Salmon with Cilantro Pesto and Lentil Salad

We picked up some nice salmon filets when they were on sale at Giant Eagle last week and decided to make them the next day.  I didn’t really have a plan for them and forgot to have Lo soak cedar planks to grill them on.  He didn’t want to grill the salmon without the planks because fish is so much more delicate to work with on the grill.  We had some asparagus for him to grill, plus some thawed chicken breasts for a future meal, so we decided to cook the salmon in a cast iron pan and the rest on the grill.  I’d been craving lentils and decided I wanted to make a quick lentil salad to go along with the rest of the meal.  I remembered that I had some cilantro pesto in the freezer from a few months ago and decided that it would be the perfect topping for the salmon, so I pulled it out and defrosted it in the microwave – good choice!  It sounds like a lot going on, but it came together so quickly – especially with him on the grill and me in the kitchen.

The salmon was just cooked very simply in the cast iron pan.  I seasoned the salmon with salt and pepper and heated coconut oil in the pan until it was hot.  I placed the salmon in the skillet skin side up and cooked for 5-7 minutes until it was done almost halfway through and released easily from the pan.  If you try to flip fish and it is sticking to the skillet, it probably isn’t ready to be flipped.  Once flipped I kept cooking until it was just barely still pink in the middle and removed it from the pan.  I topped it with the cilantro pesto right before serving.  As far as the asparagus goes, just spray it with some oil and cook it on the grill – salt and pepper is all you need!

I looked around for a cilantro pesto a few months ago when I had a bunch of cilantro from a produce delivery that I didn’t want to go to waste.  I didn’t find a perfect recipe, so I just combined several.

Cilantro Pesto

2 cups cilantro leaves, long stems removed
1 large clove of garlic (2 if you hate vampires)
1/4 cup chopped red onion (or less)
1/3 cup pine nuts (can use other nuts instead; almonds, walnuts, pecans)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup fresh parmesean blend or other hard cheese
favorite seasoning (I likely used some crushed red pepper, but don’t remember exactly)

Chop nuts in food processor.  Add cilantro, garlic, and onion and continue to process.  Slowly add oil until you get your preferred texture.  Add seasoning and cheese and process lightly or stir to combine.  Freeze leftover pesto so you can use it last minute for a future meal like I did!

Salmon with Cilantro Pesto

Lentil Salad

1 cup dried lentils
chopped or sliced onions
shredded carrots
balsamic vinegar
gorgonzola or other tasty cheese
favorite seasonings
balsamic dressing, if desired

Add lentils to saucepan and cover with 2-3 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until cooked, but not mushy.  If there is extra water in the pan once the lentils are done, strain it out and put lentils back in pan or in a serving dish.

Meanwhile, spray skillet with nonstick spray or oil and add onions when the pan is hot.  Cook onions until they are caramelized, about 10-15 minutes, adding a little water here and there when the skillet starts to get dry.  You can also add a pinch of sugar if you prefer your onions slightly sweet.  Once onions are almost done, pour a healthy glug of balsamic vinegar in the pan so the onions can soak it up.  I added the shredded carrots at this time so they would be slightly cooked, but still have a nice crunch for contrast.  Once the onions and carrots are cooked to your preference, add them to the cooked lentils.  Add another splash of balsamic vinegar – or add some balsamic dressing if you prefer – and sprinkle with cheese.

These lentils are good whether they are hot, cold, or room temperature.  You can customize these so much and add whatever spices or veggies that you have – I was just trying to keep it quick and simple.  Double it if you want lots of leftovers!

This was a really simple meal that could mostly be made ahead of time – or pulled together in about 25 minutes.

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