01 November 2009


Cestini means ‘baskets’ in Italian, and when I saw photos of these in the September issue of La Cucina Italiana, I knew I had to try them. Of course I had to change them--their recipe had the cestini filled with shrimp and porcini mushroom, and I wanted to try to fill them with salmon.

I should warn you that when you slice the zucchini / courgettes, it’s easier with a mandoline. As long as you use the little safety device, of course. Don’t do what I did and slice the tip of your finger off. It’s harder to weave the strips of zucchini with a big bandage on your finger. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

These were very good. The salmon was perfectly cooked, juicy and full of flavor. I used my favorite combination of spices for salmon --pink peppercorns and cardamom--both on the fish itself and in the sauce. I wasn’t really satisfied with the photos, but there you are.

Cestini di Salmone


2 zucchini / courgettes

4 salmon filets, about 2.5 x 5 inches / 6 x 12 cm

2 Tablespoon pink peppercorns

4 cardamom pods

1/2 cup plain yogurt

black pepper

olive oil to brush cestini

Bread crumbs

Fresh dill or fennel leaves (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 200 C / 400 F
  • Slice the zucchini lengthwise into long strips. This is where the mandoline comes in handy. You’ll need 16 good slices, but you should make more than that because some of them till tear when you grill them.
  • Trim the salmon into pieces approximately 2-2.5 inches / 5-6 cm square. Count on two pieces per serving. You can piece them together if you have to, but it will be harder to wrap them up.

  • Crush the pink peppercorns and the seeds from the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle.

  • In a hot non-stick pan, grill the zucchini strips quickly. You’re only trying to soften them a little bit and maybe give them a little bit of color. I didn’t use any oil for this step, but it would probably help to keep them from sticking.

  • Lay two strips of zucchini out on a work surface. Take two more and weave them into the center of the first two, as shown in the photo.

  • Put a piece of salmon on the woven part (it should be about the same size as the interwoven section of the zucchini). Sprinkle the top with the cardamom mixture (you won’t use it all for this--the rest is for the sauce), and give it a turn of the pepper mill.

  • Bring the sides up and around and weave them over the top. Turn them over to show the pretty weaving.

  • Brush the cestini with olive oil, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, and bake for 15 minutes. While they’re baking, make the sauce: Mix the yogurt with the remaining pink peppercorn /cardamom mixture. Add some dill or fennel if you have it.

I served these with a green salad for lunch. Perfect.


You could fill these with a nice fish mousse or use what the original recipe used: a mixture of chopped shrimp and chopped porcini with some sauteed potatoes.


I think that next time I probably won’t use the breadcrumbs. I’m not sure what they added, except to keep the zucchini from burning. The problem is that they hid the really pretty woven pattern of the zucchini. Ok, maybe I’ll use them, but not so much of them.

‘Nother Note:

If you have the English language version of La Cucina Italiana, you won’t find this recipe--it was in the Italian version. For some reason, they don’t have the same recipes. Sorry.


Junglefrog said...

What an impressive looking dish you made there Kate! It looks very elegant and those flavors must be delicious! Love it!

La Table De Nana said...

I will so be trying these! I love basket woven zucchini,and I remember your mandoline give..away:)

La Cucina Italiana..Great!!!

Kathy said...

Happy Birthday Kate!!!!! xoxo~Kathy @ Sweet Up-North Mornings...

Hungry Dog said...

Very pretty and so elegant! I once tried something similar but yours looks much more artful.

Barbara said...

Oh dear! You've got to be careful with your mandoline!
Really like the idea of surrounding salmon with zucchini! It's such an elegant presentation too!

nightowlchef said...

Kate, this looks delicious and adorable! What a perfect dish for a dinner party. I LOVE the weaving idea, and what a gorgeous piece of salmon. Ach, it looks so much healthier than what I can find here.

But please don't slice your fingertip the next time you use your mandoline ... youch!!! :-(

Bob said...

Heh, that's a great little trick. I wonder what else you can do it with.

Juliana said...

Oh! Love the idea of wrapping the salmon, looks delicious and so different, thanks for showing how you did this dish :-)

zurin said...

Oh this looks like a fun and delicious recipe to try!!!! I so want to do it....tq for sharing :)))

Kate at Serendipity said...

Junglefrog, thanks. I loved the photo in the magazine, and knew I had to try it. The flavor of the zucchini worked very well with the salmon.

Monique, I love La Cucina Italiana. I can buy it at the train station in Italian in Aachen, and whenever I go there I look for it. It helps me keep my Italian up to date--at least the cooking vocabulary! I hope you do try these. I can only imagine what you could do with them.

Kathy, THANKS! It was a great day!

Hungry Dog, I bet if you had a solid piece of fish to wrap around it would look like mine--that's one reason I chose the salmon, heh, heh.

Barbara, the mandoline and I now have an understanding: I use the safety device and it won't bite me any more. That's only fair, eh?

Nightowlchef, we're close to the North Sea here, and we get gorgeous fish in our local shops. I'm really glad for that.

Bob, I wonder too. Let's try, ok?

Juliana, I never know if step-by-step photos are necessary, but in this case I thought they were worth thousands of words.

Zurin, let me know when you do this, ok? I'd love to see what you do with it.

Maggie B said...

Hi Kate,
These look delicious and I'll be trying them soon, I'll let you know if I manage it without injury,
Is your finger o.k. now?
Thanks for calling in at the Presbytere.

Kate said...

These are gorgeous. I really enjoy a nice piece of salmon and this presentation is wonderful. How special would this be!!?

Jane said...

What a beautiful dish, Kate. And, now I see that you are going to Nice! Oh you lucky, lucky girl!! Well, I can see that travel feeds your soul in the best way possible. Looking forward to whatever comes next in Serendipity!

:) Jane