Apr 06 2010

Experiments in Pesto and Pancetta: Take 2

Published by at 8:13 pm under Dinner,Starters

My assistant has told me time and time again that his favorite meal I’ve made for him was the Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto and Pancetta I cooked last month, so at his urging, we stuck with the pesto/pancetta theme for yet another meal over the weekend. But then I realized that this post would mark the third time I’ve written about pesto in my short blogging career, which just seems excessive. So, in the interest of variety, I made a cilantro-based pesto.

Since cilantro has a naturally brighter flavor than basil, this pesto felt a little bit lighter and more spring-themed than other ones I’ve made. With one alternative pesto success story under my belt, I can’t wait to experiment with more herb and nut combos!

And to back up my assistant, the pesto/pancetta pairing is really something special. The salty meat demands a mild texture and flavor instead of a heavy sauce, and this one really delivers.

I served the following salad as a main course, but a smaller serving would be perfect as a starter. I predict I’ll be back soon with more ideas on how to serve this cilantro pesto, too. Stay tuned!

Golden Beet Salad with Cilantro Pesto and Pancetta

Ingredients (Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a starter):

3 golden beets

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 tsp. honey

1 bag of mixed greens (about 5 cups)

1/4 cup cilantro pesto (see recipe below)

1/2 pound pancetta, cubed

1/4 cup goat cheese

Boil beets on high heat for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender — you should be able to easily stick a fork through them. Make cilantro pesto (below) and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard and honey. Drizzle over mixed greens in a large bowl and toss well.

Place pancetta in a large skillet and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes or until mostly crispy. Set aside and absorb excess oil with paper towel.

When beets are finished boiling, remove them from the water and peel, then slice into slices about 1/3-inch thick. Divide the greens between two large plates, and place half of the beet slices on top, with each slice barely covering the slice next to it. Top each beet slice with a small dollop (about a tsp.) of pesto, and a pinch of goat cheese.

When you’ve finished layering the beets on both plates, sprinkle half of the pancetta cubes on top of each salad. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cilantro Pesto

Ingredients (makes about 1.5 cups):

2 bunches of fresh cilantro leaves (about 4 to 5 cups packed; I did not use the stems)

2 cloves of garlic

Juice of 1/2 small lime

1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese, grated

1/4 cup whole almonds

1/4 cup olive oil

Pinch each of salt and pepper

Combine first 5 ingredients — cilantro, garlic, lime juice, cheese and almonds — in a food processor. Slowly add olive oil while pulsing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Experiments in Pesto and Pancetta: Take 2”

  1. JTon 13 Apr 2010 at 11:09 am

    The way the cilantro went with the golden beets was unique and amazing. I’ve never had anything like it before.

  2. liv bites » As Promised…on 14 Apr 2010 at 7:54 pm

    […] cup cilantro pesto (click for […]