2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and tightly packed
4 cloves garlic
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp pine nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds, to make the dish nut free
12 ozs orzo
1 14.5 oz can chickpeas or white beans, drained and rinsed, optional
For the salmon
12 ozs wild salmon fillet, rinsed and patted dry
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
dash of salt
Start the pesto: Have a food processor at the ready. Put the basil into the food processor, and give it a quick whir to begin chopping the basil and make room for the other ingredients. Add the garlic, and hit that food processor button again to get the cloves chopped up with the basil.
Finish the pesto: Add the remaining ingredients, and then puree to get everything well combined. Open the food processor, scrape the sides to get bits of garlic and basil that haven’t been incorporated, then give the processor a final whir.
Cook the orzo according to package instructions after finishing the pesto. When the orzo is done, toss with a few tablespoons of the pesto so that the orzo is lightly coated.
Prep the salmon: Preheat a grill on medium high (or use the pan seared method described in the notes below). As the orzo cooks, rinse and pat dry the salmon fillet, then spread 1 tablespoon olive oil over the flesh side and sprinkle a bit of salt to taste.
Start grilling the salmon: Place the salmon on the grill, skin side down. Grill covered for about 4 minutes, then gently turn the salmon to the flesh side. If the skin sticks to the grill, no big deal, just place the fish on a clean portion of the grill.
Finish the salmon: Grill covered for another 3 to 4 minutes. It may be cooked at this point–cut a bit in the middle of the fillet to check. You still want a bit of the dark orange color for nice, moist salmon. If you want to cook a bit more, turn over one more time and cook for a couple more minutes. Remove the salmon to a platter when cooked to your liking.
Serve the dish: Plate a serving of the orzo, then place a portion of the salmon on top of the orzo. Spread a dollop of pesto on top of the salmon, and repeat for the other portions. Pass extra pesto for people to add more at the table, and enjoy with an Italian wine such as a Frascati.
Nut free: Toasted pumpkin seeds can be substituted for the pine nuts for a nut free recipe.
Kale Pesto: You could also use kale pesto for this recipe. Here’s a link to our recipe: https://cookingchatfood.com/kale-pesto/.
Pan Seared Salmon: To make the salmon on the stove top instead of the grill, prep the salmon as in step 4. Then heat a tbsp of canola oil in a nonstick skillet on medium high. Place the salmon skin side down, and cook for 4 minutes. Turn the salmon over with a spatula, and cook for another 2 minutes skin side up. Turn the salmon back to skin side down, and check to see if it is cooked through. Remove the salmon if done, or cook for a few more minutes if needed. Serve as described in step 7.
Keywords: orzo, salmon, pesto, salmon with pesto, salmon and pasta