May 4th, 2012

More fish: Salmon with Cilantro & Pepita Pesto

Some food, no matter how delicious it is, just refuses to be pretty.  It’s like those girls who refuse to wear makeup because they want you to be attracted to their brains instead of their bodies and at first you think they’re one of those stuck-up feminists but then they turn out to be pretty cool when you get to know them.

This cilantro-pepita pesto is like that.  No matter how I styled it or photographed it, I just couldn’t get it to look…appetizing.  At first it looks kind of like something that would come out of a baby, but once you look past its icky green gloopiness and take a bite, you’ll find that it has a bright freshness from the cilantro, and a slight toasty richness from the pepitas.

Salmon with Cilantro and Pepita Pesto

Cilantro pesto is not photogenic. Neither is black rice.

Hiding underneath that green glop is a perfectly tender, juicy, seared salmon fillet.  I do love me some salmon pretty much any way I can get it, so I easily overlooked the crazy coloring of the cilantro pesto and dug in.  It really works well with the nuttiness of forbidden (black) rice, but I bet it would go well with my other fish side dish-standby: cous cous.  Or maybe some bruschetta on the side? At any rate, if you can get ahold of some pepitas (also known as hulled or shelled pumpkin seeds), I highly recommend you give this a try.

Pan-Seared Salmon with Cilantro Pepita Pesto

Slightly adapted from Bon Appétit Magazine, November, 2011.

  • 2 tbsp, ½ tsp plus ¼ c extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ c pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • ½ c (firmly packed) cilantro leaves and stems
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp (or more) fresh lime juice/li>
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 6-oz salmon fillets
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  1. Heat ½ teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pepitas; sauté until beginning to brown and pop, about 2 minutes. Transfer seeds to a paper towel to drain; let cool. Reserve skillet.
  2. Pulse 6 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, cilantro, coriander, and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped. With machine running, gradually add 1 tbsp lime juice, ¼ cup oil, then ¼ cup water, blending until coarse purée forms. Season pesto to taste with salt, pepper, and more lime juice if desired.
  3. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in reserved skillet over medium heat. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Add to skillet and cook until just opaque in center, 3-4 minutes on each side. Place fillets on plates and spoon pesto over. Garnish with remaining pumpkin seeds and serve with lime wedges.

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