I have, over the years, attempted to grow cilantro several times. Each time the plants bolted before I got much use out of them. This year I planted a bunch of seed in October, when the scorching Sacramento summer weather cooled down, and the plants have been thriving for months. As the cilantro gets more mature, the stems thicken and the leaves get much bigger, signaling “pre-bolt” and a good time to make cilantro pesto. Unlike basil pesto, this pesto requires no Parmesan or garlic. The complementary flavors are red onion and serrano chile instead. Also, almonds are used instead of pine nuts. Almonds seem to enhance the flavor of the cilantro, rather than compete with it. Use with pasta, as a filling, or with chicken in tacos. Some of this batch got mixed in with some cottage cheese for a delicious tortilla chip dip.
You can add more serrano chiles if you like things hot. A full teaspoon will give you a nice, warm pesto.
- 2 cups, packed, of cilantro, large stems removed
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds
- 1/4 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped and seeded serrano chile
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
In a food processor, pulse the cilantro, almonds, onion, chile, and salt until well blended. With the food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream.
Add more oil as needed for your use.
Makes about 1 cup.
Whatever you don't use, you can freeze. Line a ice cube tray with plastic wrap and fill in the individual cube spaces with the pesto. Freeze and remove from the ice tray, put in a sealed freezer bag for future use.