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Jack's World Famous Cilantro Pesto Recipe
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I love cilantro pesto and many people don’t realize just how great and versatile it is around the kitchen. So let’s get cracking and start some up. It’s easy to make and freezes well so you can always have a bunch around when you need it.
The important key to making it is to know that pesto is almost infinitely adaptable to what you want and like. There is no “one way” to make it, and this hub is more of an “advice” than a cilantro pesto recipe. Because I like to make and freeze a batch at once the ingredients amounts are quite large. If you want to make it for just a quick, one-night try-out then just cut back to what seems reasonable to you.
You’re going to need about eight cups of packed cilantro leaves and stems. The thin stems will crush well and disappear, but if the stem seems too thick and woody leave it out. Put the cilantro pieces into a large, sturdy mixing bowl, add about three teaspoons of salt, and crush them with a wooden spoon, the bottom of a ceramic cup, or other hard object. You want to bruise the leaves and stems to force the flavor and oils out. It takes about 15 minutes of consistent working to get a good, paste like texture and reduce it to about four cups. I normally do this while watching a baseball game on TV to occupy the mind.
Set the cilantro paste into a colander and let the liquid drain from it for about 30 minutes. Squeeze it together and drain out even more liquid. The more dry it becomes the more concentrated the flavor is at the end. You are also draining out much of the salt so adjust accordingly to your taste.
Add anywhere from one to a dozen rough chopped garlic cloves, a half-cup of grated fresh Parmesan or other hard cheese, and a half-cup of whatever nuts you think you would enjoy in it. I’ve used peanuts, almonds, and cashews at various times and they all work well. Walnuts can get a little bitter. Add a teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper, and if you like, a little bit of something hot such as jalapeno or Serrano pepper.
Put the mixture into a food processor and start in processing smooth. As the mixture goes around the bowl add a steady stream of about a half cup good quality olive oil. Continue to process until the mixture forms a smooth paste.
I like freezing the mixture in ice cube trays with a cellophane covering. If I don’t have time to arrange that I just layer it flat into plastic freezer bags and leave it there. Place the cilantro pesto into the freezer and let it harden for several days. I take the cubes out and place them in freezer bags for convenient use.
As a note about pesto, you don’t want to overcook it. A few minutes under the heat is more than enough to bring out the flavor of the herb. Add during the last ten minutes to soups and stews.
Quick Pesto Recipes
Melt some butter in a sauté pan and add thin strips cut from either a chicken breast, or a pork loin. When they are cooked about half way, add two thawed out cilantro pesto ice cubes and sauté until the meat is cooked through.
Sauté several pesto ice cubes with a couple tablespoons of butter for five minutes. Mix a handful of cut-in-half cherry tomatoes and a half cup of diced cucumber in with a fresh plate of cooked pasta, and add the cilantro pesto on the top, along with some fresh grated cheese.
Liberally coat both sides of a fish fillet with the pesto. Fry one side until it’s cooked through and then the other.