When you have a kid with a nut allergy, you learn to love pumpkin seeds. Not just love them but REALLY love them and use them in quantities that would have been unimaginable in the BA (before allergy) days.
This last week alone I used pumpkin seeds in a batch of granola, a couple of salads, some granola bars, and this cilantro pumpkin seed pesto. And I’ve got a good 3 or 4 pounds down in my basement pantry waiting to be transformed into countless other delicious things.
Sure we may not be able to eat nuts around here, but we take our pepitas very very seriously.
I had a very satisfying “OMG YES!” moment reading this post by Jessica over at Feed Me Dearly (which is among the most beautifully written and photographed food blogs out there and one you must must check out). She has her own nut-allergic kid, and has taken pumpkin seeds to the highest of culinary heights. Middle eastern dilled yogurt flat breads with spiced pumpkin seeds? Yes please.
There is nothing that nuts can do that pumpkin seeds cannot do equally as deliciously. Or at least this is what we tell ourselves when we have no choice in the matter. It’s a cup half full kinda thing.
Pesto traditionally contains nuts of some kind—usually pine nuts, and less often almonds, walnuts or pecans. And while I’m told pine nuts are actually a seed and not a nut, they aren’t something I’ve been ready to experiment with. Especially not when pumpkin seeds do such a darn good job.
Pesto is also traditionally made with basil, of course, but the combo of ginger and cilantro in this recipe is brighter, fresher and a little unexpected. I like unexpected.
And even more than its unexpectedness, what I love about a cilantro pesto is its versatility. Cilantro pesto is lovely in all the usual places you would find its basil-containing cousin—on pasta, pizza or a grilled vegetable sammie, for example—but also delicious drizzled over tacos, spread onto salmon or trout, stirred into hot roasted cauliflower, or served as a chutney with Indian samosas. We recently used it to adorn our weekday “clean-out-the-fridge” bowls, and it was a rock-star complement to the lentils, salmon, cauliflower, sauteed spinach and pickled red onions.
If you need a dairy-free version for a vegan or dairy-intolerant/allergic person, you can leave out the parmesan cheese or try substituting it with nutritional yeast, neither of which I have tried myself (sorry). If you try either of these variations (or your own variation) please share in the comments below.
This might not strike you as the most kid-friendly concoction, but it’s actually a great way to introduce cilantro to the little ‘uns. Both of mine are deeply suspicious of anything resembling a leaf (although the Bean at almost four years old is miraculously coming around to salad greens…praises!), but pureeing the leaves, cheesing them up a bit and pouring them over hot pasta makes them a much easier sell.
- ¼ pound (approx 113 grams) cilantro
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 inch piece of gingerroot, peeled and sliced
- ⅓ cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅓ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Remove just the bottom stems of the cilantro (keep the rest; stems are good), stuff the whole bunch into the bowl of a large food processor, and pulse until the cilantro is mostly broken down.
- Add garlic, ginger, pepitas, lemon juice, ⅓ cup olive oil, sea salt and parmesan cheese and whiz everything up, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until everything is very finely chopped and well combined.
- If the pesto is too chunky/dry for your liking, add a little more olive oil.
- Season with salt to taste.