ffwd: salmon with basil tapenade

I do love salmon. After trout, it’s probably my favorite fish. It usually gets the simplest preparation at my house: grilled in the summer, broiled in the winter. In either case, we coat the fish lightly with a spice mix and nothing more. This week’s selection for French Fridays with Dorie, Salmon with Basil Tapenade, adds yet another technique option to the repertoire.

I’m not a very good meal planner. We have a CSA share for the month of July (won at a silent auction). Earlier this week, when I picked up the share, it included a generous amount of fresh basil. I wasn’t thinking ahead to Friday, so I promptly made the entire lot of it into pesto. I didn’t realize that I should have reserved some for this dish. In the end, I just substituted my pesto for the chopped basil, which tasted just fine. For the fish, I cut a one pound fillet of wild coho salmon into three 5-ounce pieces.

The recipe was confusing when it described how to cut pockets in the fish fillets for stuffing with the aromatic tapenade (a blend of tapenade, pesto, and lemon zest and juice). I couldn’t figure out whether it was a one-inch slit that went partially or all the way through the fillet, or whether it was a one-inch slit along the entire edge. Howard and I both read it through multiple times and demonstrated to each other what we thought Dorie meant. In the end, I went with two slits that went from edge-to-edge, on either side of the center bone.

Stuffing the fish with tapenade was incredibly messy, and in my opinion, not worth the trouble. With tapenade sauce topping the cooked fish, I found that gave plenty of flavor and would have been enough.

Very Messy


I liked the cooking method. The fillets are seared in olive oil in a hot skillet on the top side, then the skin side. Then, the skillet of fillets goes into a very hot oven to finish off the cooking. Everything was so hot, I didn’t test as I went, I just used the times in the recipe. The fish was slightly overcooked. Next time, I’ll cut a few minutes off the final roasting step, not that it’s very long to begin with. I had a little trouble flipping the fish. It’s a good thing the sauce is opaque and masked some of the torn flesh. I used a high-sided skillet and suspect that the angle for turning was too sharp to do a perfect job.

I served the salmon with orzo tossed with roasted fennel and some green beans with a dollop of the tapenade sauce (veggies courtesy of CSA mentioned above). It was a delicious meal, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s leftovers!

I’m looking forward to reading about what my fellow FFwD bloggers thought about this week’s recipe. Check out their links under the Leave Your Link post for this recipe at French Fridays with Dorie. We don’t post the recipes, but consider getting your own copy of the book, Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

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Posted on 20 July 2012, in French Fridays with Dorie and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Looks good! I stuffed my (ahem) chicken with the tapenade with a knife end because I didn’t read the recipe properly about the squeezing it in with a ziploc bag LOL! But you’re right that just having that on the top would be just as tasty!

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed the salmon regardless of the confusing stuffing method. Great post!

  3. I kind of misssed the whole “stuffing” part on this one :-(
    My CSA share this year has been very generous with the basil. There are many cubes of pesto sitting in my freezer at the moment.
    The orzo w/ fennel sounds good.

  4. It looks delicious even thought it was very messy for me as well !

  5. susanelester

    We used White Sea Bass instead of Salmon. Despite the messiness, we really enjoyed the flavors! I like your side-dishes.

  6. Betsy, Your orzo sounds so yummy! I really enjoyed this dish and thought it very good! Loved the flavor the tapenade added!! Your salmon looks wonderful as does your whole dinner plate!!

  7. Yes, I read Dorie’s instructions several times and was also confused about how I was supposed to cut the fish. So instead I just made a pocket in the side with my knife and filled it up. Who knows if I did it right or not but everything seemed to stay inside and it was quite tasty so that’s all I care about.

  8. Betsy, your salmon looks delicious and I like the side dishes that you served with it. Green beans, roasted fennel and orzo sound wonderful. I do agree that it gets a bit “messy” when you try to get the tapenade into the incisions of the fillets but it all tasted so wonderful that I will be making this again!

    Have a good weekend!

  9. I try to keep it simple with fish too. Thanks for sharing your experience with this recipe!

  10. I had to read the instructions a couple of times too to figure out the stuffing and it did get messy. We loved it though so will probably do it again. I’m with you on loving salmon and trout!

  11. I thought the instructions were confusing also, kept reading it over and over, and went with two slits on one side. I guess it really doesn’t matter, as long as you stuff it. We thought it
    was delicious and will definitely make the recipe again. Your end results look great.

  12. Your fish looks really good Betsy, and I am a fan of good ol’ green beans.

  13. I agree that the stuffing step was more trouble than it was worth. I’m all for dumping extra tapenade on top and calling it a day. Your orzo with roasted fennel sounds really good, too!

  14. I made the mango chatini suggestion so my sauce was a bit chunkier, thus I skipped the whole Ziplock bag thing and just spooned it in – sounds like I avoided a mess. Your salmon looks delicious! I never make pesto but this year I have so much basil I think I’ll need to. Also, love the orzo. I should really make that more too…

  15. I with you. A drizzle would have been just fine and a lot less trouble than figuring out how to stuff a salmon. I loved the flavors in this one.

  16. I have a garden square over-full of basil that’s going to be made into pesto tomorrow. It’s growing so well this year that I’m hoping to be able to make three or four more batches this year. I used the plastic bag the first time I made this, but just use a small spoon now. CSA shares are so lovely and can really get you out of your usual habits.

  17. Pesto was a great idea…especially when it’s the middle of the winter and there’s no basil in the garden to cut! I read those stuffing instructions again and again as well…they weren’t as clear as what we usually find from Dorie. Hope you’re enjoying your weekend~

  18. The pesto sounds great, and I am sure it was a perfect substitute. Glad to see I was not the only one who was a bit confused by the directions in the recipe. The baggie was a huge mess, but I thought stuffing the fish was novel, even if it may not have added the flavor you would hope it would.

  19. I agree with you, Betsy, that if you follow Dorie’s cooking directions, the salmon was overcooked. No one else has remarked about that so I thought it was just me or my oven. I like my salmon to have more “bounce” in the middle, if you understand what I mean. Although it was fun to slit a pocket/ infuse the fish with tapenade, I agree, the taste would probably have been the same with a marinade and sauce. Still it was a fun dish to make and tasted delicious. With the leftovers, I had a filet-of-salmon sandwich (a la McDonalds) yesterday and it was very, very good.

  20. I agree with you both! My salmon only needed a couple of minutes in the oven.

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