Recipe: Cilantro Pesto, My New Summer Fling

by Emily on August 12, 2011 · 5 comments

in Food,Recipes

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="374" caption="Cilantro pesto"]Cilantro pesto[/caption] The other day, I went to a macrobiotic place for dinner and it had a dish on the menu with quinoa and cilantro pesto. When I eat out, I try to order dishes that would be difficult or annoying to make at home, so I passed on it thinking, "Cilantro pesto, I'm about to make you my bitch." Let the bitch-making commence. I found this cilantro pesto recipe and tweaked it. Then I made a hearty quinoa salad with lightly sautéed shrimp, fresh summer corn and tomatoes, diced red onion and mixed it all up with a few dollops of my fresh pesto. A. MAZE. ING. Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Shrimp & Cilantro Pesto Pesto Ingredients
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sliced almonds (you can also use walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts but I suggest no matter what you use that you use them without the skins, which tend to add bitterness)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, to taste
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, roots and larger stems trimmed, washed and thoroughly dried (reserve a handful for garnish)
  • Squeeze of ½ lemon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano (I omitted)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions 1. If you're working with a blender, add the olive oil first and start by pureeing the almond, garlic and lemon juice first. Pulse and blend until the almonds are finely ground - somewhere between looking like sand but before it looks like almond butter. Then add the remaining ingredients and blend, adding a bit more oil if necessary 2. If you're working with a food processor, you can start with the lemon juice, almonds and garlic. Then add the cilantro and remaining ingredients and drizzle in the oil. 3. If you don't plan to use within a couple days (and why wouldn't you?!!), store in a small glass jar and top off with more olive oil before refridgerating. Mine lasts a week, but your results may vary based on how fresh your ingredients are. Yield: Approx. 4-5 oz. Quinoa Salad Ingredients
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 c. cooked quinoa, still hot or very warm from cooking
  • 2 ears of fresh corn (about 1 c)
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1 lb cooked shrimp
  • Remaining handful cilantro, chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh cilantro pesto
Directions: 1. Layer the salad in a large bowl. Start by adding the diced red onions. Then add the hot quinoa and stir. The heat will soften the red onion and help to release its sweetness. 2. Shuck the corn and slice the kernels off (careful when you do this, please). Add to quinoa. 3. Chop tomatoes and add to quinoa, along with any tomato juices. 4. Add the shrimp and mix salad well to combine. Add the pesto and then add salt and pepper (or more pesto) to taste. 5. Top off with just a little of remaining chopped cilantro. 6. EAT! Yield: 4 very hearty main servings or 6 generous sides


There are no photos of this glorious salad because I ate the leftovers so fast I forgot I was supposed to take pictures in the daylight. Sorry. There is a picture of my gorgeous, tasty, slippery cilantro pesto up there though. So, what are ya gonna do with the rest of the pesto? The options are endless (the original recipe link has some great suggestions). I scrambled eggs in olive oil, mixed in some pesto and topped with half an avocado. Heaven. It would be great mixed in with white beans OR black beans (racial equality!) and it would be killer in jasmine rice with a squeeze of lime and topped off with pork or shrimp. My only advice would be to stay away from using it on things that are already super flavorful on their own. I ate the leftover quinoa salad on a bed of raw spinach and the spinach totally overpowered the lovely pesto. Sigh. Cilantro pesto, you are my end of summer fling. Unlike basil, you'll stick with me all year long if I let you. You taste so good, I just might.


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  • Julie

    Love cilantro- gotta try this recipe! I love playing with different greens and herbs in pestos, like with my vegan arugula pesto:

    • emilyspearl

      Let me know how you like it, Julie! This pesto is vegan as well (as is the whole dish if you drop the shrimp)! Thanks for your comment and have a great weekend!

      – Emily

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  • Matt Sullivan

    Emily – 2 questions:
    1. What type of texture are you looking for from the nuts? Still some crunch, or completely smooth?
    2. Did you use ketchup on your eggs?

    • Emily

      Sully! I’m on my way back to NH as we speak – Dawn is getting married so we are going to celebrate with her sister.

      1. You want them just to the point of being gritty, like sand. They won’t add that much texture, but will add a little.
      2. I hate you.

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