There are two types of people in this world: the type who read and follow instructions, and the type who don’t, who just kind of wing it. I’m prone to the latter—or, as my mother likes to call it, to “half-assin’ it.” In my defense, though, said half-assin’ is often done out of necessity.
I once had a recipe for the most insane basil pesto, but I lost my recipe in a mountain of papers I’ve been swearing to file for the past seven years. What the heck, I figured, I kind of remember how to make the pesto. So I chucked in a little bit of this and a smidge of that. And mostly the resulting pesto tasted like it was supposed to.
Then one day, I had no basil, though I did have a fresh bunch of cilantro.
And a few times I was out of pine nuts, but there were some raw walnuts handy.
Sometimes I added cheese—goat cheddar, if I had it—and sometimes I didn’t.
Then I went and got all heavy-handed with the olive oil.
The result could have been a disaster. Perhaps even should have been.
But, as it turned out, it was my most beautiful and versatile cooking misadventure ever.
So here it is, my recipe* for Half-assed Cilantro Pesto:
- A bunch of fresh cilantro
- A handful of garlic cloves (2-3, if you like safe; 4-5, if you love you some garlic)
- A handful of raw walnuts (4-5, or so)
- A generous dousing of extra virgin olive oil (I err on the side of too much)
- 4-5 cubes of goat cheddar (optional—leave out if you want vegan)
- Sea salt to taste
Blend the ingredients together.
* I was once asked: “What the hell kind of recipe is this? It’s a list of ingredients!” Even if chaos cooking makes you supremely uncomfortable, I suggest you just go with it. At least once.
I get the best results with a baby food blender, a small bullet-looking implement that blends and purees the ingredients evenly into a smooth, creamy paste, with no chunks. My experience with food processors is that the pesto tends to have more of a tabouli texture, which I don’t like in my pesto, though I admit that may be due to the fact that I don’t know squat about food preparation devices. A large blender is too clunky and you have to add too much liquid to make the pesto creamy. My cooking whiz Dutch uncle thinks a handheld stick blender may work nicely. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you do, let me know if it works.
I use the cilantro pesto in the traditional way—on al dente pasta (though we’ve completely switched over to brown rice pasta)—but also on pizza, to which I add grilled shrimp or chicken, and a side of cherry tomatoes roasted in olive oil with just salt and pepper. I also make cilantro pesto quesadillas. And use the pesto as a spread for fish, chicken or veggie sandwiches.
And, if you are the kind of person who keeps track of such things, you’d want to know that cilantro, garlic, walnuts and olive oil form a virtual dream team of immune-boosting, heavy-metal detoxing, anti-viral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory cancer-fighters. Just saying.
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