Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

I haven't always been a huge pesto fan, I think because the pre-prepared versions can sometimes be not-so-great, and because making it at home always seemed to involve lots and lots of expensive fresh basil and pine nuts.  As it turns out, you can make pesto from pretty much any fresh, leafy herb and any type of nuts you have around.  If the combination sounds good, it will probably taste pretty good!  And, you can make a smaller batch that will fit in a mini chopper (easy cleanup!).  Here, I team up fresh cilantro, walnuts, and Manchego cheese to excellent effect.  The flavors go together really well -- I love the "green" flavor of the cilantro with the slight bitterness of the walnuts.  And, Manchego cheese is pretty much amazing no matter what it goes in!  What made this pesto even better was that it helped me finish up two things that had been languishing in my fridge (cilantro that I had bought to garnish Indian food but then totally spaced on, and the end of a wedge of Manchego).  We used some on pesto salmon and the rest to spruce up pasta.

Cilantro-Walnut Pesto

1/2 cup walnuts
1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup grated Manchego cheese
1 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro (aim for mostly leaves, but some stems are okay)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T neutral oil (like vegetable or canola oil)
1-1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

1. Place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor or mini chopper, and process until they just start to break down.  Add the cheese and pulse another few times.  You want the nuts and garlic to be finely chopped but not turning into 'walnut butter,' so keep a close eye on things.
2. Add the cilantro and pulse a few times.  Then add the oils, red wine vinegar, and salt, and pulse until the pesto is as chunky/smooth as you like it.  Taste and add more of anything to make things taste perfect!

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