Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Salmon with Citrus Basil Pesto is a quick dinner recipe that tastes (and is) fresh, bright and healthy. If you don’t have salmon, substitute another fish or chicken.


Last weekend I added basil to my herb garden on the deck, as well as sage, dill and thyme. Last year’s rosemary, oregano, mint and lemon thyme survived the mild winter and already have new growth. I’m still on the hunt for tarragon since my local Lowe’s and Ace Hardware didn’t have any. I’ll probably have to visit the State Farmers Market for that.

Salmon with Citrus and Basil Pesto recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Springtime herb garden
Salmon with Citrus Pesto | Grabbing the Gusto

Luckily I still have 2011 pesto in the freezer, so I made this delicious Giada recipe using salmon instead of swordfish. I never thought of adding citrus to my pesto – it’s amazingly good!

I included two variations of the recipe in case you have to make pesto from scratch. Since I already had pesto, all I had to do was thaw it out and add the lemon and orange zest and juice to it. I also added Parmesan cheese since I don’t include cheese in my pesto before freezing it.

It’s worth growing a few basil plants so you can always grab a few leaves for whatever you’re cooking (or for your salad) and to make your own pesto. Just keep trimming off the growth so they don’t start flowering. Once they start flowering, the leaves become bitter. My father’s green thumb doesn’t extend to me – my brother got that gene – so if I can grow basil, you can grow basil.

Salmon with Citrus Basil Pesto recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Yeah, we really piled on the pesto, it’s that good.
Salmon with Citrus Pesto | Grabbing the Gusto

I served the salmon with my favorite Broccoli Rabe with Onions and Sun-Dried Tomatoes and a brown/wild rice mix.

Salmon with Citrus Pesto

You’ll need a food processor (if you’re making pesto from scratch), small bowl, and a skillet or grill pan.

Pesto from scratch ingredients:

  •  2 cups of fresh basil leaves — I usually fill up the processor with leaves.
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, toasted
  • 2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil — eyeball in batches
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Pesto on hand ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced – some of the juice, probably won’t need it all
  • 1/2 orange, zested and juiced – some of the juice, probably won’t need it all
  • Optional: 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (because my pesto didn’t have any cheese in it, I had to add cheese, you probably won’t)

Additional ingredients:

  • 2 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

If you’re making pesto from scratch, blend the basil, nuts, garlic, salt, zests and juices in a food processor until the mixture is finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan.

If you already have pesto, mix the pesto with the lemon and orange zest, and some of the juice from each. Stir in Parmesan if it’s not already included in the pesto.

Place a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the fish with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook the fish, skin-side down, about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the skin is crispy. Then flip the fish and cook an additional 2 to 4 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness.

Transfer the fish to serving plates, top with the citrus pesto, and serve. We went nuts with it, as you can see from the photo above. But if you have some self-control, any leftovers are great on pasta, chicken, other types of fish.

Original recipe: Swordfish with Citrus Pesto, Giada de Laurentiis, Food Network

3 thoughts on “Salmon with Citrus Pesto

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