Recipe: Pan Seared Salmon with Nettle Pesto

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When I lived in the east coast, salmon was never my favorite fish to fry. The salmon I had at local restaurants were mostly overcooked – the meat was stiff and flavorless. Health benefits aside, I simply couldn’t fathom why they are such a big deal.

Back then, salmon was just salmon.

Now living in Seattle, salmon is a big part of our local culture. All major restaurants in the city carry at least one salmon dish on their menus. Visiting any farmer’s market in the area, you are likely to come by a smoked salmon vendor – Pike Place Market has four – offering free tastings. There is a fish ladder in town helping salmon swim upstream during spawn season, and salmon hatcheries near most mountain streams. Come May every year, when Alaska Airlines delivers the season’s first catch of wild caught Copper River salmon to Seatac, it’s a jolly red carpet event. Ask our resident orcas, 97% of their diet is, salmon.

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When you order salmon at a sushi restaurant in Seattle, be prepared to engage in a lengthy conversation with the chef. Would you like a king salmon (aka the Chinook), a sockeye salmon, a keta salmon (aka the Chum), a coho salmon, or an Atlantic salmon? In the case of king salmon, would that be a red king or a white/ivory king – once a guest of mine from Southern California who disliked the taste of salmon ordered a white king salmon, she was transformed for ever. There’s also the question of which river the salmon’s from – Copper River King (which I highly recommend if you are here during the season) or Klamath River Sockeye, and which region – Keta or Coho from Yukon, or King from Wrangell or Juneau. If the questions become too much, just let the chef know your flavor preference – fatty or buttery – and let him decide.

When it comes to seafood, I prefer the simplest method. The fish I used was the prized fresh wild-caught Copper River King Salmon, but any fresh salmon should work.

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Ingredients:

  • one Salmon fillet
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Nettle pesto
  • 1 tablespoon oilve oil

Instructions:

  1. Pat Salmon fillet dry with a paper towel and flavor it with salt and pepper. Cover it and leave in the fridge for half an hour.
  2. Smudge the fillet with pesto.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet on medium high.
  4. When the oil is hot, place the salmon skin side down and let it cook. Gently press the top with a spatula to ensure contact.
  5. Once the bottom develops a nice golden brown crust – about two minutes depending on the temperature of the stove and the thickness of the fillet – turn it over and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Once the top turned color, it is ready to serve.

Note: 

  • I happen to have a batch of Stinging Netto pesto that I made earlier this spring, according to this recipe. If you don’t have time to make home-made pesto, it’s also available in any food stores.

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  • I prefer my salmon not cooked all the way through, hence the need for a fresh, high quality salmon.

Last by not least, some very happy boys and the 17-lb salmon they caught around Vancouver Island last month!

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Look at this  beauty! I still hope to get a piece of it 🙂

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We Seattleite love our salmon.

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7 thoughts on “Recipe: Pan Seared Salmon with Nettle Pesto

  1. Hey when we were in Alaska the native guide told us of 5 Salmon types – each signified by a finger on the hand. Chump (thumb) Sockeye (index), King (middle), Silver (ring), Pinkie (well pinkie too)… where does Atlantic salmon fit in? Or is it on its own?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mmmmh, salmon. Living in England, with Scotland and Norway at our doorsteps, I’ve never tried the American varieties (I’d love to sample the sockeye, for instance), but this recipe is definitely something I’m going to steal and re-use!

    Liked by 1 person

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