Cilantro Pesto
August 13, 2009

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Hey guys!

Forgive the lack of posts this week! I’ve been totally swamped, but I’ve loved watching you all respond to Sarma’s amazing interview! Keep the comments (and entries) coming, OK?

Recently, my friend Zestycook did a post on foods we hated as a child but love now. I don’t think I ever tasted cilantro as a child—in a Greek home, oregano and dill are the seasonings of choice—but I can tell you that my first experience with cilantro, well into my teens, was not love at first bite. And I was not alone in my dislike: some brief poking around online reveals that many people seem to share a virulent aversion to the stuff (there is even an “I Hate Cilantro” online community).

Fortunately, times have changed. Nowadays, we all know that guacamole is just about my favorite food ever, that I gobble down avocado-cilantro soup with gusto, and that I love to chop it and throw it into salads. I’ve come to appreciate it’s sour-sweet quality—so much so that I even love to throw a whole bunch into the juicer at once, or into a smoothie by the fistful.

Tonight, I had about half a bunch of cilantro at home, some zucchini and a bit of eggplant that needed to get eaten, and a handful of leftover pine nuts. After a few moments of pondering, my favorite new condiment was born: cilantro pesto.

This stuff is good. Really good. Sure, I love traditional pesto. But it’s powerful in a way that this pesto is not. This one has a mellow, lemony flavor, and while it lends a lot of taste to pasta, it’s light enough to be added to salads, to serve as a garnish, or to drizzle over roast summer vegetables without overwhelming their flavor (the way basil pesto might). And as always, it’s a super simple recipe.

Cilantro Pesto (serves two generously)

Ingredients:

½ bunch (about 1 cup tightly packed) cilantro
¼ cup pine nuts
½ tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup + 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until finely chopped. Next, drizzle the olive oil in. Blend till the pesto is well incorporated, and add a bit more lemon zest if you like (this is powerful, but I find that it really brightens and enhances the flavor!).

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I served this over a bed of spiralized zucchini and eggplant. The eggplant didn’t taste terrific, I’ll confess, which is why the zucchini was far more plentiful. (I like raw eggplant a lot, but only if I have ample time to marinate it in olive oil, lemon, and sea salt!) That said, I only had a tiny bit left, so it seemed like a shame not to use it. And the pesto definitely elevated it to a tasty place. This was served along a huge kale salad (not pictured; lazy blogger) and sliced heirloom tomatoes, which I spread with some of the pesto. In all, it was a delicious summery meal. You could definitely use this pesto as a sandwich spread, a regular pasta sauce, a light dip, or an addition to cold soups!

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Naturally, this was also a very simple meal. And y’all know that I pride myself on the simplicity of my recipes. I think this is why it has always seemed so odd to think of myself as a “chef”; the very word implies more artistry and effort than I tend to muster.

Still, there is nothing I love more than to concoct versatile recipes for my clients. Today, my incredible friend Katie—who is not only a friend, but also a confidante and a revered collaborator—sent me a special surprise. Katie is lucky enough to be married to a talented (and foxy) chef in the Windy City. And it was her wisdom to suspect that I would love some chef-ly gear for my own kitchen. So behold, my first ever chef’s coat!

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Soon, dear readers, I promise you all candid photos of me in the chef’s coat. For now, you’ll have to admire my new threads from afar.

Katie, you reminded me that the best days involve two of my favorite things: the joys of the kitchen, and the joys of friendship. Thanks.

So I’m in the midst of packing up some clothes, some snacks, some green juice, and my laptop. Why? Because I’m en route to the Healthy Living Summit in Boston! I’m very curious—and excited—to see what the weekend holds, and to represent the raw lifestyle on behalf of all you guys! I plan to blog from Boston, where I’ll be crashing with the lovely Ms. Katherine. But if things get crazy and I don’t have a chance to post tomorrow, expect a recap on Sunday when I return.

In the meantime, thank you all for bearing with me over the course of my busy weeks. And, as always, for reading.

xo

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    32 Comments
  1. Gena!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Your chef’s coat is SO cute!! What a great present!!!

    I love the simplicity of your recipes as well!! I’ve never been one to add many seasonings or sauces to my food. Fresh and plain!

    My brother used to loathe cilantro. Not sure about now. I love it in guac!!

