Thursday, September 30, 2004


(Photo added 1/16/08. Ideally, the pesto topping should get all browned and crispy instead of remaining as green as it looks here, but this is what happens when your broiler is broken and you end up baking the salmon instead. Still tastes great, though, and actually looks prettier.)

A new recipe, courtesy of “Stephan Schwartz” (the Broadway songwriter? No, I think he uses an “e” instead of an “a”) on The verdict? Very good, very easy. It would be a perfect thing to make if you were entertaining—elegant but barely demanding your attention. It would especially be a snap if you used pre-packaged pesto, but I like to make my own, from Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cookbook (recipe follows). It’s not much labor, and so much better than anything you can buy (even at dear Trader Joe’s), especially in the summer when basil is fresh and plentiful. I like to make a lot and freeze it in small containers to mix with pasta for emergency dinners.

Stephan says the salmon “goes well with rosemary and garlic roasted red potatoes and any green vegetable.” It was tempting to roast potatoes, but healthiness and laziness won the day, and I just steamed some asparagus (my favorite companion to salmon) to serve on the side with some lemon juice squeezed over it.

1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup firmly packed fresh parsley sprigs, stems removed (or torn fresh spinach, but I’ve never tried this)
½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
¼ cup pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds (I typically go with the pine nuts)
1 large clove garlic, peeled and quartered
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil

The recipe says to put everything except the oil in your food processor/blender and grind it to “a paste,” then add the oil in a steam while blending until the pesto has the consistency of “softened butter.” Maybe my blender is just a wuss, but when I try it that way, not much happens. The only way stuff gets chopped up and ground down satisfactorily is when I add the oil, so now I just do it right away.

Makes: About ¾ cup
Time: 10-15 minutes

4 salmon fillets (2 pounds)
2 lemons
1½ cups pesto (maybe less; I only used about 2/3 of what I made)
½ cup white wine

1. Lightly olive-oil a baking dish large enough to accommodate the fish (I was making a half-recipe, so a 9x9 Pyrex did the trick for me). Put the salmon in it skin side down (although I usually use skinless). Squeeze 1 lemon over the fish, and pour on the white wine. Let this marinate for 15 minutes (this is a good time to make the pesto).

2. Preheat the broiler. Using a small spatula, spread a thick layer of pesto (between 1/8 and ¼ inch thick) over the top of the fish, fully covering the surface.

3. Put the baking dish under the broiler, about 9 inches from the heat, “8-10 minutes per inch of thickness,” or until the pesto is browned and crusty and the fish is opaque and flaky. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for a few minutes, then scoop the fillets onto plates, squeeze more lemon juice over them, and serve.

Serves: 4
Time: 15 minutes

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