Cedar-grilled pesto salmon

Posted by: Site Administrator  :  Category: Entrees

This summer has seen a new arrival at my house – a garden! We ended up with way more dirt than we’d planned on, so we took some extra retaining wall stones and created a garden. Since it was a rather hasty thing, I didn’t go through the extra trouble of building the wall properly, and we essentially took them and made a 2-course wall around a pile of dirt. From above, it looks like a footprint without toes!

We took a trip out to my dad’s place to get some vegetable plants and whatnot to populate our new patch of dirt. I almost forgot to get the herbs, but I’m thankful that I remembered at the last minute. When we returned from a brief family trip to Denver last weekend, I found that the basil plants had gone NUTS (those are the ones in the foreground, behind the marigolds). About the only thing you can do with basil in those kinds of quantities is pesto, unless you happen to be my four-year-old daughter who will just walk up to a basil plant, pluck a leaf, and start munching. That apple sure didn’t fall far from the tree!

I have a few different varieties of basil in our garden patch. The two that have gone crazy are the “Sweet Dani” lemon basil, as well what one normally thinks of as a basil plant, of the “Nufar” variety. To harvest basil, my dad tells me, cut it right above the leaves and discard the flowers. Every place you cut will sprout two new stalks. If you make sure to cut off the flower stalks regularly, your basil plant will become quite large. After trying this on my lemon basil plant (which could have easily hidden a basketball), I just decided to lop it off near the base and let it start over. After I got the leaves plucked off it, I was left with several woody stalks and a large bowl of basil.

Now, those who are familiar with my kitchen antics will be the first to tell you that I consider recipes to be a rather loose guideline and openly subject to interpretation. Working off a recipe I found from Diana’s Kitchen, I started stuffing my large bowl full of basil leaves into my small food processor. After making the whole thing with considerably more (about 10x) garlic than the recipe calls for, I decided that using it with just lemon basil wasn’t “pesto-y” enough, and added a handful of the regular sweet basil leaves. Perfection was achieved after adding a little salt.

That was the hard part. The next phase involved taking a cedar grilling plank (I get mine from Costco, ($10 for a deck of six). Using a grilling plank involves soaking the plank for about half an hour before use (both to moisten the grilling heat and to keep the plank from being totally incinerated). Since I was using frozen salmon fillets in this case (also from Costco), it was convenient to fill the sink with cool water and dunk the salmon packages in the water along with the plank – by the time the plank is ready, the salmon is thawed enough to cook.

I then took the soaked plank (the package says you can also soak the plank in beer or wine or any number of tasty things), I put a generous dollop of pesto underneath each fillet, lightly salted the top of the fish, and put another dollop of pesto on top. If you’re using a whole fillet, you can make a strip of pesto instead of dollops. Once the internal temperature of the grill reached around 450F, I put the plank in for about 15 minutes, until the salmon was what one would consider “medium well”. When grilling with cedar planks, it’s best not to open the grill unless absolutely necessary, to keep the moisture and smoke in the chamber. The neighbourhood was smelling lovely with the combined aroma of the cedar smoke and the roasting pesto.

Dinner was served with some mixed greens salad from our local CSA and a cucumber from the aforementioned garden.

(Oh, did I mention Costco? They have pine nuts, too!)

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