    HAPPY SUNDAY! 🙂

  2. I love the chef’s coat! What a great friend.. 🙂 I just made your other pesto the other night, which was delicious! I’m definitely up for trying this one. My husband kept telling me it wasn’t pesto without pine nuts – now I can show him that it is! Is it possible to use the Vita-mix to make the pesto or is it better in the food processor?

    I am also curious to know what kind of spiralizer you use?

  3. how cute is that chef coat!!

    i used to feel iffy about cilantro, but my mom grew it in our garden, so during the summer it made its way into nearly every salsa she made…now im a fan, but a little sure goes a long way. avo/mango/red onion/cilantro is the best combo ever. mmmm…

    have fun in boston, you know im going to want ALL the deets once you get back to nyc.

  4. Mm… I’ve definitely come to see the light of cilantro and it is now a permanent fixture on my Farmer’s Market list!

  5. I used to HATE cilantro as a kid…actually, I hated it up until about a month ago, no joke. Now I’m kind of obsessed. Cute coat – enjoy the summit!

  6. i’m the same way with cilantro! I didn’t like it at first, and now I want at least a fistful on anything I’m having it with 🙂 this pesto looks great!

    and the chef’s coat is so cute!

    have so much fun at the summit! I’m hoping there’s one next year so I can go.

  7. I have a love/hate relationship with cilantro, I can take it in certain foods, and not in large doses! 🙂
    Cute chef coat! How awesome of your friend to send you that!

    Have fun at the summit!

  8. i LOVE the chef coat! so cute 😀 i’ll definitely be trying that cilantro pesto.
    have fun this weekend!

  9. this looks better than my cilantro pesto haha. i’ll have to try it!

    can’t wait to see you again at the summit tonight!

  10. Pesto is my absolute favorite–on pasta, as a pizza sauce, etc.–and I have a huge bunch of cilantro in my garden. Perfect timing with this recipe!

  11. I love the personalized chef jacket! Very professional.

    Your recipe for cilantro pesto sounds delicious – I also like to mix up pesto ingredients (walnuts instead of pine nuts, parsley instead of basil)… and I’ve come around to making it without the addition of parmesan cheese.

    Looking forward to meeting you this weekend :).

  12. Hi!
    Thank’s for a great blog! The cilantro pesto sounds yummy, definetely gonna try it out! I was just wondering what kind of spiralizer you use? Mine makes the spaghetti/noodles too thin so they get mushy, but yours look great!
    Thanks!
    Jaya from Sweden

    • Hi Jaya,

      I’ve now updated my pages to include a “Kitchen Tools” page. Check it out for more info on the spiralizer I use!

      Gena

  13. Your pesto looks really tasty, Gena! I tried earlier in the summer when my CSA gave me a ridiculous amount of cilantro to make a pesto one week, but overdid the cilantro and underdid the pine nuts and it ummm, wasn’t exactly the best. Will try your recipe next time I have lots on hand. Thanks for your eggplant confession, that’s not one of my faves either, and no matter how I try, I end up not loving it. Nice Chef’s Whites, wear em loud and proud!
    Averie

  14. Did you know that some people are genetically predispositioned to perceive cilantro as having a soapy flavor? Weird and quite tragic, in my opinion.
    Anyway, love your new threads, and I will see you tomorrow!

  15. hmmm, i don’t think i care either way for cilantro. i don’t hate it, but i don’t necessarily enjoy it. maybe i should give your pesto a try (once i get around to trying your raw marinara that’s been so raved about!)

    your chef’s coat is so cute, and i hope you have fun in boston! i’m looking forward to hearing about it!

  16. Chef Gena inDEED! Now you’ve got my wheels turning, thinking about what other wacky herbs might belong in a pesto. (Not THAT kind of herb, get your mind out of the gutter.)

    Added to the to-make list! ::flourishes pen::

  17. Aww cute chef’s coat! One year for Halloween I dressed up as the chef from the Little Mermaid (had to be a Disney character for a theme party), solely because I REALLY wanted an excuse to be a chef’s coat 😉

    Why is it that your cilantro pesto looks so much more appetizing than my red pepper pesto I made tongiht haha. Mine tasted good but looks awful! I think you need to teach me the art of food arranging……

  18. Oh no… you already know how I feel about cilantro 😉

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the new chef coat!! So sweet of Katie.

    Good luck with the busyness; have fun at the summit; and take care of yourself!! 🙂