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Salmon and pesto


This is going to be our dinner tonight - Delia's Roasted salmon fillets with a crusted pecorino and pesto topping. I'm pretty sure I've made it before - a few times indeed. It's quick and easy, delicious and very suitable for a hot summer's day in Melbourne. We shall probably eat it outside. Moreover, yesterday we visited my green thumb friends and I was given a massive bunch of basil, so I was going to make pesto anyway.


Which led me to deciding to do one of those 'pairing' posts - suggesting the different ways those two ingredients - salmon and pesto - can be used. Maybe I should add in the cheese as well. However, I meant for my initial focus to be on how this very common pairing these days, came to be.


But, yet again, I have drawn a complete blank. There are pages and pages of recipes for salmon paired with pesto, but not one of them mentions where it came from. In fact Delia is the only one to even try:


"This recipe, invented by my good friend Lin Cooper, started life under the grill, but now, in my attempt to more or less eliminate the grill, I'm happy to say that it cooks very happily and easily in a high oven." Delia Smith


A very slight clue which led nowhere, and I'm tempted to say that whoever Lin Cooper is, she probably didn't invent it anyway - grilled or roasted. I suspect it's a relatively modern thing - invented in a classy restaurant somewhere. I mean it looks classy and is perfectly suited to fancy plating. Elegant. I'm just guessing that that sauce in this picture is pesto based but it certainly could be. Maybe it's another of those Italian American things. After all the Italians don't do fish and cheese do they? And there's a lot of cheese in pesto, not to mention, in today's recipe, the pecorino topping.


And I wonder why Delia was attempting to eliminate the grill? Although I suspect none of us grill stuff as much as we used to. I certainly don't. On a regular basis it's really only Robert Carrier's kebabs that get the grilling treatment. I wonder why this is? Maybe the grill has been replaced by the barbecue and the griddle. Or we roast instead, as here.


Speaking of Robert Carrier, many years ago I made a recipe from his New Great Dishes of the World - Salmon in basil sauce - which he credited to Wolfgang Puck. It's not a pesto dish, but it is basil and salmon. Lots of basil. I remember thinking it was really a bit too much, but then it would have been in the early days of my using basil, and I wasn't that enamoured at first. Pesto itself didn't do it for me either back then. Now I love it and make it often - well when I have basil - which really does not keep well.


Wolfgang Puck began in California though, so maybe the salmon and pesto thing began there. It sort of suits the vibe does it not?


So giving up on origins what variations did I find?


First of all I should perhaps feature this one, which is a variation on Wolfgang Puck's effort. It's called Creamy pesto salmon and is from a website called Healthy Fitness Meals. Now I didn't check out the website, but I have to say that delicious though this looks I don't think I would be calling it healthy. Yes the fish has Omega-3 but all that cream! Surely not healthy.


Moving on to my first group. These are those closest to my 'foundation' recipe?: Salmon and pesto dressed veg from Jamie Oliver in which the pesto is for the accompanying vegetables, not the salmon, so not really the same at all. although I have to say that I'm planning to serve my salmon with pesto dressed vegetables - peas, potatoes, zucchini because that's what I've got. Then there is Donna Hay's gorgeous looking Pesto salmon skewers with a green couscous salad. There are quite a few salmon pesto skewer recipes out there as well, but this one certainly won the beauty prize. Try it for your next barbecue. I saw one where the salmon alternated with zucchini. Plus there were a few tray bakes.



The next category is pasta. Of course. And here is why I think that this whole salmon and pesto thing is not Italian. I just looked up my edition of The Silver Spoon - the authority on all Italian food really, and although there are several salmon recipes there is not a single recipe for salmon and pesto. Which doesn't mean the rest of the world - and some Italians - isn't thinking that it's a match made in heaven. And so the food world evolves.


So pasta. First in a move from roasting to pasta we have a Pesto salmon traybake from BBC Good Food and there are heaps of this kind of thing, some of them somewhat more liquid and called gratins. Then, in no particular order: Pesto and peppered salmon spaghetti from Coles; Spaghetti with pesto, crushed potato and salmon from Phoebe Wood/delicious.; Salmon pesto pasta from Gennaro Contaldi/Sacla; and Confit salmon pappardelle with cardamom and lime from Yotam Ottolenghi



Enclosed - well I'm offering from Nigel Slater Salmon in pastry; Pesto salmon filo parcels from Taste; and Salmon asparagus pesto tarts from Safcol;



but really you can wrap salmon and pesto in anything - sandwiches, burgers, wraps, rolls ..., hot or cold - and in combination with whatever you fancy.


What else? Well I found Salmon and pesto frittata/Dishing Up The Dirt and Pea pesto risotto with honey roast salmon- Lucy Jessup/Sainsbury's Magazine, both of which are Italian dishes but not actually Italian.



I actually didn't find a quiche, although it's an obvious candidate and there were lots of tarts. Fish cakes maybe? I'm pretty sure that people will continue to extemporise on the theme. It's such a winning combination isn't it? But somehow modern.


And by the way I'm returning to my alternation of guru and new, when trying to cook from an actual recipe each week - preferably something I haven't cooked before when it comes to guru week, and this week - the first of the year it was Delia's turn. I've failed in the aspect of something new however. But that's OK - and I haven't cooked it for a long time. Quick, easy, and I'll still have pesto - probably salmon too.


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