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BackstoryMany may associate summertime with foods like ice cream, berries, bbq ribs and the like. For me, I'd like to add salmon to the list. Prime salmon season usually starts in May and continues through September. My favorite salmon? Copper River Salmon, hands down! My friends in Alaska have generously been sharing the season's bounty and I recently received some Sockeye Salmon to play with. One of the things I made with the salmon was this Salmon & Spinach Pesto Pasta. The creamy spinach pesto sauce compliments the fresh salmon ever so delicately and makes for a colorful and flavorful pasta dish.
If you notice at the top of my blog, there's a tab (C.R.Salmon '11) that lists all the Chicagoland retail stores that are currently selling Copper River Salmon as well as restaurants serving it up this season. I compiled this list as a member of the Copper River Salmon's Fresh Catch Crew. A total of 6 bloggers around the country were part of this special crew and we all sought to find where Copper River Salmon could be purchased or enjoyed in area restaurants. Joining me in this year's Fresh Catch Crew are the following food bloggers:
City Girl Chicago (Chicago Area)
Chez Us (San Francisco Area)
Tiny Urban Kitchen (Boston Area)
Joylicious (Dallas Area)
The Manhattan [food] Project (New York City Area)
In return, one of us would be chosen to fly out to Alaska and have the opportunity to talk with fishermen, processors and fishery managers behind the Copper River Salmon harvesting - and eat lots of Copper River salmon! In addition to that, the lucky blogger will get to forage berries and mushrooms, as well as try their hand at sport fishing. It's an opportunity of a lifetime to visit Alaska and experience all of the fall bounty that awaits.
Well, after a few months of documenting retail stores and restaurants that have Copper River Salmon available, it was time. A lucky blogger was chosen based on their work in locating Copper River Salmon was in their area and the announcement was made just a week ago. So who's packing their bags and headed to Alaska? Can you believe it - me! I was so surprised and shocked that I was chosen! I've never been to Alaska and never thought it would ever be a place I would visit. But now that I have my tickets confirmed, it really is going to be a reality. I'll be visiting Cordova, AK during the first week of September, immediately after Labor Day weekend. I'm so excited! I look forward to taking a lot of pictures and jotting down a lot of notes so I can share the whole experience here on the site when I return.
So with that, I'm sharing this dish that showcases the Sockeye Salmon I received from the generous folks at Copper River Salmon. I absolutely love salmon and pesto together. This dish incorporates a twist on the traditional pesto by using spinach instead of basil. Once the pesto is made, it's added to a heavy cream reduction for a luscious sauce. The salmon is seasoned and broiled, allowing for its natural flavors to shine through. It's definitely one of our favorite salmon dishes at our house...
- 8 ounces dry pasta (I used shells)
- 12 ounces skinless salmon
- 1 lemon
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Spinach Pesto Sacue:
- 1/4 cup walnuts
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 pound baby spinach (about 10 cups)
- 1/3 cup olive oil1 cup freshly grated Parmesan + more for serving/garnish
- kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Prepare the pasta - Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When water is boiling, add 1 tablespoon salt and dry pasta; stir to separate pasta. Cook pasta until al dente and drain; set aside.
- Prepare the salmon - Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat broiler. Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil. Zest the lemon and set aside. Cut half of the lemon into thin slices and place on the lined baking sheet. Reserve the other lemon half to use later.
- Season one side of the salmon liberally with salt and pepper, sprinkle with lemon zest, then rub with olive oil. Place the salmon on top of the lemon slices on the baking sheet. Broil until salmon is no longer translucent and is firm when pressed, about 10 minutes. Remove from broiler and sprinkle with lemon juice using the remaining half of lemon. Use a fork to flake the salmon into bite-sized pieces. The salmon skin will stick to foil and can be discarded.
- Prepare the spinach pesto sauce - In a food processor, pulse the walnuts and garlic until chopped. Add two-thirds of the spinach (the remainder will be used later), oil, half (1/2 cup) of the Parmesan, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl as necessary.
- In a large saucepan over medium high heat, pour in the heavy cream and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup. Once reduced, add the spinach pesto, the reserved spinach, remaining parmesan and stir. Cook until cheese melts through and spinach wilts down.
- To assemble - Transfer the cooked pasta to a large serving dish. Top with the spinach pesto sauce and salmon, and toss to combine. Serve with freshly grated parmesan.