In celebration of the Lunar New Year, I thought it would be fun to try an Asian-inspired pesto sauce, and this recipe below - adapted from The Pesto Cookbook, by Olwen Woodier, did not disappoint. (Note: I ended up combining two different recipes from this wonderful book, as the original called for Thai basil, and I couldn't find any at my local store).
I generally shy away from cooking Asian food, since I am usually too impatient to follow recipes correctly, and the results generally don't taste as good as anything I can order in my favorite restaurant. But this recipe, involving salmon slathered in cilantro pesto and baked in coconut milk, is right in my wheelhouse.
Even then, despite the recipe's simplicity, I forgot to roast the salmon (which would have been easier and less messy than grilling on the stove, as I did), but the results were still delicious. The cilantro pesto tasted mild, creamy, and delicious, with exotic hints of fresh ginger, garlic, lime juice, and fish sauce, and the salmon was simple to prepare, and let the sauce shine. Best of all, I have enough pesto left to try the same recipe with grilled chicken or shrimp another time.
Happy Lunar New Year!
1 1/2lbs fresh salmon, either whole or cut into fillets
1 cup coconut milk
For the Cilantro Pesto
2 cups fresh cilantro, including tender stalks
1/2 cup canola, vegetable or other neutral oil
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2" approx. fresh ginger, peeled and roughly julienned
2-3 cloves peeled garlic
2tbsp. lime juice
2tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. honey
2tbsp. sesame oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Dash of soy sauce (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees centigrade).
Prepare and place all pesto ingredients into the bowl of a mini food processor or blender and adjust seasoning, to taste.
Place salmon in an oven-proof dish (I like Pyrex, as it's easy to clean), season well, and spoon coconut milk and half the pesto sauce over the top. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the center of salmon is opaque or cooked to taste (bear in mind salmon will keep cooking a little more even after you remove it from the oven). Serve with rice and extra cilantro pesto sauce on the side.