Summertime is pesto time. With an overabundance of basil in my Earth Box, the boys and I head outside on hot afternoons to pluck shiny green leaves from their stems. We grind them up, adding nuts, cheese, garlic, and oil and slather the sauce on everything from linguini to sandwiches to turkey burgers. One of my favorite recipes is for a toasted pistachio pesto we make over and over and over again. I put it on pizza and tell Colin's pepperoni to take a hike.
But it's not summer yet, and I can't get myself to buy fresh basil in early spring. Maybe it's because I'm so aware of the volume we'll have once the plants mature, but I'd feel somehow disloyal, like I was cheating on my future yield. Like my homegrown basil would know I'd bought someone else's and go on Oprah to denounce my unfaithfulness.
So I seek out other herbs -- ones I don't grow well -- throughout the year. I buy sage in the fall, for nothing pairs better with squash or Thanksgiving fare than those soft, velvety leaves. Rosemary suits hearty winter meats with its assertive piny-ness, though I must admit I use it sparingly lest it shove more delicate flavors aside. (Rosemary, to me, is a mustachioed biker in a tea salon; it's hard to pay attention to anything else in the room.)
But cilantro. Cilantro is my year-round paramour, and I know I'm not alone. (Check out Charmian's Avocado Oil and Cilantro dip here.) Sure, cilantro tastes like soap to some of you, but to the rest of us it flatters and sparkles, lifting everything it touches just a little bit higher.
Recipe for Cilantro Lime Pesto
I recently received a beautiful book called The New American Olive Oil by Fran Gage (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2009). With 75 recipes from apps to desserts, it celebrates this healthy fat in all its glory. I'm determined to make one of the olive oil based cakes soon, so stay tuned.
The first recipe I tried was the cilantro pesto, a preparation so simple it doesn't even use nuts. I replaced the recipe's Persian lime olive oil with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lime zest and juice. Drizzle the sauce over shrimp, chicken, burritos or tacos, or combine it with yogurt as a dip for Indian samosas.
Here's my adaptation.
Makes about 1/2 cup
1 bunch cilantro, about 6" off the ends discarded (leaving you with 1 very firmly packed cup)
1/4 teaspoon fresh lime zest
1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Put half the cilantro leaves in a food processor with the lime zest, juice, and salt. Turn the machine on, and slowly stream in half the olive oil. Stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the machine back on and stream in the remaining oil. Transfer to a small bowl and add additional salt, if desired, and pepper, to taste. Use immediately, or cover with plastic and store in the fridge.
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