Back to the Kitchen: Fall Fish With Eight Kinds of Pesto

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We just celebrated the last weekend of the summer, but as usual,  Southern California  is still pretty hot. Most publications are talking of roasting and stews, but we just have to stay lighter in L.A.! This week I give you a mix and match of several fall fish, plus a handful of pesto recipes.  As we enter into autumn you really get to play with your food!

Traditional pesto is a sauce made from fresh basil, garlic, grated Parmesan cheese, olive oil, and pine nuts. It is of Italian origin, and the word pesto means “pounded.” It got its name because it was made by grinding the ingredients together by hand with a mortar and pestle. How far we have come since then! I still make my great grandmothers even though I use a blender. My grandmother Noni and my great aunties always turned their noses at Little Noni’s pesto because it was not a delicacy as it is today, but something you had when you could not afford meat.  It is the best I have ever tasted and I serve it often. All of these pesto recipes are simple, and when added to the ease of baking, grilling and planking you will have a simple, healthy meal.

I invite you to have some fun as you ease into fall and enjoy this peasant food with your friends and family!

Pesto Shrimp


Little Noni’s Pesto

5 large garlic cloves

1-cup pine nuts (or walnuts work as well)

5 cups packed fresh basil

1-cup fresh parsley

1 cup fresh Parmigiano, coarsely grated

1 1/2 cup olive oil

In a blender or food processor mix garlic, nuts, basil, parsley and cheese and process until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil mixing until incorporated. This will be enough sauce for one pound of pasta or for one tray of lasagna.


Lemon Dill Pesto

1 bunch dill

2 cloves garlic

1/2-cup walnuts

1/2-cup romano cheese

1/2-cup olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Make about 1 cup.


Arugula Pesto

2 cups arugula leaves

4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup Asiago cheese

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts

Salt and pepper to taste

In blender or food processor place arugula, garlic and cheese and blend until smooth. Slowly add olive oil and nuts. Blend until desired consistency. Makes 1 cup.


Beet and Sage Pesto

4 beets

1/2-teaspoon salt

1 red onion, chopped

6 sage leaves

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup walnuts, toasted

1/3-cup olive oil


Trim the greens from the beets. Wash and then roast in a 350 oven for about 40 minutes until fork tender. When cool enough to handle peel them and set aside. In a skillet heat oil and cook onions, jalapeno pepper and garlic. Transfer to a processor or blender and puree with the cooked beets and add the rest of ingredients and puree again, adding more olive oil if necessary. Makes about 2 cups.


Mixed Herb Pesto

2 tablespoons pine nuts

4 cloves garlic

2 cups spinach

3/4-cup flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup arugula leaves

1/2-cup oregano leaves

1/4-cup thyme leaves

1/4-cup chives

2 tablespoons Parmesan

3 tablespoons olive oil

In a blender or a food processor puree all of the ingredients except the oil. . With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute. Process until well blended. Makes about 2 cups.


Cilantro Pesto

1 cup packed cilantro

1/4-cup olive oil

2 tablespoons pine nuts or 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1/4-cup Parmesan cheese

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

In food processor or blender, whirl cilantro, oil and nuts until smooth; transfer to large bowl. Stir in Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper; toss to coat.


Rosemary Olive Walnut Pesto

2 sprigs rosemary

1 bunch parsley

1 cup black olives

1-cup walnuts

1/2 cup Romano cheese

1/2-cup olive oil

In a blender or a food processor puree all of the ingredients except the oil. . With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute. Process until well blended. Makes about 2 cups.


Asian Pesto

1-cup radish sprouts

1-cup cilantro.

1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped

1-tablespoon limejuice

1-cup almonds

Pinch Chinese Five Spice

1-tablespoon sesame oil

5-tablespoons peanut oil

In a blender or a food processor puree all of the ingredients except the oil. . With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute. Process until well blended. Makes about 2 cups.

Foiled Sea Bass with Pesto

4 sea-bass fillets, about 1 inch thick (about 2 pounds in all)

1-teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1/4-cup pesto, recipe follows

3 carrots, grated

1 zucchini, grated

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2cup dry white wine

Heat the oven to 450. Put four 12-inch squares of aluminum foil on a work surface and brush lightly with olive oil. Put a fish fillet in the center of each square of foil. Sprinkle the fillets with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Spread the fish with the pesto. Cover the pesto with the carrots and top with the zucchini. Gather the foil around the fish and drizzle the fish with the oil and wine. Fold the edges of the foil to make a sealed package. Put the foil packages on a baking sheet. Bake the fish until just done, about 12 minutes. Open the foil packages and transfer the fillets with their vegetable topping to plates. Pour the juices over the top. Serves 4.

Pesto Planked Salmon

1 18″ cedar plank, soaked in water 2 hours

1 – 3 pound Salmon Fillet rinsed and patted dry.

1-cup fresh pesto

Juice of one lemon.

Sprinkle fish generously with ground black pepper and lemon juice. Spread pesto evenly over fish. On a hot gas grill or over very hot charcoal briquettes heat the plank for 5 minutes. Place fish on plank and return to the grill and cover. Close vents 1/2 way and don’t open for 15 minutes. Check for doneness in middle of fillet it should be pink and flaky. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Baked Halibut with Panko Pesto

2 pounds fish fillets halibut, cut into 4 pieces

3 tablespoons prepared pesto sauce, to coat fish

1 cup panko, to coat fish

Wash and dry halibut. Coat fish with pesto. Now coat fish with panko, pressing to make it stick. Place on a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until done. Serves 4.

Grilled Shrimp with Pesto

2 pounds jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 cups pesto

Lemon wedges, for serving

Mix raw shrimp with pesto,  marinate a few hours in a bowl.  If  using  wooden skewers , make sure they are soaked in water at least 20 minutes (or use metal ones to avoid this step).  Thread shrimp onto 6 skewers.  Light a grill or preheat a cast-iron grill pan. Grill over a medium-hot fire until opaque and cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Serve the shrimp hot with lemon wedges. Serves 4.


Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON .



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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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