Many people think of pesto as a summer treat, probably because many people only think of basil pesto, which would of course only be possible when your basil is in full swing during the summer. Some think the word pesto came from the Italian verb pestare (to pound or crush), and indeed that’s how we think of pesto today: a paste made from crushing ingredients together.

Traditional basil pesto is from the Ligurian region of Italy in the north – Genoa and Portofino are in this region – so don’t expect to see it featured on menus in southern Italy. But you can make a pesto from so many different ingredients, and in the middle of a blizzard in Colorado this weekend (welcome to spring in the Rockies!), I had to go with what I had on hand: pistachios, parsley, cilantro, and oranges.I also am still chipping away at my carb cycling diet, so wanted something to dress up a plain piece of fish without adding too many calories. (Carb Cyclers: this is a high carb meal – the fish is the protein and the rice is the carb. A serving of the pesto is about 60 calories and I counted that as my flavoring for a total calorie count of 310 for dinner.)

My tip when you make pesto is to make it very thick, with as little oil as possible, just to make it come together. You can always thin your pesto with a little oil or water or citrus juice until it’s the consistency of ketchup when you are ready to use it. Pesto can be tossed into pasta, slathered on bread for a sandwich, or used to top a piece of chicken or fish like I did. It just helps take the ordinary to a new level.And here’s a great tip: I’ve started peeling the outer layer of citrus (oranges, lemons and limes) before I juice them for a recipe and saving that zest. It’s full of flavor and you can mince it up to use in so many things. Now isn’t that clever?

Mahi Mahi with Pistachio Pesto
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Cuisine: Entree, Sauce
Serves: 2
  • 1 cup shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup packed parsley
  • ¾ cup packed cilantro
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of 1 orange (or peel with vegetable peeler and mince)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 4-ounce mahi mahi filets
  1. Combine nuts and herbs in a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add oil and orange zest and let whirl until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Combine 2 tablespoons of the pesto with either a little more oil or some water until the consistency of ketchup. Cover each piece of fish with the pesto and bake at 350 degrees until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Freeze remaining pesto in an ice cube tray in the freezer (you'll have about 16 more servings of pesto left).