This is the first of a few pre-baby posts I need to catch up on.  I almost didn’t post it because the picture is pretty terrible (still the best of the many I took), but I felt like I had to because, well, this stuff is amazing!  (*Edited to add a better picture 5/20/09).  This is the dinner that finally pushed Ben over the edge into agreeing that he does, in fact, like fish – it just has to be prepared well.  We both really, really enjoyed this and I loved how quickly it came together.  This would definitely be something quick yet impressive enough to serve for company.  Can’t wait to have this again!

Salmon Pesto Pasta
For the pesto:
1/4 cup pine nuts
5 medium cloves garlic, with peels
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed thoroughly 
2 tbsp. fresh parsley leaves (optional)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch table salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

For the pasta:
12 oz. salmon
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 oz. pasta
5 oz. evaporated milk
1/2 cup pesto (above)
Grated Parmesan, for serving

To make the pesto, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, just until golden and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Add the unpeeled garlic to the empty skillet and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and the color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes.  Let cool, then peel and transfer to the food processor.  Place the basil and parsley (if using) in a heavy-duty, quart-size ziploc bag.  Roll over with a rolling pin until all of the leaves are bruised.  Process the pine nuts and garlic until finely chopped.  Add all remaining pesto ingredients except the Parmesan; process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as necessary.  Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, stir in the cheese, and adjust the salt as needed.  Store in an airtight container.

Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil and place the salmon, skin side down, on the baking sheet.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper, sprinkle with lemon zest and rub with olive oil.  Broil until the salmon is no longer translucent and is firm when pressed, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the broiler and sprinkle with lemon juice.  Transfer the salmon to a bowl (the skin should stick to the foil) and flake with a fork into bite-sized pieces.

While the salmon is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Transfer the cooked pasta to a colander to drain.  In the empty pasta pot, heat the evaporated milk over medium-high heat.  Bring to a simmer and reduce to about 1/4 cup.  Return the cooked pasta to the pot and stir to combine.  Add the salmon to the pasta mixture and stir over medium heat until hot.  Remove from the heat and stir in the pesto.  Top with grated Parmesan, if desired. 

Source: adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles