This base recipe for Pumpkin Seed Pesto came from our Susan Spicer cookbook. And then I took it and served it two ways - one as a dip for tortilla chips with some avocado mixed in, and then I tossed some chili-rubbed shrimp in the pesto and served that with additional pesto for dipping. Of the two variations, I preferred the dip. It was very interesting. Given the choice I would prefer guacamole, but I thought the dip had a pleasing blend of flavors and a nice lush, creamy texture. I think the element that really threw the pesto off for me was the feta. Perhaps if we had used cotija cheese it would have worked better? I just thought the feta added a slightly out of key, discordant flavor to the dip that was more evident in the pesto itself, than it was in the dip. The pesto also seemed a bit... heavier and greasier. I'm not sure those are the correct words to use to describe it, but I can't think of any better adjectives. We made a Pan-Seared Salmon with Pumpkin-Seed Cilantro Pesto that I found more successful overall, if perhaps a little less interesting. If I had to pick one dish to make again (since they are fairly similar) I would pick the salmon because I thought as an overall dish it was more successful. I also thought that pesto was just brighter and tastier.
Recipes after the jump!
Sauteed Shrimp with Pumpkin Seed Pesto
3/4 lb extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
Pumpkin Seed Pesto (see below)1 tbsp vegetable oil
Rinse the shrimp under cold running water, then blot them dry with paper towels. Place the shrimp, chili powders, s&p in a mixing bowl and stir to mix. Set aside to marinate.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add oil. Add shrimp and cook shrimp 1-2 minutes per side. When the shrimp is done it will turn opaque and will feel firm to the touch. A good rule of thumb is that shrimp is done when it is opaque and when it curls up to form a "C" - if you hit the letter "O" you know you have overcooked your shrimp. Remove from heat and add 2-3 tbsp of Pumpkin Seed Pesto. Toss to coat.
Serve shrimp with additional Pumpkin Seed Pesto.
Pumpkin Seed and Avocado Dip
2/3 cup Pumpkin Seed Pesto (see below)
1 avocado, pit removed and coarsely chopped
squeeze fresh lime juice
Combine pesto, avocado and lime juice in the bowl of a mini-food processor. Pulse to combine. Season with salt and additional lime juice to taste.
Serve with tortilla chips.
Pumpkin Seed Pesto
Adapted from Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer's New Orleans
By Susan Spicer
1/4 cup evoo
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup pepitas
1/4 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup combination of basil and parsley leaves (mostly basil), coarsely chopped
1 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp fresh lime juice
crushed red pepper flakes
Warm oil over low heat in a small skillet and add garlic. Saute until garlic is lightly golden and aromatic. Remove garlic from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Raise heat to medium. Add pepitas to oil and saute until seeds are browned and crackly. Remove seeds from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside to cool. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool.