Wednesday, April 20, 2011

cilantro lime pesto

pan-seared tilapia with cilantro-lime pesto

I’ve been on an Italian kick recently.  My computer background is a picture of the Cinque Terre, and I've been eating eggplant lasagna like it's the only food on Earth.  I think I am just getting excited for my upcoming trip!  Bollie, Jamie and I are peacing out in 34 days, but who's counting?  To continue my Italian binge, last night I went to Faccia Luna in Arlington for dinner.  Per the waiter's suggestion, I opted for the agnolotti con mozzarella - a sundried tomato ravioli filled with fresh mozzarella and smothered in a basil cream sauce.  It was very heavy, but not a huge portion, so it was great.  I'll spare you the details since I gave you a pizza post and a lasagna post back-to-back, and we'll switch gears!

Forget tuna - tilapia is the real chicken of the sea.  It's a mild, flaky white fish, not super "fishy" and versatile enough to be paired with a wide range of flavors.  Also like chicken, it's a nice canvas for any seasoning, accompaniment, or occasion.  If you don't like chicken, think of tilapia as the little black dress of fishies - it can be dressed up or dressed down, you can take it anywhere, and, when done right, it works for anyone.

I like tilapia for an occasional weeknight meal because it takes just a few minutes to grill it on my George Foreman, or just twenty minutes in the oven, sealed in a foil pouch with veggies.  A few weeks ago, I made a cilantro lime pesto that I thought would go great with a cumin-spiced tilapia filet.  The inspiration for this pesto was completely utilitarian.  I hate wasting leftovers, but I especially dislike tossing herbs.  I had a large bunch of fresh cilantro that I used to make black bean and corn enchiladas and tilapia with mango salsa.  Cilantro is one of those herbs that I don't use on a regular basis, so I wanted to find something that would use it all up and would keep well.

I had heard about people making pesto out of various greens and nuts, but I'm skeptical of anything that replaces basil and pinenuts.  Whitney and I actually made a pesto with spinach and almonds once and hated it.  (We used a recipe from Rachel Ray, which she made look amazing on Food Network but was the most flavorless clump of green oil I've ever had in my life.  You've been warned.)  However, I thought I would give it a try using cilantro since the herb's robust flavor would give so much depth and definition to any dish.  But, people have very strong feelings about this "Chinese parsley", kind of like brussels sprouts and beets!  (Side note: Does anyone know why it's called "Chinese" parsley?  I have never seen cilantro in Chinese food; it's more synonymous with Mexicali cooking to me.)

I adapted this recipe from Real Simple, swapping out the lemon juice for lime juice (because nothing goes with cilantro better than lime), added almonds (because can it really be a pesto without nuts?), and omitted the sesame oil (because that seems pretty fru-fru, and I didn't happen to have any).  I froze the pesto because I didn't have any immediate use for it, and it froze well.   It was a real hit with some grilled tilapia (marinated in cumin, olive oil, and lime juice.)  The pesto would also be great with shrimp and linguine, or, as Whitney suggested, as a sauce for fish tacos.

Cilantro Lime Pesto, adapted from Real Simple
Serves 2-4

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped, or 2-3 teaspoons minced garlic
2 cups fresh cilantro, lightly packed
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
salt & pepper, to taste

1.  Toss garlic, cilantro, lime juice, and slivered almonds in a food processor and pulse to combine. 
2.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil until mixture has reached desired consistency.
3.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

I'd like to wish a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my lovely friend Sarah!
Thank you for always making me want to be a better friend.
24 will be a fabulous year, I'm sure of it.

P.S.  Thank you to Whitney for catching a pretty silly mistake within 10 minutes of posting this entry.  I didn't sleep much last night and went to Hot Yoga this morning so I'm tired and a little over-zen'd (i.e. not as anal about my entries).

Have you all ever made a pesto sauce from something other than basil and pinenuts?  Leave your experiences or ideas in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. pesto was never intedned to taste like cilantro. or lime. or lemon for that matter. if you want to make it that way, i would call it something else. its midleading and sounds gross. (sorry) (actually SINS)