I adore fresh cilantro, but couldn’t grow enough to satisfy my needs, so I often buy bunches. As a result, I often have partial bunches of cilantro in my refrigerator, which will slowly turn into a disgusting, dark brown, primordial ooze if I don’t do something with it. I’m getting better at catching it early these days and one of my favorite things is to make a bit of cilantro pesto, which can be frozen for later use. You do need at least a small food processor for this. I use a rocket blender that my friend Mary Beth gave me. I also love my rocket blender for vinaigrettes, sauces and marinades.
The quantity of ingredients will vary depending on how much cilantro you have on hand, but assuming I have a half of bunch left (again, an imprecise measurement):
- Cilantro, half a bunch, washed and picked over, tough center stems removed (just leaves and tender stems)
- Garlic, one clove, cut into small pieces to make it easier to process
- 2 T Pine nuts (although I often substitute walnuts or almonds if I have them on hand and need to use them up)
- 2 T shredded or grated Parmesan cheese (again, you can substitute another hard, nutty cheese if you have something to use up)
- Olive oil
- salt and pepper
Put the nuts and garlic and a pinch of salt in the food processor fitted with the knife blade and process until chopped. Add the cheese and cilantro, and process until well ground, drizzling a bit of oil into the mixture as you go. In the rocket blender, I add a bit of oil to start, then stop and add a bit more and so on. Continue processing until all of the cilantro is well chopped. I find this makes a somewhat creamier textured pesto than that made with basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I recommend putting a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto so that it won’t turn brown, and then covering it to refrigerate or freeze. It should keep a few months in the freezer, a couple of days in the refrigerator.
Now what to do with it? I love to slather it on fish before baking or grilling. Anywhere you might normally use garlic and cilantro will be just fine for this. With roast pork? Tossed with pasta? I recently had a party where we served a variety of fillings for tacos and flatbreads: grilled flank steak, black beans, mole, grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, assorted salsas and so on. The cilantro pesto was a hit, and best of all, I took it out of my freezer for this occasion, along with the mole, which I will publish soon. So easy!