When you work in a restaurant, you immediately make a mental list of tasks you enjoy completing and others that you hate. Everyone has their own preference. I remember taking my sweet time stuffing squash blossoms while hurrying through menial tasks such as halving baby cherry tomatoes (and I mean baby, baby tomatoes. We’re talking real small here people). One item on the prep list that majority of the line cooks pushed off was making the basil pistou. Pistou is a sauce very similiar to pesto except for the lack of nuts. Traditionally, pistou is prepared with a mortar and pestle, hence the dislike from many who had to prepare it. Since I’m not working in the restaurant anymore, I can take the shortcut and prepare this pistou in a flash, while still preserving the flavor. Top it on any protein like this salmon and quinoa salad with basil pistou and you have an incredibly flavorful salad you won’t regret making!
- 1 garlic clove
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 small tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 3/4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
- 2 cups water
- 2 ears corn, roasted
- 1 ounce shisito peppers
- 1 bunch upland cress
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 lb salmon fillets
- salt and pepper
- Prepare the pistou. Pound garlic with salt in a mortar and pestle until resembles a paste. Add basil and pound until almost smooth. Slowly pour the olive oil while still pounding the mixture. Add the tomatoes and cheese and pound until mixture comes together. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Combine quinoa with water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Remove from heat, keep covered for 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with fork.
- Heat non stick pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil. Lay shishito peppers in pan, making sure there is enough space between the peppers. Char until blistered, rotating the peppers. Remove from heat. Chop when cool enough to handle.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add upland cress and saute until wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Toss together quinoa with corn, shisito peppers and upland cress. Drizzle olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
- In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Season salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. Lay in pan and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip fish over and cook until fish easily flakes with a fork.
- Portion quinoa salad into 4 bowls. Top with pan seared salmon and finish with a dollop of basil pistou. Serve hot or cold.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
I admit, the ingredients in this quinoa salad is more appropriate for the summer, but with the lousy winter everyone is having, I’m guessing it will be appreciated. I put together this recipe while cleaning out my fridge, but enjoyed it so much, I had to share it with you.
Quinoa is a great source of protein. You can cook it in chicken broth for more flavor and even cook it in the rice cooker for more convenience. Throw it together with charred shisito peppers, sweet corn, and sauteed upland cress and you have a summer bowl of flavors. Add extra protein onto with pan fried salmon and extra flavor with basil pistou and you have a completely different yet equally delicious dish!
Basil pistou is a great alternative for those who may be allergic to nuts. It’s a bit tart and sweet from the tomatoes while still preserving the flavors of the basil. If you have a mortar and pestle, by all means, use it (some say it tastes better when prepared the traditional way). Otherwise, use a food processor to make this condiment in a flash.
Vegetarian? Skip the fish but mix the pistou right into the salad. Gluten-free? Well this is the perfect dish for you! Looking for something healthy? Look no further! This salmon and quinoa salad with basil pistou is the dish that meets all requirements and still tastes great.
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.