Spring has come to Southern California. The sunshine is finally starting to peek through those long-lingering winter clouds. Flowers are starting to bloom and the hummingbirds are returning to my yard. It seems fitting, with Passover being a springtime celebration, that our Seder table should include some fresh, seasonal flavors. Case in point, this lovely salmon dish. I’ve paired crispy pan-seared salmon fillets with fresh almond basil pesto sauce. Though dairy-free, the pesto is creamy thanks to toasted sliced almonds and a slow emulsion in the food processor. A touch of Meyer lemon juice brightens the pesto and adds a mild sweetness. A few toasted almonds are scattered on the top for flavor and crunch. It’s a beautiful blend of fresh, seasonal flavors– a simple, elegant entree option for your Seder table.
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- 1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds, divided
- 4 boneless skinless salmon fillets
- 2 cups basil leaves (stems removed), tightly packed
- 2 tbsp fresh Meyer lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spread out the sliced almonds in a small skillet in an even layer. Heat the almonds over medium, stirring frequently, till they became lightly toasted and aromatic. This will take a few minutes. Careful, they can go from toasted to burned very quickly. As soon as they are ready, pour them out of the skillet and into a cool bowl to stop browning. Reserve.
- Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper.
- In a skillet, heat olive oil over high heat till hot and just shy of smoking. Add the fillets to the skillet, top side down. Sear them on one side on high heat for 2-3 minutes till a golden brown crust forms on the meat.Without flipping the salmon, transfer the skillet to the oven and let it cook for 5-10 more minutes to desired doneness. Thicker fillets may take longer.
- While salmon is cooking, make almond pesto. Take 1/4 cup of the toasted almonds (reserve the rest) and pulse them in the processor till they are finely ground.
- Add the basil leaves and process till they're finely chopped. Scrape the sides of the processor. Add the Meyer lemon juice, garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste-- I usually use about 1/2 tsp salt total in the pesto). Process again till all ingredients are chopped fine and well mixed.
- Scrape the sides of the processor. Secure the lid and open the pouring spout. Turn the processor on and drizzle the olive oil in very slowly through the pouring spout. It should take 2-3 minutes to drizzle in all of the oil. As the oil emulsifies with the other ingredients, a creamy pesto will form.
- Once the oil has been incorporated, scrape the sides and process for a few more seconds till the pesto mixture is smooth and creamy. Season the pesto with more salt to taste, if desired. Reserve.Remove the seared salmon from the oven. Use an oven mitt, that skillet handle will be hot!
- For each portion of salmon, spread 1 tbsp pesto in a circle on the plate. Place seared salmon fillet on top, crust side up. Top salmon fillet with another dollop of pesto and 1 tbsp toasted sliced almonds. Serve.