For days when you need vibrant colours, sun drenched flavours and invigorating aromas from the Med to remind you that summer is not so far away..

I needed this yesterday, oh so much.  The weather has been rather indifferent this last week.  I dislike indifference greatly.  Sometimes I wish the sky would just cry properly.  Not in the pissy, drizzly, grizzly way that it does; sulking like it’s not sure if it wants to be upset or not.   I wish it would have more of a tantrum- you know like the sky does in India.  See those Indian skies know how to monsoon.  They know all about creating dramatic effect for entertainment (and comfort).   I’d rather be battling that, than some lame arse drizzle.

Of course in the ideal scenario,  I would rather be in scorching heat on the French or Italian Riviera (whichever makes for a better dream for you), with the salty, warm, fragrant,  Mediterranean breeze caressing and frizzing my hair as I lounge with my nearest and dearest in my Tuscan veranda (this dream is all about Tuscany,obviously) sipping a delicious Tuscan red as the scent of the roasting vegetables wafts over from my wood burning oven that’s right there,  on my left………

One day my dream will come true, I am sure of this. :)

Back to reality! Lest I open a bottle of Aqua di Parma Colonia to keep me there a little longer……

So yesterday, I popped into Waitrose on my way home and as I approached  the veg section (all I had gone in for was some broccoli) the lovely veg man was putting out some beautiful asparagus and these gloriously shiny, rotund bell peppers.  Obviously, all I could think was “Get me some courgettes and that’s dinner done, baby!” …Well something like that.

I said bye bye to the broccoli and filled my basket with a pot of basil (I know, slap on the wrist for me for not taking care of my not so hardy herbs!), some rocket, those shiny peppers in all colours, some asparagus and some abnormally large if they were described as phallic courgettes.  I made a quick dash to the fish counter, picked up some salmon and made my way home ready to bring me some summer.

So the recipe- because it was actually something I realised I should make way more often to lift my mood….

Also, I recommend this as your soundtrack for cooking this meal —>http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bPAaLAPvPRA

Pan fried Lemon & Garlic Salmon topped with  Basil & Wild Rocket Pistou and served with Balsamic Roasted Vegetables & Charred Asparagus

Serves 4

The order to cook and prepare this in if you are cooking on the day: Marinate fish, prepare veg, cook veg, prepare pistou, cook fish, cook asparagus and serve.

For the basil and wild rocket pistou:

I enjoy my fish pies and sometimes there will be some cheese, but I am of the schooling that cheese and fish is not the best combination.  In fact, it’s not that I’ve been told it’s not right, but more that I don’t like the flavour combination.  I think fish pie tastes much fresher and cleaner without, although, on request I do sometimes add some parmesan for texture and added crunch!

In this, my version of pistou/ pesto- whatever you want to call it….I have omitted the cheese.  I don’t think you need it.  I feel that the pine nuts (or any other nuts you may choose to use- pistachios work great, too) give sufficient richeness to this emerald green, sensory pervading, aromatic, magic sauce that just lifts this whole dish.  Don’t worry, you will have a little left over to stir into pasta for the next day’s lunch, oh and you can add the cheese then. :)

Ingredients

  • About 50g of fresh basil leaves.  (about half a large supermarket pot)
  • 1 pack of wild rocket, my pack was about 100g
  • 4-6 tbsp of good quality olive oil or cold pressed rapeseed/canola oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic crushed (I used 2 1/2…but I like garlic :) )
  • 4-5 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • Good flaky sea salt and pepper

