Growing up I always worked in restaurants, so even when I moved out on my own I always took dinner home from work. I didn't start cooking until I started my "real" job. My kitchen creations were met with much skepticism until the launch of epicurious.com. For one extra special meal I made Bon Appetit's Grilled Shrimp with Feta, Cilantro and Lime. It was a huge hit. I recently decided to remake the recipe to be more stove-friendly. I turned the marinade into a pesto - which is also budget friendly, since you can use the cilantro stems too - and mellowed the sauce out with caramelized onion and bechemel sauce. This is also great as a vegetarian dish if you substitute chickpeas for the shrimp. - lizb —lizb
Test Kitchen Notes
This tasty pasta dish left me wondering why on earth I had never tossed pasta with a cilantro pesto before—I may never ever go back to basil pesto. The vibrant Latin flavors of the lime and cilantro work beautifully transformed into a just-barely-creamy sauce for the pasta. And the sweet tender shrimp are just as comfortable and delicious nestled in this fusion pasta as they would be in either shrimp scampi or shrimp tacos. It may seem odd at first that the recipe calls for no salt (except the pasta water), but with the amount of flavor packed into the sauce, the little salty accent of the feta is all that's needed. I'll definitely be making this one again. —fiveandspice
chopped pecans (walnuts are good too)
oil (I prefer a neutral oil like grapseed, but you can use whatever you have on hand)
First, make the cilantro pesto. Begin by toasting the nuts in a small skillet over medium heat.
I like to lightly saute the garlic in the oil - that way the garlic mellows a little and it infuses the oil with a nice flavor. To do so, slice the garlic thinly and saute in 4 tbsp of oil over medium low heat for about five minutes. The garlic should soften, but not get brown and crispy. You can skip this step if you are in a hurry, but if so, I'd reduce the garlic to four cloves.
Meanwhile roughly chop the cilantro and zest one of the limes. (Reserve a small amount of clinatro for a garnish). Combine the toasted nuts, cilantro, lime zest, the juice of both limes, and the sauteed garlic into a food processor. Reserve the oil the garlic cooked in to add to the pesto. Blend, adding oil as needed. You're looking for a rustic pesto that just holds together, not one that is really creamy.
Put the remaining two tbsp oil and onion in a large pan over medium heat. You want to lightly caramelize the onions. The onion will loose a lot of volume as the water evaporates. The onion should turn a slightly browner, but be careful not to let it burn. It's a bit harder to see with the red onion. While the onion is caramelizing, put a pot of salted water on the stove for the pasta.
Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Before you drain it, reserve a cup of the cooking liquid. Once drained, if you are worried about it drying out, put the pasta in a bowl with saran wrap on top of it. Make sure and press the saran wrap down onto the pasta, don't just cover the bowl.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the butter and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
Pour in 1/2 of a cup of the reserved pasta water and whisk out any lumps. Add the milk and pesto and whisk until combined. Add most of the feta cheese (reserve some for a garnish), the peppers, caramelized onion, and shrimp and cook until the sauce is reduced and the shrimp are cooked through and opaque. If you need to, add more of the reserved pasta water.
In a large bowl toss the pasta with the sauce and the shrimp. Garnish with feta crumbles, chopped cilantro, and the diced tomato. Serve immediately.