I’m a big advocate of always being stocked with a can of red, wild-caught, Sockeye salmon. When in doubt, salmon cakes are always tasty on top of a salad — or rice. For most of the year, Pesto Salmon Cakes have been my go-to salmon cake recipe. Last night, without any pesto on hand, I whipped up a more standard batch of salmon cakes and was reminded just how many fish there are in that big sea of salmon cake recipes.
Broccoli Pancakes with Pesto. Seriously, these were delicious. One of my favorite blogs, Beyond the Peel, came out with a recipe for 3 Ingredient Savory Pancakes, and I had to try them immediately, largely out of disbelief that
2 cups chopped broccoli,
4 eggs and
2 Tbsp. of ground flax
zapped together in a food processor could turn into a game-changing pancake batter. They cooked up in a skillet with a little oil, just like a regular pancake.
Topped with warm pesto, we had the pleasure during dinner of experiencing something truly new under the sun. Gluten free to boot. Great for dinner, I can’t wait to serve these for a brunch and convert a whole new crew of doubters to the concept of a broccoli pancake.
It’s fairly recently that I’ve started pushing the envelope of pesto possibilities, stirring in a tablespoon of pesto here, spreading it liberally there, and discovering more and more reasons to love pesto.
Pesto is simply amazing. Packed with more flavor per square centimeter than any other item on the savory shelf, it also serves as a vehicle for some of the finest superfoods out there — garlic, olive oil, fresh herbs, walnuts, lemon juice. One could almost make an argument for popping a pesto capsule on days when it did not make it onto the plate.
What we’re talking about here are dishes that incorporate pesto — not recipes for pesto. But first, a few words on pesto itself. Earlier this year, I experimented with a Basil Arugula Parsley Pesto, which became my standby. Recently, I took a crack at a Basil Almond Pesto, and even though I’m thinking that might be my new go-to, I’ll never tire of new pesto possibilities. My only rule when making pesto: make a lot. A refrigerator that’s stocked with this wildly versatile standby tends to spark the creative juices.
Here are some more of the ways that pesto has managed to spice up our lives lately.
I bought a few ears at the Farmer’s Market. Shucked them. Immersed them in boiling water for a few minutes and was about to bring them to the table with a stick of butter and a shaker of salt — like I’ve done since I was 10 years old — and I stopped myself in my tracks thinking, “I wonder what a little pesto would be like instead.” There are those who would advocate mixing half butter and half pesto, and that’s one way to go. We went for straight pesto and loved it.
Pesto Pilaf. A side dish doesn’t get much easier (or better) than this: One cup of brown rice, 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the water is fully absorbed. Stir in 2 Tbsp. of pesto. Top with toasted, sliced almonds. Perfect.
Cheese and Pesto Sandwich. A cheese sandwich began as a very blah lunch-on-the run until I eyed some pesto in the fridge, spread some pesto on a slice of whole wheat bread, and added a slice of cheddar along with a few arugula leaves. The transformation to an entirely new sandwich stratosphere was immediate.
The next day, Sarah took the same concept and grilled it. Even better.
Pesto/Lemon Dressing. Equal parts pesto and fresh squeezed lemon juice. That’s all it takes to unseat the standard Dijon vinaigrette.
Pesto Frittata.Fun with frittatas — brunch, lunch or dinner — is a big theme around our kitchen these days. A recent addition of a tablespoon of pesto into five beaten eggs, took a potato, onion and tomato frittata up several notches.
Pesto Omlette. And next we have the obvious extension of the pesto frittata. Two large eggs, a tablespoon of pesto spread in the center, and about a half tablespoon on top.
Baked Salmon with Pesto. Once again, pesto comes to the rescue. 30 seconds is all it takes to transform a plain plank of salmon into a perfectly moist and flavor-packed filet. Spread about 2 Tbsp. of pesto across the skinless side of a 1 to 1 1/2 pound salmon filet. Wrap in foil and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Pesto Salmon Cakes. I’m a big proponent of always having a can of wild-caught sockeye salmon on the shelf (as well as a container of pesto in the fridge), because it means that Pesto Salmon Cakes will always be an option. One 14 1/2 oz. can of red salmon, 3 Tbsp. of pesto, 2 eggs and 2 slices of whole wheat bread ground into crumbs, and that’s it.