Method

  1. Toast the pine nuts over a medium heat in a dry frying pan.  Toss often to make sure that they don’t burn .  You want a light brown colour.  Remove from pan when done as they will continue to cook due to their fat content if they are left inside. Burnt pine nuts taste bitter!  Leave to cool before using/ bashing
  2. You can either choose to do this quickly in a food processor, or the more arm achingly satisfying way in a mortar and pestle.  If you choose a mortar and pestle for these amounts, you will need to add the leaves gradually and it will take a good 15 mins of bashing.  I suggest that if you are short on time, use a food processor or hand-held blender.  If you have the time, use the mortar and pestle.  There is something about the creamy texture that you get when you bash it that you don’t get with the food processor.  Also, the gorgeous green fragrance from the leaves as you bruise and annihilate them is to die for :)  If you are using the food processor, add all the ingredients and whizz until it becomes a paste. You can add the oil gradually depending on the consistency you want.  I like it thicker, so use what you prefer.  Taste for seasoning.
  3. If you are using the mighty mortar and pestle, you will enjoy this.  Trust me, it’s a satisfying experience! Start with adding as many leaves as you can, half the pine nuts, the garlic, sprinkle generously with the salt and pepper as this acts as an abrasive to break the leaves down.  Drizzle with oil and start bashing!  Keep adding the rest of the ingredients until your done.  Again add oil to the consistency you want.  If you want it a little thinner, add more oil.  It will take about 15 mins of bashing, but you are left with a beautifully unctuous, fragrant, green goddess of a sauce that you won’t be able to not keep in your fridge regularly!.
  4. This works just as well on the day as it does if you make this the day before; as time passes the flavours meld together beautifully.  You can keep leftovers in the fridge for a week.  Just ensure you add a little oil on top to keep it from oxidizing too much.

For the roasted vegetables:

As I didn’t serve anything starchy with this dish I prepared quite a lot of vegetables.  If you are planning to serve something starchy, you may want to cut down the veg by about 1/3…or cook them anyway and use the leftovers in a quick couscous the next day!

Ingredients

  • 2 Red peppers
  • 1-2 Yellow or Orange pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 good sized courgettes
  • 2 tennis ball sized onions
  • Some decent balsamic
  • Some rapeseed or olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper

Method

  1. Wash and prepare all the veg by chopping them into equal sized chunks. (see picture)
  2. You may need two trays for the veg depending on the size of your trays.  You want to keep the veg on one layer so that they roast properly rather than stew.
  3. Season generously with flaky salt and pepper and douse with some oil.  You want enough that when you toss them they are all coated, but not swimming.  The balsamic totally lifts the sweetness of the roasted veg and balances them.  Add to taste, I probably use about 1/4 cup over all the veg.
  4. Toss well.  Can be prepped in advance- even over night, covered and refrigerated if need be. But as they are so quick to prepare, there isn’t much need.
  5. When it’s time to cook, put the trays in a hot oven- about 225-240 C for about 25-35 mins or until nicely roasted.  If you have two trays be sure to rotate them halfway through  as well as tossing the vegetables at the halfway point.

For the salmon and asparagus:

Ingredients

  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 2 cloves of garlic sliced thinly
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 bunches of young/fine asparagus
  • seasoning
  • some oil

Method

  1. Season fish with salt, pepper, a little lemon juice and coat with your oil of choice and place slices of garlic on the flesh side.
  2. Leave to sit for the time it takes to prepare the veg and the pistou or can be prepped in advance over night if needed.
  3. When ready to cook heat to a medium high heat, a frying pan which can either accommodate all 4 pieces comfortably or do them in 2 batches (non stick works best for this to avoid more oil).  Do not add any oil to the pan as it will burn and you have already coated the fish with oil to ensure it doesn’t stick.  Place the fish skin side down and cook until golden and crisp.  It is time to flip the fish when you see the rising opaqueness reach about halfway.  3-4 mins depending on the thickness of your fish. Turn the fish and cook for a few more mins until the fish feels firm and if you break one, there is still some translucency running through it.  This will ensure the fish remains moist.
  4. Once you have removed the fish, take the same pan without cleaning and crank up the heat.  Coat the asparagus in a scant amount of oil and place in the hot pan (you may need to do this in 2 batches if you are using a small pan). Don’t move then too much to ensure they char.  Toss once or twice and they are done.  2-3 mins in total.

To serve,  put a good  heaped tablespoon of the basil and wild rocket pistou on top of the salmon and garnish with pine nuts.  Place the salmon on top of the asparagus and roasted veggies and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

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One thought on “For days when you need vibrant colours, sun drenched flavours and invigorating aromas from the Med to remind you that summer is not so far away..

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