A great dip or spread: Spicy Cilantro Pesto

Spicy Cilantro Pesto

I’m a huge fan of pesto, so it seemed like the perfect thing to do with my last bit of cilantro.   I had a little less than a bunch left after several rounds of ceviche, the shrimp & fish tacos, and various other uses…  so what better to do with it!  This version is has a bit of a kick from the red pepper… I’ve already used it on fancied up quesadillas, and I think it’s going to be fabulous on sandwiches.  Plus it’s perfect and striking as a healthy appetizer spread, served with slices of red bell pepper for dipping!

Never having made cilantro pesto, I started with this recipe from Simply Recipes, then modified it.

The following is SO typical of my cooking process when following a recipe…

I followed the recipe somewhat to start with, based on what I had on hand, then after taste testing, and forcing taste testing on picky (and sick) husband, decided on a few more changes.  First off, I’d been snipping off bits of the cilantro bunch for other applications, so I was short of the full 2 cups.  Then the recipe called for blanched almonds, and I had neither raw nor blanched on hand.  I had roasted almonds though, and I like the substitution here.  I was concerned my onion was too strong, so I went light on that.  I had a dried hot pepper from last summer’s garden that was looking for a home, so I seeded it and added it in.

After preparing this, I taste, and give a taste to picky husband.  His comment: “It doesn’t taste like pesto, it tastes like ground up cilantro… but then, I’m sick and can’t taste”.  From this I gathered he was missing Parmesan cheese and possibly garlic.  So back to the food processor I went with approx 1/4 c parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teas garlic… a dash of black pepper and a sprinkle of lemon juice to brighten it up.  And another 1/4 cup olive oil slowly added to incorporate the new ingredients.

Here’s my final recipe… the result was a fresh and spicy spreadable pesto!  Remember, dishes like this are never an exact science, so taste along the way.

  • ~1.5 cups cilantro, large stems removed
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • <1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 dried red pepper (or 1/4-1/2 teas red pepper flakes) – Another option that would be lovely would be jalapeno.
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4+ c parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teas garlic
  • dash black pepper
  • dash lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/2  cup olive oil

In your food processor, combine all ingredients up to the garlic.  Process, until finely chopped.  Drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil, slowly while processing.  Add the next set of ingredients, one at a time, tasting as you go.  Drizzle in additional olive oil until you reach a smooth consistency.


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