Pesto Croutons. Bill could not be a bigger fan of homemade croutons and pesto couldn’t be a more perfect crouton mix. Combine 2 cups of cut up cubes of bread with 3 tablespoons of pesto mixed in with additional olive oil to ensure that the pesto spreads evenly. Toss gently until all of the bread cubes are coated and toast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minute. Toss again after about 10 minutes and monitor closely to ensure croutons don’t burn.
Pesto Pasta. Serving as the poster child of this blog’s Auto Pilot page, pasta with pesto is where my love of pesto began — and the point from which is did not stray for many years.
Broccoli Pesto. And for a variation on the basic pasta with pesto, steam broccoli for a good seven minutes and mash it with a fork along with a few tablespoons of pesto. Mix with hot pasta and top with parmesan.
So it turns out that a spice rub isn’t just for pork. That new and fun fact, combined with my realization that flash-frozen sockeye salmon filets thaw quickly in their vacuum-sealed packaging when placed in a bowl of cold water, meant that a rather tasty salmon dinner made it to the table quite quickly without much planning. The mix of the brown sugar, orange zest and cumin was a whole new — and wildly well received — direction for salmon. And so easy! I can’t imagine any reason to ever broil a plain filet again.
1 1/2 – 2 pounds of salmon filets
2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
2 tsp. brown sugar
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice
Remove skin from salmon.
Combine, brown sugar, orange zest, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour 1 Tbsp. of orange juice over filets and rub half of the spice mix onto the filets with the backside of a spoon.
Transfer salmon to a broiling pan coated with nonstick spray, and cook for 5 minutes.
Turn filets and coat the second side with the remaining orange juice and spice mix. Broil for an additional 4-5 minutes or until salmon flakes easily.
On the spectrum of super foods, this little midweek surprise might just be pushing a 10 — not what one would expect of a bisque. I’ve always associated bisque with lots of heavy cream, and frankly, since lobster is not real big in Central Texas, I’ve never given bisque much thought. Recently, I happened upon a recipe for a salmon bisque that used canned tomato soup and a bunch of other ingredients that I don’t use, but my interest was piqued. I scrapped that recipe, and started over with some soup-making basics — tossing an Idaho potato into the mix to stand in for heavy cream.
Low and behold, it was even better than expected — which is the beautiful thing about not having expectations. The salmon took center stage and the blend of vegetables and herbs added a subtle flavor dimension to a soup that’s both rich and light and one of my new faves.
1 14 oz. can of wild-caught, red salmon*
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup peeled and chopped carrots
1 large Idaho potato (peeled and chopped)
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup half and half (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat three Tbsp. of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add garlic and onions, followed by chopped carrots, celery and potato. Cook on medium high heat for five minutes.
Add 2 cups vegetable stock, parsley and herbs. Reduce heat, cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
When vegetables are soft, remove from heat and add remaining 2 cups of stock. Once slightly cooled, blend with an immersion blender or in a blender.
Add salmon and pulse a few times.
Reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste and half and half if desired.
*I used canned salmon, but fresh is absolutely an option. (Just cook it before adding it to the soup). I’m a big fan of the canned, red, wild-caught sockeye salmon for a lot of recipes. I prefer it to farm-raised, or pink, or Atlantic that’s had color added.
It appears I’m not the only one who believes that the Easter menu is in need of an overhaul. Here in Austin, it will probably be somewhere between 80 and 90 on Easter Sunday. And what’s on the docket for the traditional Easter dinner? A heavy winter meal. Even up North, where winter is still going strong, Easter is a Spring holiday just the same, and how is that reflected in the likes of the lamb or ham and scalloped potatoes and various casseroles that end up on most of our tables?
The following menu feels like Easter to me. That is, colorful, celebratory, fun and life affirming rather than artery-clogging. Despite the hungry, intergenerational mix that’s likely to be present at many Easter dinners, I believe this meal could appeal to a broad base — and even those who miss their ham, scalloped potatoes and green bean casserole will have to agree that the table is beautiful.