Salmon with pesto aioli


I had the opportunity to take a writing workshop with Molly Wizenburg a few months ago and of the many memorable experiences from that weekend, what stood out the most, was one of the last writing prompts we did. It was such a simple question…write about the best meal you ever had.

I sat staring at a blank piece of paper for a few minutes and then out of nowhere a memory bubbled up from the far recesses of my brain: a perfectly warm Seattle summer night years ago, salmon fresh from the market, broiled to perfection under a pile of fresh basil and a salad bursting with bing cherries and smooth goat cheese. It was a simple meal made by my aunt, but one I’ll never forget. She was an amazing cook, a foodie well before that was ever a ‘thing’ and had such a special way of entertaining, making everyone who stepped into her kitchen feel special and cared for. She was funny and sarcastic and  I often think of her when I cook in my own kitchen.

This salmon is so easy to make and if you take the few extra minutes to make the basil pesto, it is well worth the time and effort.

Basil Pesto:

  • • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • • 2 cloves garlic
  • • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic, pine nuts, salt and pepper a few times to break down the ingredients. Turn the food processor back on and drizzle in the olive oil, when the ingredients are well mixed, add in the parmesan cheese and pulse a few more times until completely combined. Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator or store in the freezer.

Salmon with Pesto Aioli:

  • • 2 pound wild Alaskan salmon fillet (this serves 6, adjust size according to what you need)
  • • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • • 2 heaping tablespoons basil pesto
  • • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • • Salt and pepper

Pre-heat barbecue to medium-high heat or the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat the skin side of the salmon with olive oil and place skin-side down on a large piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise and pesto together until the mixture is bright green. Liberally coat the salmon with the pesto mixture. Using the aluminum foil, place the fish on the barbecue. If using the oven, put the fish on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Cooking time for the barbecue or the oven depends on the thickness of the fish and preferred doneness. For medium rare, about 15 minutes should do it. The fish should flake easily with a fork but still be very pink in the center. After removing the fish from the heat, let it rest for 5 minutes before peeling away the skin and cutting into fillets. Serve alongside a summer salad full of berries, fresh herbs and a bright vinaigrette.


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