green veges (equal lots more vitamins and minerals) into my daughter (and the rest of the family for that matter), if I blended them into a pesto to top pasta or spread on a sandwich, stir into a soup, etc., and that’s when I started experimenting beyond the typical basil pesto. Pesto adds so much flavor to any number of dishes and can be made from so many different vegetables and herbs to accompany all styles of cuisines.
Cilantro, oftentimes regarded as just a garnish, contains numerous antioxidants and is also known to be a good digestive aid as well as helping to detoxify the body, so it benefits not just your taste buds, but also your health to get a bit more of this lovely herb into your diet. But, most people are not going to sit down to a big plate of fresh herbs, but when blended into a pesto you have whole other story. Cilantro pesto adds a punch of extra flavor to all kinds of Mexican inspired recipes. I always make this pesto when I’m serving Tostados (corn tortillas topped with beans, usually refried, plus chopped peppers and scallions and some grated Jack cheese, all warmed in the oven) or Huevos Rancheros (basically a tostado topped with an egg). It’s also delicious served aside Rice & Beans or with Shrimp Tacos and numerous other dishes.
1 large bunch Cilantro – about 2 cups
Small handful of Parsley – about ½ cup – optional
1-2 Garlic Cloves (see note below)
3 Tablespoons Green Pumpkin Seeds/Pepitas
Zest of 1 Lemon
1-2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Roughly chop the garlic and pulse in a food processor. Roughly chop the Cilantro and Parsley, if using and add to the food processor, pulse. Next add in the Pumpkin seeds, pulse again. Lastly add in the Lemon Zest and Juice, Olive Oil and Salt & Pepper. Pulse again until fully pureed. The consistency should be that of a thick paste.
Taste and add additional lemon juice, salt and pepper if needed. IF you like your pesto a bit thinner, add a little more olive oil.
A Note about Garlic – If the flavor of raw garlic is too intense for you, instead of adding it raw, place 2 peeled whole garlic cloves with 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil in a small pot over low heat. Gently cook the Garlic and Oil over low heat for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully to insure that the garlic does not brown at all. You are creating a garlic infused oil, which will give you all the flavor of garlic without any of the harshness of raw garlic, a nice mellow garlic taste. Allow the garlic and oil to cool and then add both to the food processor along with the Cilantro and other ingredients.
Makes about 1 cup.
Serve with Tostadas, Quesadillas, Huevos Rancheros, Pinto or Black Beans & Rice. Also good in shrimp or fish tacos, a Hummus wrap, sandwich spread or stirred into a vinaigrette for salad. Enjoy!