Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cilantro and Cashew Pesto

Halibut Fillets with Cilantro and Cashew pesto

In menu planning, it's easy to accidentally make an entire meal of complex dishes and end up spending forever and ever in the kitchen for one measly meal.  Despite how good it might be, that's usually more time than I have to spend and sometimes regret some of my menu decisions.  A good rule of thumb and way to avoid this food-lovers' trap is to choose one enticing, possibly time-consuming dish and fill in the rest of the meal's menu with simple dishes.  This doesn't have to mean boring dishes so get those assumptions out of your head. Repeating seasonings, ingredients, or ready made condiments into the steamed veggies or grilled fish can make everything on the table super-tasty without all the extra toil.

With my obvious love of ethnic dishes, this can be hard for me.  I end up finding myself in a three-recipe kitchen disaster more often than I would like to admit.  I don't use a ton of recipes, but try to experiment and add to my repertoire regularly, hence the three-recipe disaster.  If this happens to you, too, here are some thoughts on that and maybe a solution.  Say, you really want to try a traditional Asian recipe you came across or something from your awesome Mexican cookbook or whatever it is and feel that the other dishes in the meal must be traditional and exotic as well to go together.  Not always so!  What I like to do is fill in the menu with coordinating seasonings and very simple preparation to make exciting meals from scratch without feeling like a slave to the kitchen.

This particular Cilantro and Cashew Pesto came about when I was making a rice noodles and veggie stir-fry with peanuts and lime for a client.  With limited time scheduled, I had to make the meal work without it making me run behind.  They love halibut.  I had cilantro.  There were nuts galore in the pantry and assorted Asian condiments in the upstairs fridge.  I thought it sounded just like the makins' for a Thai-inspired cilantro and cashew pesto-coated fish fillet.  It turned out wonderfully and paired nicely with the noodles.

Try this pesto on veggies, fish, chicken, tofu, or beef.  I think it would be decadent on shrimp or scallops as an entree or an appetizer.

Cilantro and Cashew Pesto

2 T freshly minced ginger
1 T freshly minced garlic
3 t green curry paste
2 c packed cilantro leaves
1/2 t sea salt
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c roasted cashews
1 t rice wine vinegar
1/2 t Sriracha hot sauce
2 T fragrant peanut oil (or olive oil if you don't have any)

Combine it all in the food processor and run until mixture is uniform, stopping to scrape down the sides periodically at first.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  This will store in the fridge for about 10 days and freezes well.

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