Cilantro Pesto/Mojo Verde

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There is something about the way cilantro and vinegar interact that makes that combination a true food marriage – in the same vein as maple and walnut, garlic and tomatoes, chocolate and raspberry, and ginger and soy.  You get the idea – each component helps the other flavor ” pop.” The cilantro condiment that I have become so enamored of is not a true pesto because it doesn’t contain cheese and not quite mojo verde (the classic Carribean sauce) because it doesn’t include cumin.  It is, however, absolutely delicious, and the best way I know to highlight the pure flavor of cilantro. I love this pesto so much that I ALWAYS have some in the freezer.  I make a batch and pour a portion in a small freezer container.  When I need some pesto, I place the bottom of the container in warm water for a few seconds to shrink the frozen pesto, then invert the container and pop out the frozen disk. Now comes the fun part – I use a vegetable peeler and shave off the pesto onto the dish I am serving, perhaps roasted curried tofu (see below) enchiladas, vegetable curry, a bean or grain salad, or pizza.  I then put the frozen chunk back in the container and return it to the freezer. Of course, you can also pour the pesto in an ice cube tray and when frozen, store the cubes in a ziplock bag. If you buy cilantro and land up discarding most of it because it has been sitting in your fridge for far too long,try these tricks, and you’ll be delighted to always have the flavor of fresh cilantro on hand.

Cilantro Pesto

1 bunch of cilantro with stems
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil, or more if necessary
2-3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper

Puree all the ingredients (use 2 teaspoons of vinegar) in a blender or food processor, using more oil if necessary to achieve a smooth consistency.  Taste to see if the vinegar is adequate and add the extra teaspoon, if desired.

Roasted Curried Tofu

Slice a pound of tofu and pat very dry with paper towels.  Cut the tofu into cubes and place in a bowl.  Mix together 1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce and 2 teaspoons curry powder, then coat the tofu with this mixture, using a rubber spatula to gently toss the tofu. Let sit 10 minutes, then drizzle on 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven (on a baking sheet or large baking dish so the tofu rests in one layer) for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve drizzled with cilantro pesto.

Roasted Curried Tofu