Basil-Crusted Salmon with Tomato-Eggplant Fondue

Basil-Crusted Salmon with Tomato-Eggplant Fondue


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To give it a fresh summery flavor, I like to bake it in a crust of breadcrumbs and fresh basil puree, which also helps to seal in the fish's moisture and provides a good crunchy contrast to its texture. Cooking it in the oven also ensures that all the fish cooks uniformly and is done at the same time, ready to serve. While the salmon is cooking, I'm also making a ragout of vegetables that becomes its sauce. I combine a medley of early summer produce, cut into small dices that turn tender during half an hour or so of simmering, blending their flavors while retaining their shapes and colors. The sauce is a perfect choice for another reason, too. Being composed almost entirely of vegetables, with just a touch of olive oil, it's incredibly light and healthful — just the thing you want to eat at this time of year, when you're thinking about getting back into your swimsuit!

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Northbrook, IL


  • Tomato-Eggplant Fondue:
  • 2 oz. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 C. diced eggplant
  • 1/2 C. diced zucchini
  • 1/2 C. diced yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 C. diced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 C. diced fennel bulb
  • 2 Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1/4 C. tomato paste
  • 1/2 C. dry white wine
  • 3 C. good-quality tomato juice
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/4 C. chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Basil-Crusted Salmon:
  • 4 oz. fresh basil leaves
  • 2 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 4 oz. plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 skinless salmon fillets, each about 6 ounces
  • 2 oz. panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)

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First, start the Tomato-Eggplant Fondue. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant, zucchini, squash, bell pepper and fennel and sauté, stirring frequently, just until they turn glossy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it darkens slightly in color and smells fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, bring it to a brisk simmer and cook until it reduces by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato juice and sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and a thick sauce has formed, about 30 minutes, adding the herbs for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

While the sauce simmers, prepare the Basil-Crusted Salmon.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a blender, put the basil, spinach, lemon juice, garlic, 4 oz. of the oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth. Set aside.

In an ovenproof sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. of oil over medium-high heat. Add the salmon fillets and cook until their undersides are golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. With a spatula, carefully turn the fillets over. Remove the pan from the heat. Spread the tops of the fillets with the basil puree and then spoon the panko (breadcrumbs) on top, pressing down gently to help them adhere.

Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until the salmon is cooked through and the breadcrumbs are golden, about 10 minutes more. To test for doneness, use the tip of a small, sharp knife to separate the flakes and check the center of one fillet to see if it is cooked through but still moist at the center; if not, cook a little longer.

Taste the Tomato-Eggplant Fondue and adjust its seasonings to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon the fondue onto individual serving plates and, with a spatula, transfer a salmon fillet to each plate, placing it on top of the sauce. Serve immediately. (Store any leftovers in the refrigerator, and serve the salmon and sauce cold the next day, drizzled with a little olive oil and lemon juice.)


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