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
olive oil to brush cestini
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.