This supremely tasty sauce takes the basic concept of a pesto into a delightfully different, boldly flavorful direction. With cilantro as its base, it could rightfully be considered an Asian-style variation on chimichurri sauce.
However you characterize it, it is luscious in its own right.
To make it, you whir both the leaves and tender stems of a bunch of cilantro in a food processor with the aromatic dynamic duo of ginger and garlic, a bright punch of lime juice and a handful of roasted peanuts. A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes provides a hint of heat, which you could certainly increase if you like things spicy. Peanut oil and toasted sesame oil, which add body and amplify the peanutty flavor, are drizzled gradually into the running food processor to emulsify the ingredients.
The result is a condiment so mouthwatering you will be compelled to put it on just about everything, so you might want to double the recipe to have extra. (It will keep up to three days in the refrigerator.) It instantly elevates simply grilled foods – vegetables, chicken, fish or meat - and it is wonderful drizzled liberally over eggs, potatoes, avocado toast or perfectly ripe summer tomatoes.
Here, its platform is lean pork loin, pounded into thin cutlets that cook in minutes on the grill. They are simply seasoned to let the big-flavored sauce have the limelight it deserves.
Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.
Grilled pork cutlets with cilantro peanut pesto
Serves 6 (makes about 3/4 cup pesto)
This herb sauce is delicious drizzled on simply grilled fish, chicken and vegetables, eggs, potatoes or ripe summer tomatoes. The chops can be cooked on an outdoor grill as well. Make ahead: The pesto can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.
For the pesto:
1 1/2 cups packed fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems
1/3 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
For the pork:
Six 3/4-inch-thick boneless loin pork chops
1/2 tablespoon peanut oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
For the pesto: Combine the cilantro, peanuts, lime juice, garlic, ginger, salt, crushed red pepper flakes and the 3 tablespoons of water in a mini food processor; pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the peanut oil and toasted sesame oil to form a blended pesto. The yield is about 3/4 cup.
For the pork: Place the pork chops on a cutting board and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound them to a thickness of about 1/4-inch.
Preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the pork with oil and season with the salt and pepper, then grill until just slightly blush in the center and grill marks have formed, 2 minutes per side.
Serve the pork with about 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto drizzled over each piece. Garnish with peanuts and cilantro leaves.
Per serving: 310 calories, 32 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar.