Pork, peanuts and pesto – a healthful trifecta

Grilled pork cutlets with cilantro peanut pesto.
Grilled pork cutlets with cilantro peanut pesto. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

(WASHINGTON POST) - This supremely tasty sauce takes the basic concept of a pesto into a delightfully different, boldly flavourful direction. 

With cilantro as its base, it could rightfully be considered an Asian-style variation on chimichurri sauce. However you characterise 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-flavoured sauce have the limelight it deserves.

Grilled Pork Cutlets With Cilantro Peanut Pesto 

For the pesto
11/2 cups packed fresh cilantro, leaves and tender stems 
1/3 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger root, peeled and minced  
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbs water
3 Tbs peanut oil
2 tsp toasted sesame oil 

For the pork
Six 2cm-thick boneless loin pork chops
1/2 tsp peanut oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs unsalted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish

For the pesto
1. Combine the cilantro, peanuts, lime juice, garlic, ginger, salt, crushed red pepper flakes and 3 Tbs 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. 

Makes about 3/4 cup

For the pork
1. 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 0.6cm.
2. 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 centre and grill marks have formed, about two minutes a side. Serve the pork with about 11/2 Tbs pesto drizzled over each piece. Garnish with peanuts and cilantro leaves.

Serves six

Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s Ellie’s Real Good Food.