My pantry is taking over my life. Each time I open my pantry doors, I anticipate something to fall out and spill all over my kitchen floor. What will it be this time? The high-mountain green tea my Mom brought me from Taiwan? Or the canister of Greek olive oil from Santorini that I carried with me for a whole month while backpacking through Europe?
I really need to start organizing my life and use up all these ingredients. One thing about being an avid cook is that the ingredients really do pile up. For example, I have a hefty 1 lb bag of pumpkin seeds that’s been sitting in there for quite a while, from which I’ve only used a few cups worth for my 7 Ingredient pumpkin spice granola. Living in a tiny studio apartment, space becomes real precious. Time to use up those pumpkin seeds!
I’ve actually been fiending for pesto lately. But I wanted to make something creative, not just the usual basil and pine nuts combo. Recently, I had an amazing pumpkin seed salsa from my favorite vegan restaurant in San Francisco. The flavor in this thing was pure umami. The salsa was indescribably nutty, deep, slightly smoky, and creamy. I never knew that pumpkin seeds could taste like that! Thus, I was inspired. Rummaging through my fridge I search for what I could use as the green part of the pesto. To my surprise, I find a huge bunch of cilantro that I’d completely forgotten to use for a Spanish Chicken dish I made for supper on Sunday. Don’t you hate when that happens? Luckily, it inspired me to make this Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto.
It is highly important to toast the pumpkin seeds. This really brings out the nutty flavors that really deepen the flavor of the pesto. Also, use meyer lemons if you can instead of regular lemons. Yes, it makes a difference.
There is one ingredient that I used in this recipe that you may find peculiar—toasted sesame seed oil. I only use a teaspoon here but it really amps up the nutty quality of the pesto and complements nicely with the flavor of the pumpkin seeds. Don’t use more than a teaspoon though, as the flavor can easily overpower the entire dish.
As soon as I finished making this pesto, I immediately sautéed some garlic butter shrimp, boiled some whole wheat pasta and tossed everything with this velvety green umami goodness. You know, just a simple lunch after an afternoon of recipe development in the kitchen. #foodbloggerlife
This pesto is super versatile. Slather it over a grilled piece of salmon. Marinade chicken with it. Put it on toasted slices of French baguette, and top with a sliver of Manchego—instant bruschetta! Hmm…I just might make that for my upcoming Christmas party.
Pumpkin Seed Cilantro Pesto
Adapted from Epicurious
½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
¼ cup olive oil
¼ tsp meyer lemon zest
½ tsp salt
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Toast pumpkin seeds on skillet until golden brown. You will start to hear the pumpkin seeds pop, don’t worry this is a good thing. Toss seeds frequently in the skillet to prevent burning. Remove and let cool.
Take cilantro and trim off dry ends. Form into a bunch and rip in half. Toss cilantro into food processor, along with toasted pumpkin seeds, garlic, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, toasted sesame seed oil, olive oil, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes (optional). Pulse until smooth, periodically scraping down the sides.
To store, keep in an airtight container. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top to cover the entire surface to keep the pesto fresh and prevent browning.
Serve over grilled seafood, toss with pasta, or use as a marinade for chicken. The options are endless!