Tomatoes and Chiles Swim in Cilantro Lime Pesto

Tomatoes and Chiles Swim in Cilantro Lime Pesto

I have a confession to make. I make salsa often. It’s a fallback plan on weeknights, when there are tomatoes or fruit ripening on my kitchen window sill. Chop a few tomatoes, a jalapeno, use up that half bunch of cilantro that will just go bad in the fridge.

And it is a quick recipe that serves as both the vegetable and the sauce at dinner. With chips, over potatoes, in a wrap with some leftovers, the salsa is the fresh element that makes a lazy cook look like she cared enough to chop something.

But this week, I tried shaking up my usual mess of fresh vegetables. I had a large amount of cilantro, and wanted a more substantial dip.

So, I made a puree of the cilantro with pine nuts, garlic, lime juice and olive oil. This thick paste formed a matrix of deliciousness, which held my precious little tomatoes in suspension. Instead of the usual juicy, light salsa, I had a thicker, heftier version.

We loved it.

If the mere thought of all that cilantro makes your skin crawl, you may be one of the people who doesn’t have the enzymes in your saliva that process it. It’s an accident of birth, and there is nothing you can do to make yourself like cilantro, if you think it tastes like soap. My condolences. You can always try this with fresh mint.

If you like the citrusy, light flavor of cilantro, you are in luck. Cilantro is not just an essential herb in Mexican, Indian, and Pacific Rim cookery, it’s a powerful cleanser. Herbal practitioners recommend just 1/4 cup of packed cilantro per day to help the body shed any stored heavy metals, like mercury, lead and aluminum. You can get testing done to see if you have detectable levels, if you are concerned. I figure that eating generous amounts of cilantro is just a good way to keep the inevitable pollution around me from doing as much damage.

Plus, it’s delicious. Any quick recipe is suddenly elevated by a handful of fresh, tender cilantro leaves.

Show off your garden gems in a tangy pesto

Show off your garden gems in a tangy pesto

I just happened to have an assortment of sweet, ripe grape and cherry tomatoes, which have the benefit of not melting into the pesto as quickly as chopped regular tomatoes would. A zippy squeeze of lime and some garlic and you have a riot of flavor.

Simple puree and chop

Simple puree and chop

So when you are looking for a tasty way to show off your favorite summer tomatoes, try this salsa. It’s a speedy formula for a summer meal.


Cilantro Pesto Salsa

This salsa keeps for about a day, the thick pesto will be thinned by the juices that will seep from the tomatoes. You can always use full sized tomatoes, just always use the tomato with the best flavor.

Serves 4


2 cups fresh cilantro leaves

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon lime, more to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound assorted grape tomatoes, coarsely sliced

3 large jalapenos, seeded and chopped

Blue Chips

In a blender or food processor, combine the cilantro, garlic and pine nuts and grind to a paste. Add the lime, olive oil and salt and process until smooth. It will be thick.

Chop the tomatoes and jalapenos and put in a medium bowl. Scrape the cilantro pesto over the tomatoes, then fold in gently. Taste and add more lime if you think it needs it.

Serve with chips, over roasted potatoes, or in burritos.