Cilantro Poblano Pesto

When you think about pesto, you probably think about basil and garlic and Italian food. I know I do. It's just sort of synonymous with the whole idea of pesto, because obviously that's what people usually mean when they say "Hey, want to make a whole pile of rosemary toast with pesto and roma tomatoes on top?" They're probably homesick for Italy (even if they haven't been yet, which I swear is a thing) and so they probably mean basil. But when my boss sent me home with a pan of poblano and jalapeno peppers that a friend had given her and told me to find something to do with them, I started to have deeper thoughts about pesto: maybe it didn't have to be Italian. Maybe we could make a Mexican pesto. Maybe we could make a cilantro and poblano pesto.
Maybe even grill the poblanos to give it a nice smoky, charred flavor. To flesh out the idea I did a few google searches and came up with the idea that yes, you can make pesto out of pretty nearly anything under the sun, provided you observe the canonical base of fresh herbs, nuts-or-seeds, oil, and salty cheese. For this rendition, I whirled together a load of fresh cilantro (which, besides being a fresh take on pesto is far far cheaper than trying to buy the proper quantity of basil leaves), raw pumpkin seeds, a little feta cheese, some olive oil and lemon juice, and a few grilled hot peppers. Then it seemed a shame to put something so fresh-tasting all over heavy carbs as I'm usually inclined to do with basil pesto. So I shredded up some red cabbage and tossed in some chopped fresh mango. The purple and orange was so vibrant, so jazzy, and so invigorating that I went overboard and even tossed in some marigold petals. At this point in the year my family has just gotten used to the fact that if I can find a reasonable excuse for eating flowers, I will. Go ahead and laugh. It's weird, but you can't deny that your salads get a sort of cosmopolitan flair when they're decked out in petals. When combined with the red cabbage and mango, our Mexican pesto now becomes the ideal side or topping for fish tacos, spicy barbecue, or whatever other light, summer fair wants a little tango. The best part about it all is that you can A) use up a bit of it making the salad and B) have plenty leftover to slather on toast points, use in a marinade for meats, or to make this salad on repeat the rest of the week. Your pesto, your choice.

Cilantro Poblano Pesto 
makes about a cup 
2 cups packed cilantro (tender stems and all)
2 grilled poblano peppers, skins and seeds removed
1 grilled jalapeno pepper, skin and seeds removed
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

1 mango, peeled and diced
2 cups packed, thinly-sliced red cabbage
1 Tablespoon marigold petals, if desired
1/2 cup prepared pesto PLUS:
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice

1.) In a food processor blend together cilantro, peppers, pumpkin seeds, and feta, until fine. Drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil, adding additional drizzles of each until desired consistency is reached.
2.) Assemble salad produce, then whisk the pesto, vinegar, and lemon juice together into a dressing. Toss salad, and serve.

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