It may still feel like winter in much of the country but it’s March and that means Spring. Spring reminds me of all things green – so my next several recipes will have a focus on just that: greens. Be it seasonal vegetables, herbs, even fresh takes on salads, I’m looking forward to lightening up a bit after a sugar-laden February. I will make recommendations as to what you may want to serve these “greens” with but I encourage you to get creative, pairing with different starches and proteins of your choice, as one of the beauties to the idea of highlighting sauces and sides is the ability to then mix and match to make multiple meals.
This time around I am pairing a cilantro pesto with cod but it could also be served on top of any other fish, as well as chicken or pork. And if you don’t like cilantro, substitute the herb for basil (for a more traditional pesto topping) or any other soft herb (consider parsley, mint, tarragon). “Hard” herbs (think those with dry stems – rosemary, thyme, oregano) will not produce the same texture or consistency that this sauce provides.
You can also experiment and substitute different nuts. Traditional pesto is made with pine nuts but they are expensive and spoil quickly due to their high oil content, so I used cashews as I typically have these on-hand. I’ve also made similar sauces with walnuts, almonds, and even shelled-pumpkin seeds. Above all, get creative, use what you like and what you have on hand – and most of all, have fun!
Pan-Seared Cod with Cilantro Pesto
Prep Time: 15 min
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 BUNCH FRESH CILANTRO, APPROX. 2-3 PACKED CUPS
- 3 CLOVES GARLIC
- 1/3 CUP ROASTED CASHEWS, SEE NOTES
- 1 ½ TBS LEMON JUICE
- ½ CUP GRATED PARMESAN
- 5 TBS OLIVE OIL, PLUS MORE AS NEEDED
- SALT & PEPPER, TO TASTE
- 4 PIECES COD, OR OTHER FISH OF CHOICE, DE-BONED AND FILLETED
- 1 TBS GRAPE SEED OR VEGETABLE OIL OR COOKING SPRAY
- 2 TBS BUTTER
- SALT + PEPPER, AS NEEDED
- Cut bottom portion of stems off cilantro. The upper stem is fine as it’s all getting minced together.
- Place cilantro, plus all remaining ingredients in a food processor. Pulse into finely ground together, adding olive oil as you go, to desired consistency. Set sauce aside.
- Pat cod dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
- Heat grape seed or vegetable oil in a pan. Once heated you should see a shimmer rise off the top of the oil, add cod fillets, presentation side down. Sear for approx. 2-3 mins based on the thickness of fillet.
- Gently flip Cod and top with ½ TBS of butter each. Sear an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Spoon pesto sauce over fish and serve immediately, with extra sauce on the side.
- If using already salted cashews, you may not want to add any extra salt to the pesto. Mine were unsalted and needed a bit more flavor.
- Use high-quality olive oil for the pesto since this is the main flavor of the sauce – but do NOT use olive oil for heating in the pan, it burns too quickly and will give off a bitter taste on the fish.
- This batch of pesto yields about twice what you will need to top the fish with. I use the remaining pesto in a variety of ways – either adding to hummus for an extra flavor boost or even chopping up a jalapeno, onion, and tomatillos and adding this cilantro-based pesto to make salsa. It will keep for about 7-9 days in the refrigerator so you can make another protein to top it with later in the week as well.