cilantro pesto

Appetizer, Side, Gluten Free, Spring



We're home! We'll do a small travel post on Belgium/Amsterdam, but I have been anxious to cook in my kitchen. We had an apartment rental the last leg of our trip, so I was able to make a few simple meals, but it's just not the same as your home kitchen. My hope was that in time away, I would be inspired to cook and create. Taking a break, it being impossible to cook even if I wanted to (most of the time), seemed the very thing I needed. I want to read more books about nutrition, to test more ideas and see them through, I want to be fearless in the recipes I write and to stay curious about food by learning from other authors and chefs. I want this work I do to be a reflection of the boldness I am focusing on this year. There is a Henry David Thoreau quote I like, “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” 

I re-stocked our empty fridge the night we came home. It makes for a pretty hefty tab, but starting fresh feels so good. We are both in the mood for lighter fare after eating out so much (and in anticipation of a few work trips this month). In order to keep from salad burn out, I've been big-batching indoor grilled vegetables to have at the ready (you could very well use an outdoor grill, but ours is charcoal and I'm not up for that whole process quite yet). The sauce is the kind of thing I like keeping a big jar of in the fridge. I make more than I need and repurpose it through the week. It makes an excellent sandwich spread, tossed with noodles and tofu, or warmed grains. We had it on eggs or put a schmear under some avocado toast. I thin it with more citrus for an easy salad dressing. Clearly I like it and the recipe makes a generous amount. I haven't used pepitas in awhile and forgot what a wonderful flavor and crunch they have. Cheers to Spring produce. I welcome you.



The given recipe will give you a full 16 oz. jar worth of sauce. Maybe that sounds like a lot to you, feel free to half it. I mention other uses above and when the weeks are busy, I am grateful to have something tasty to jazz up simple meals. It doesn't have any dairy in it so I believe it would freeze well, even in ice cube trays, for later use.

  • 1 bunch asparagus, about 1 1/2 lbs. (medium thickness stalks)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup toasted pepitas
  • // cilantro pepita pesto //
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup toasted pepitas
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 jalepeno (sort of seeded. you want a few for heat)
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder, to taste
  • one large bunch (about 4 super packed cups) cilantro, ends cut, stem is fine
  • juice of two large limes
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • splash of water

 Heat your grill, or indoor grill, over medium heat.


Cut off the dry bits of the asparagus and use a vegetable peeler to gently shave the end stalks. Toss the asparagus in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Grill the asparagus, covered, turning a few times, for about 7-9 minutes. Time will vary based on thickness of the stalks. I like mine on the snappy side.

To make the pesto, pulse the garlic, toasted pepitas and sea salt in a food processor to chop. Add the jalepeno, chipotle, cilantro and lime juice and run the processor to combine. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive olive and a splash of water. Taste and adjust as you wish. Add more chipotle for heat, citrus juice and/or salt to brighten it, water if you prefer it thinner.

Serve the asparagus on a generous pillow of the cilantro pesto. Garnish with the minced red onion and toasted pepitas. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Print This Recipe