Monday, November 7, 2011

Pan Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Pumpkin Seed Pesto

You and I both know we should be doing it more.  You can't ignore the health benefits, and it's usually really good.  As much as you try to, it's just difficult to eat the recommended amount of salmon per week.  Low in the bad stuff and high in the good stuff, the majority of people should be consuming at least 2 to 3 three ounce servings per week.  Sure, you can find the desired omega-3 fatty acids in other foods too such as nuts, and you could always supplement with vitamins, but those options aren't as tasty as this. 

Which type of salmon and from where are you usually buying?  If no other choice, the grocery store farm-raised version with color added will do, but will certainly not taste as good as it could.  Those fish are usually the highest in polychlorinated biphenyls, mercury, and other heavy metals and toxins.  MSG, tasty.  PCB's, not so much.  To ensure the absolute highest quality, I advise that you catch and clean your own.  If that is not possible, then a trip to your fishmonger is in order.  Here you will find wild salmon, the meat of which tastes like the animal actually lived, as if it really swam and chased its prey and avoided death being eaten by a larger fish.  How can you tell if your fish is fresh and was recently doing those things? The eyes should be clear, not cloudy, and the gills should be bright red, indicating there was some recent absorption of oxygen.  My fish guy (literally) is currently closed while remodeling, luckily I live in a city with more than one. 

I'm not sure if it's genetic or what, but some individuals can't stand the taste of cilantro.  To them, I have heard, it tastes like soap.  I've eaten a lot of bar soap in my youth, because my mouth at times was 'dirty'.  I disagreed with that form of punishment and I think cilantro tastes much better than soap.
If you would like to grill or broil your salmon fillets for this recipe, please do so.  

Pan Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Pumpkin Seed Pesto
4 servings

1/2 C shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 TB lime juice
1/2 medium garlic clove, minced
1/2 C (packed) cilantro leaves
1/4 C EVOO
4 six oz wild salmon fillets
4 wedges from 1 lime

In a small skillet, toast the seeds over medium-low heat for a couple minutes until fragrant (a few might sauter, which is french for jump and the root verb for saute) and toasty, remove from the hot skillet to a small bowl to cool.

To the bowl of your food processor, add the cilantro, garlic, all but 2 ts of the pumpkin seeds and the lime juice.  Season with about a half ts of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  With the motor running, slowly add the oil until the pesto forms, don't forget to stop and wipe down the bowl with a spatula.  Once well-mixed, taste and season with additional S&P if necessary. You may add less or more oil to reach your desired consistency.

With your catch of the day at room temp, fire up a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Season the flesh side of the fish with S&P.  Once the pan is very hot, add a few TB olive oil to the pan and then the salmon filets, flesh side down.  If you have a splatter cover or fan, employ now or clean up later.  Sear for about 3-4 minutes, then carefully flip and cook skin side down for another 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon and to your liking.  I prefer mine almost firm throughout, so I denatured the protein for 4 min per side.   

Plate the salmon, top with a healthy spoonful of cilantro-pumpkin seed pesto, sprinkle a pinch of seeds on the plate and serve with a lime wedge.  What else should you serve this with? A starch such as long-grain wild rice, a green salad, and an unoaked California Chardonnay or a light red would also be delicious. 

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