For a Yule That’s Cool! Seared Salmon with Pepita Salsa


Ahh, it’s time for that most traditional Christmas dish of all. It’s practically synonymous with sugarplums. Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Pepita Pesto!

What? Pumpkin seeds aren’t typically yule in your mind? Even when paired with salmon?

Well, read on. I think you’ll agree on Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Pepita Pesto is bound to become a modern Christmas classic.

You see, I’ve been traveling. Traveling where it’s cold. Traveling to a food-centric city– so everywhere I turned fantastic food was being offered to me. I ate at least 4 meals a day (plus drinks and snacks) every day for the past 7 days. With friends and family all around, it was eat, drink and be merry (Christmas) all the time. I’ve arrived home fat (and happy).

So when I started thinking about the Christmas food I wanted to enjoy more quietly here at home, I turned to one of my tried and true recipes. because I knew it had to be light. But light isn’t necessarily the challenge. I also wanted to serve food with a cool yule spirit. But how do you make something as light as simply seared salmon seem festive enough for the holidays? Well, I chose color. Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Pepita Pesto is “red and green”. It doesn’t get much more holiday than that. I chose to serve mine as fillets drizzled with some of this delicious sauce. Still, I couldn’t help thinking what an amazing taco this recipe would make. So I guess we’ll be seeing this dish again come the New Year nestled into a steaming hot tortilla, heaped with some spicy cabbage slaw. Now that really is a new cool yule tradition. GREG

Seared Salmon with Cilantro-Pepita Pesto serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe  Adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 3 teaspoonvegetable oil, divided
  • ½ cupgreen pepita seeds, raw, plus more as garnish
  • ½ cupcilantro
  • 1 teaspooncoriander seeds
  • 1 pinchcumin seeds
  • 1 clovegarlic, peeled & minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 pincheach kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 (six-ounce) salmon fillets with skin
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin seeds and sauté until the sizzle and pop, about 2 minutes. Transfer seeds to a paper towel lined plate to cool. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel and reserve the skillet.

Pulse the pumpkin seeds, cilantro, coriander seeds, cumin, and garlic in a food processor until a course, grainy texture is achieved. With machine running, gradually add the lime juice, and 1/4 cup oil. If necessary add a tablespoon or two of water to achieve a thick puréed texture. Season with salt, pepper.

Wash and completely dry the salmon fillets.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of vegetable oil in the large reserved cast iron or non-stick skillet set over medium heat. When the oil is very hot; add the salmon, skin side down. Cook it until the skin is very crisp, dark brown and releases easily from the pan. This should take 3 to 4 minutes. Do not be tempted to check or move the fish around in the pan during this time. You will only succeed in making it stick to the pan or worse ruin your beautifully crisp skin.

Once the skin has crisped flip the fish, and cook it an additional 1 to 2 minutes more, until the flesh is nearly (but not quite) opaque in the center. Do not let it cook all the way through. The fish will continue to cook after it leaves the pan. Your goal is a succulent flesh graduating from a medium rare center outwards to a crispy crackly skin.

Place the seared fillets on plates, skin side down. Spoon pesto over. Garnish with remaining raw pepita seeds. Serve with lime wedges.

Greg Henry writes the food blog Sippity Sup- Serious Fun Food, and contributes the Friday column on entertaining forThe Back Burner at Key Ingredient. He’s active in the food blogging community, and a popular speaker at IFBC, Food Buzz Festival and Camp Blogaway. He’s led cooking demonstrations in PanamaCosta Rica, and has traveled as far and wide as Norway to promote culinary travel. He’s been featured in Food & Wine Magazine, Los Angeles Times, More Magazine, The Today Show Online and Saveur’s Best of the Web. Greg also co-hosts The Table Set podcast which can be downloaded on iTunes or at Homefries Podcast Network.


Seared Salmon