On Friday, June 12th, I had the unique opportunity to do a cooking demo at Union Square Greenmarket. Using in-season ingredients, I developed a Rustic Cilantro & Spring Garlic Pesto for everyone to taste. Luckily, I enlisted a few helpers, because we were quite busy with giving out tasting samples. It was a fun day for all!
I love everything that's in season right now, and that we, as city-dwellers, have access to all this locally-grown bounty. The sugar snaps, radishes, and Persian cucumbers are fantastic accompaniments to this recipe.
Cilantro (Coriander) is one of the most healing herbs. Full of anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, it is great for your skin, vision and most known to be a powerful, natural cleansing agent for metal toxicity in the body. This fragrant herb can also aid in digestion, improve sleep and lowers blood pressure.
I know that when I buy cilantro, it doesn't keep well for long, so making a pesto, using both leaves and stems is the best way to make use of this small but mighty plant. You can store your pesto in ice cube trays for future use. This is also delicious when added to a marinade.
Garlic Scapes and Spring (Green) Garlic are much milder in flavor than the more familiar garlic that is available. Scapes are the flower stems from the garlic bulb. Spring Garlic is a younger garlic, that looks a lot like a spring onion. They both have the same health benefits as garlic such as reducing inflammation and boosting your immune system. If these spring goodies aren't available, then use a couple garlic cloves instead.
Lightly frying up the spring garlic, helps to soften some of the leafy stems for our handmade pesto. It also reduces the sharpness of the taste. (I wish you could smell it too!)
I chose to use a traditional mortar and pestle to make this pesto, there's something comforting about making this without any gadgets or machinery. But of course, using a blender, herb chopper, or food processor will easily work (and be much quicker too!)
RUSTIC CILANTRO & SPRING GARLIC PESTO
(makes 1 cup)
3 cups cilantro, reserving a few leaves to garnish
1-3 stalks green garlic, garlic scapes, or regular garlic cloves
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds or pinenuts
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 - 1 lime, juiced
Optional: For a little spice, add 1 serrano or Jalapeño chile
- Coarsely chop the spring garlic. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a small frying pan. Gently sauté the garlic for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Transfer into the mortar.
- Add the sea salt and pound into a paste.
- Coarsely chop the cilantro and pound again into a paste You may need to do this in batches, if necessary.
- Add the slivered almonds and pound again, breaking up the pieces until incorporated.
- Gradually add the remaining olive oil while pounding again until smooth.
- Finally, add the lime juice and season to taste.
- Serve with fresh greenmarket sugar snap peas and radishes
One of the best moments of the cooking demo was the special guest appearance of my superstar Mini Chef!