Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cilantro chicken, and some pesto

Spring and early summer are leafy green season, which brings us kale and arugula and lettuce and spinach, and cilantro.  Now I like cilantro alright, but this year is a particularly cilantro-y year.  See, my lovely stepmother also a CSA member, is one of those people who has (or is missing, however it works) the cilantro gene.  Apparently there is a long evolutionary explanation, but some people genetically dislike cilantro – to them it tastes like, well, I don’t know because I’m one of them, but not like food is probably a fair description they would all agree on.  To me, it just tastes like not-quite-as-good oregano.  Not my favorite, but definitely tasty food.  Well anyway since I do eat it, I got not only my own bunch of cilantro in my last CSA share, I got my stepmothers as well.  That’s a lot of cilantro!

One sure fire way to use excessive herbs is with chicken.  I mean “herbed chicken” – could there be a more classic sounding food?  I think not.  And so simple – just finely chop (or have a food processor finely chop for you) a big handful of whatever fresh herb you have, along with a bit of olive oil and a nice pinch of salt.  Use chicken with skin still on and rub the herb paste under the skin, gently breaking the membrane holding the skin to the meat.  Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes.  The skin with have a nice golden crunchy look and the juices will be coming out clear.

Since I certainly had the greens on hand, I served it with some sautéed spinach & onions (spinach, onion, olive oil & butter and a pinch of salt).  It was a simple meal, and very green,  and bursting with the taste of spring.

The rest of my cilantro was used sparingly in some salads, and then to make a pesto.  The cilantro pesto was delicious although odd looking mixed with quinoa, to make a nice side dish to some chicken sausage a few days later.  It made a great salad dressing thinned out with some vegetable broth.  And there’s still some left in a jar in the fridge.  

Pesto is traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and olive oil - and that's certainly a delicious way to prepare it. But really "pesto" just means ground herbs.  I made mine with cilantro, almonds, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and vegetable broth.  I put everything except the broth in the food processor and start it going, then slowly drizzle in the broth until its a paste-like consistency (stopping occasionally to spatula down the sides).

Its tasty and a fun ingredient - use it as a sauce, thin it out and use it as a dressing, use it on sandwiches as a condiment, mix it in with grains like rice or quinoa for a squishy green tasty side dish.

And lucky me, there’s two more bunches of cilantro coming this week.

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