Meatless Monday: Cilantro Pesto
Today’s piece is inspired by a turkey sandwich I had last week at Bread & Ocean Bakery located in the beachside village of Manzanita, Ore. Before you get your girdle in an uproar over my mention of turkey on Meatless Monday, hear me out: The secret to this magical sandwich, other than the house-made bread, is the cilantro pesto!
As many of you already know, June is garlic scape month, and I’m typically found scouring the farm markets for every last scape to squirrel away for freezer pesto.
But like those scapes, cilantro is a spring/early summer crop that arrives way before basil; in fact, cilantro wilts under intense heat, so the time is NOW for a cilantro pesto party. After swooning over my sandwich, I meditated on what I’d need to recreate this thing of tongue-dancing magnificence.
As I got to work, I discovered that unlike other kinds of pesto, cilantro plays nicely with others and is open to improv and collaboration. If you’d like your pesto to be dairy free, for example, no worries; this pesto still shines. If you’d like a peppery kick, add some arugula; for some woodsy heat, a little smoked paprika is dynamite, something I wouldn’t dare add to basil or garlic scape pesto. The following recipe is a template, which I encourage you to tweak and then report back with your edits.
Serving suggestions: Instead of pesto pasta, I’m thinking rice. Think how gorgeous those green flecks will look among the grains! Corn tortillas and black beans, hell yes. Here’s the new ketchup for those scrambled eggs. As for sandwiches, I’m thinking grilled cheese and roasted red pepper, avocado and pesto on toasted whole wheat – and yes, when you do crave a turkey sandwich, try this pesto in place of the mayo.
This Just In: The Independent has reported that Paul McCartney and his daughters, Stella and Mary, are hosting a star-studded kick-off event today in London for a new campaign called Meat Free Monday. When I get more details (including a working url for its Web site), I'll let you know.
KOD's Cilantro Pesto – A Template Meant to Be Tweaked
1/3 cup walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts
1-2 cloves garlic, to taste (More than 2 gets a bit intense)
1 large bunch cilantro, roots and larger stems trimmed, washed and thoroughly dried
Squeeze of ½ lime
¼-1/2 cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano (You can omit cheese if it’s not your thing)
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional add-ons: 2 cups arugula leaves; ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Place nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add cilantro and lime, and pulverize. If using arugula, add now, and process until you’ve got a coarse-looking puree. Add oil, going gradually; stop machine and taste for herb/oil ratio. Add more if it feels “dry.”
Scrape down sides of bowl as needed, and transfer pesto to a small mixing bowl. Fold in cheese, if using, and season with salt, pepper and smoked paprika, if using.
Makes about 1 cup, maybe more.
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