This is an herb that I am not sure I realized how much I liked it until about ten or so years ago. It was around that time that I realized how nice the flavor was and what cilantro could do to a recipe. Fresh herbs are great, but the problem I find with so many fresh herbs is you purchase them in bunches. Rarely does a recipe call for that much. Now if you are able to plan really well you can ensure that several foods you prepare that week will include the same fresh herb and then none is wasted. But hello reality that does not work every time and some times just because you bought cilantro or another herb you may not want the same meals each time. Thus if you have the space or the energy growing you own herbs helps this dilemma considerably. However I have tried growing cilantro and it is not easy. You see I do not have a green thumb in fact I kill most house plants, but when it comes to garden herbs and plants I seem to manage usually, but cilantro is tough in the south.
The one good thing that came of my brief stint of trying to grow cilantro was some more recipes that utilized the herb. When cilantro flourishes it does really well, but it has a short growing season and does not do well in heat. Unlike basil and mint which as you snip them they grow more, my cilantro plants did not do that. Rather they began to brown. So in an effort to use all my nice cilantro I started cooking. If you have been following my blog for anytime you know I love pesto. So when I ran across this recipe that is a pasta dish but can just as easily be served as a pasta salad, I had to try it.
Cilantro Serrano Pasta with Chicken
1 1/2 Cups fresh cilantro
1/2 Cup fresh mint
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp toasted pecan halves
2 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast**
3 Cups hot cooked penne pasta
2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes)
Place cilantro and next 5 ingredients (through chile) in a food processor; process until well blended. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended. Place pesto in a large bowl; stir in vinegar and black pepper.
** Chicken can be prepared one of two ways. 1)Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. 2) Poach or boil chicken until cooked.
Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Add chicken, pasta, and tomatoes to pesto; toss to combine. Serve and Enjoy.
* adapted from Cilantro Serrano Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Penne that appeared in Cooking Light Magazine
If you like pesto, be sure to check out these recipes that use different pesto sauces in a variety of ways.