Friday, June 8, 2012

For a summer day

I get bored quite easily with food, so I always try to switch things up, try new flavors and not eat the same thing day in day out. I essentially try to keep my palate on its toes. Even during weekdays, when everything is more hectic, I want the whole package. I want something delicious, nutritious and unique.

For me, good food is not only about flavor, even though that's the most important thing, but also about texture and looks. I'm a very visual person and if something doesn't look appetizing, I'm not keen to eat it.

Especially during the summer, the season when all things green are abundant and extremely tempting, there's no excuse to have anything less than spectacular meals. Fresh green peas, purple artichokes, white asparagus, yellow courgettes, red tomatoes; the color palette is limitless and the flavor palette is even more varied.

I have been in a constant courtship with green asparagus for over a month now and the wonderfully tasty green spears are working their magic on me. I can't get enough of them. I recently hinted about a recipe for asparagus pesto with fish and of course I had to share it with you.

The truth is, I never cared for the classic pesto, most probably because I don't like basil. Along with cilantro, they are my least favorite herbs. But give me any other kind of pesto and I'm a sucker for it. Rocket, parsley, mint and more recently, asparagus pesto.

There's nothing like the bright flavor of green asparagus paired with the pungent garlic, earthy pine nuts and the umaminess of parmesan to make my day. Draped over a nicely grilled, baked or pan-fried piece of firm-fleshed fish like salmon, it's nothing short of amazing.

Pan-Fried Salmon with Green Asparagus Pesto

The salmon, with its delicate sweetness, is the perfect pairing to the nutty, hearty green asparagus pesto, but you can also serve it with any other fish you like, or with chicken.
You better hurry up though, you don't want to miss the asparagus season which is nearing its end.

Instead of pan-frying the salmon, you can also bake it in aluminum foil. Season the salmon fillets with salt, coat them with enough pesto to cover the top and bake for 15-20 minutes in a preheated oven (200 degrees Celsius / 390 Fahrenheit).

Yield: 2 main-course servings / 1 cup of asparagus pesto


for the asparagus pesto
350 g fresh green asparagus, trimmed of woody stems (read in this post how to trim them)
25 g (2½ Tbsp) pine nuts
1 or 2 garlic cloves, depending on how much you like garlic, peeled and finely chopped
30 g (4 Tbsp) parmesan cheese, grated
Juice of ½ lemon, freshly squeezed
40 ml (2½ Tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 Tbsp of the asparagus cooking liquid
Freshly ground black pepper

for the salmon
2 salmon fillets, skinless and boneless, 180-200 g each
60 ml (4 Tbsp) olive oil

Pine nuts, finely chopped, for sprinkling over the dish (optional)

Special equipment: colander, food processor, large skillet (preferably non-stick)


for the asparagus pesto
Fill a large pot with water and bring it to the boil. Add a little salt and then add the trimmed asparagus. Boil for 8-9 minutes until they are very tender but not falling apart.
Keep 2-3 Tbsp of the cooking liquid and drain the asparagus in a colander. Run them under cold running water to stop them from cooking further and let them cool completely.

Cut them into 5 cm pieces and add them to your food processor. Add the pine nuts, garlic clove(s), grated parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, 1 Tbsp of the asparagus cooking liquid and a little black pepper. Process well until you have a homogeneous mixture, and give it a taste. Add salt if you think it needs it, and if you find the pesto too thick for your liking, add a little more of the cooking liquid.

for the salmon
Bring the salmon to room temperature 10-15 minutes before cooking.
Pat the salmon fillets dry with kitchen paper and sprinkle them with salt on both sides.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and when it starts to shimmer, add the salmon fillets. Pan-fry them for 4-5 minutes on one side, until they take on a golden brown color, and then turn them over and pan-fry them for a further 3-4 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Take the fillets out of the pan and onto a plate covered with kitchen paper to absorb the extra oil.

Place the salmon fillets on two individual plates and serve immediately with the pesto on the side or on top of the fish. Sprinkle with finely chopped pine nuts (optional).

You can keep the pesto in the refrigerator, covered, for 1-2 days. It becomes thicker once refrigerated. When you want to serve it, give it a good stir.

More salmon recipes:
Salmon with pomegranate molasses glaze
Pan-fried salmon fillets with sautéed fennel and ouzo


  1. I love the way your lens captures the recipe Magda....lovely as usual.

  2. Beautiful = and so fresh! I love the green-rimmed plate playing off the asparagus pesto. ~David

    (PS - looking for spelt flour this weekend!)

  3. Magda - I just nominated you for a Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. Check out my post - and I am following up with an e-mail. ~David

  4. I love any kind of pesto but had never considered it with green asparagus - it looks and sounds divine. Here in Germany people go mad for the white stuff but I still think green is nicer. Funny that you also don't really care for cilantro - I find it overwhelming.

  5. How interesting! Never thought of making a pesto with asparagus! My mom would love it! I like the photo sequence in your post too!

  6. Shri — thank you :)

    David — oh, spelt, great! If you bake something yummy, let me know!
    Thanks for the nomination!

    Emily — here in Holland they go crazy about the white stuff too. I prefer the green ones, even though they are slightly more bitter than the white.

    Joumana — you must give it a try, it's amazing!

  7. What a perfect Spring delight! Basil is so Summer anyway. Love this healthy mashup and your salmon is looking hot!

  8. I was curious about your asparagus pesto, so I'm happy that you've posted about it now. I can imagine it is sumptuous with the fish. what a perfect sear on the salmon fillet.

  9. I LOVE this idea. I'm an asparagus nut and never thought of using it for pesto. It looks sensational with salmon.

  10. Lovely post! I enjoyed the gorgeous photos. We eat salmon (my daughter calls it 'pink fish') quite often. I haven't pan-seared it in so long, probably because our little dutch kitchen doesn't have a proper vent above the stove! Using asparagus for pesto is brilliant, although pine nuts aren't my favorite (there is something metallic in my mouth after I eat them- ever notice that?), I might try it with a different nut. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I have been eating a lot of asparagus lately... actually my last two posts are about asparagus. I had never however thought of asaparagus pesto. I love the idea, especially because I imagine it is delicate to pair with fish. A girl called Carole left her link in the comments of my last post yesterday because she made a link up to asapragus dishes from the world this week. You should check it out: I'm sure a lot more people would love to hear about this.

  12. You are right..perfect for a summer day! :)