Thursday, March 18, 2010
I now love cilantro, but really doesn't keep well and I got a _lot_ of it at an outdoor stall in Boston's "Haymarket," a place known for cheap produce with a very short (2nd?) shelf life. I used some cilantro for salsa and meant to put on some tacos but forgot, and the rest -- the vast majority-- sat unused and unloved, taking up valuable real estate in the refrigerator.
homemade buns, of course] that also happened to leave excess ground meat.
JG: "I wonder what cilantro pesto would taste like."
WGT: "We should find out."
WGT: "Ooh! You know what I think we should make for our leftover meat?"
JG: "Cilantro pesto?"
WGT: "Pipián! -- but pesto would be good too..."
Then we nodded at one another for an inappropriate length of time before finishing the burgers.
I should explain that pipián is a pumpkin seed [pepita] sauce loosely related --and sometimes identical-- to mole verde and can be made a million different ways. There's usually garlic/ cilantro/jalepeno/chicken stock and some combination of onion/almond/tomatillo/romaine/cornmeal/sour cream/cumin all pureed together and cooked in oil, but the only universal requirement is ground pumpkin seeds.
A pesto sauce, on the other hand, usually uses an herb, garlic, nuts, cheese, and olive oil. The ratios are a little different from a pipián sauce, but pipián's a pretty loose recipe, so why not use pesto ratios (to use up my cilantro) and replace both nuts and cheese with pumpkin seeds?
Recipe: Pesto Pipián
I included recipes for tacos and meatballs below, but this sauce has lots of possibilities, like topping poached fish, seared scallops, or enchiladas, or roasted veggies... or the most amazing dip or crostini [topped with seared onions?] your friends ever had. I've now tried it with both pepper options, and I think I prefer the serrano for a little more bite, but to each his own. If you only have a small chopper/food processor, just add the cilantro in batches; it shrinks quickly.
2 packed cups cilantro (1 large bunch), thicker stems removed
1/2 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup canola oil [or other neutral oil]
3 cloves garlic, roasted or nuked
1 green chile or serrano, roasted and seeded
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 cup water or chicken stock
Combine all ingredients except water in a food processor and puree until almost smooth, occasionally stopping the machine to scrape down the sides. ~3 minutes. Add water and pulse to combine. [It'll splash.] Store in a airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze.
Chicken Tacos with Pesto Pipián:
1/2 recipe pesto pipián
1 1/2 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded
1/2 onion, slice thin pole-to-pole
12 corn tortillas
1/4 cup crumbled fresh cheese [queso fresco, feta, etc.]
In a sauce pot, sear onions over high heat until just translucent with charred spots. Transfer to a small serving bowl. Using same pot (no need to wipe it out), heat sauce until it starts to sputter. Stir in cooked chicken and turn off heat. Serve on warm corn tortillas with onions, cheese, and hot sauce.
Basic Meatball Recipe with Pesto Pipián:
1/2 recipe pesto pipián
2 lbs ground meat (any, really: pork, beef, lamb, or poultry)
1 pureed onion
1/3 cup milk
2 cloves garlic, minced to a paste
1/2 tsp salt
Beat everything together in a mixer until it gets almost pasty. Pan fry a tablespoon of the meat to test for seasoning, then let the remainder sit at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days before cooking(in a refrigerated, airtight container).
Cook meat over medium heat, turning to brown all sides, until cooked through, ~10 minutes. Transfer balls to a bowl, add 1/2 cup water to pan and scrape up all the browned bits to deglaze. Add pesto pipián stir to combine with deglazing water, and return meatballs to pan. Cook until sauce comes to the boil and thickens to its original state. It's excellent over brown rice or polenta.
*no pictures, sorry.