Salmon is a healthy, versatile fish. I like it however it’s prepared, but this unique blend of flavors with pesto and orange is one of my favorites.
Sometimes this blog reminds me of what a lazy cook I’ve become. In 1999, I fell in love with a recipe in a Fine Cooking magazine for Pesto-Crusted Salmon. My recipe has evolved over the years. When I went on a gluten-free diet in 2003, I topped the dish with pine nuts or slivered almonds instead of breadcrumbs. Since I’m always looking for shortcuts, I started using store-bought pesto instead of making my own. I added orange marmalade to the sauce to make it a bit thicker. Even though my current version of this recipe varies significantly from the original, I still think of it as a Fine Cooking recipe.
I used to serve this with a lemon-orange pilaf. It was delicious, but it took about an hour to make. I found a 90-second shortcut that’s almost as good. I zap a package of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice in the microwave for 90 seconds, then top it with some of the orange sauce and nuts.
Last time I was in Trader Joe’s, I found some unsalted, dry toasted slivered almonds. Another time saver! If there’s no Trader Joe’s nearby, you can order them on Amazon. You can also serve the almonds or pine nuts untoasted. Grated parmesan cheese or bread crumbs also works well as a topping if you’re not a fan of nuts.
Preparation time: 15 minutes Total time: 30 minutes
- Citrus juicer or orange squeezer
- 2 heaping tbsp (or more) prepared pesto
- 2 6-oz salmon fillets
- 1 orange, juiced
- 2 tbsp dry white wine
- 2 tbsp orange marmalade
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp cold butter
- 2 tbsp cup slivered almonds or pine nuts, toasted (optional, could top the dish with grated parmesan cheese instead)
- 2 servings prepared rice (Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice works well)
To make the sauce, heat fresh-squeezed orange juice over medium-high heat until it’s reduced by half. In a small bowl, mix the wine, marmalade, and cornstarch. Add the marmalade mixture to the reduced orange juice. Simmer for a few seconds, and whisk in butter.
Toast slivered almonds or pine nuts on the stove top in a skillet until lightly browned. Stir constantly since they burn easily. Take them out of the hot pan as soon as they are done.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse salmon and pat dry. Put fillets on baking pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone pad, or lightly oil the baking pan. Spread a thin layer of pesto, no more than ¼ inch, evenly over the top of each fillet. Bake until the salmon just starts to turn opaque, with a trace of bright orange in the middle, 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the salmon.
Slide a spatula between the salmon and skin, then lift to remove the skin before moving the salmon to the plate. Ladle the orange sauce over salmon. Sprinkle with nuts, if desired.
Top the prepared rice with orange sauce and almonds or pine nuts.