They say necessity is the mother of invention and, when it comes to cooking, I couldn’t agree more. I have a love affair with pesto, but until today’s cilantro cashew pesto, I had never tried using cilantro as the base. So how did this combination come into my repertoire? By refusing to go to the grocery store!
My plan for dinner was to grill up a flank steak I had marinated in chimichurri sauce. Since my chimichurri used cilantro and parsley, those are the herbs I had loads of in my refrigerator. Add to that some leftover raw cashews I had been snacking on, and dinner inspiration was complete.
2 handfuls of cilantro (both leaves and stems), around 1 and a half cups packed
1 small handful of parsley, about a half cup, packed
1/2 cup raw cashews, toasted*
1 large clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (my garlic was small so I used 3 cloves)
1 oz (30 grams) parmigiano reggiano cheese (grated or roughly chopped)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons water
salt/pepper to taste
This follows the traditional pesto procedure of dropping everything into your food processor or blender and blending until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you are using a blender, you probably should add all the liquids in the beginning with the herbs and the nuts, it’ll make blending easier. If you are using a food processor, you can slowly drizzle in the olive oil and water after the other ingredients start pulsing to get the consistency you want. I used the food processor and only drizzled in the water, since I knew I wanted a thinner sauce.
*You can toast your cashews in the oven, but I find on the stovetop in a dry pan over medium heat is fast and easy. Once you smell them, they are done!
Thinking about it, I’m not sure why I never before considered cilantro as a pesto base. It makes for a really light and delicate variation that I’m now hooked on. Tonight I’ll be using it over a combo of spaghetti and zucchini noodles, but I can’t wait to drizzle it over fish tacos, as a sauce base for flatbreads, and even as a dip for crudité.