Super Quick Lemon-Basil Pesto with Salmon, Couscous, and Steamed Broccoli

So I know I haven't posted in a few weeks but it has been quite busy with exams. Anyway, I found this recipe for lemon-basil pesto a while back and feel in love with it because it was so simple, tasty and versatile. I prepared this pesto with salmon, broccoli, and couscous, but it really pairs well with many dishes. You could put it on chicken or veggies, or even pasta.

For the pesto you'll need basil, garlic, a lemon, parmesan cheese, and olive oil (and perhaps a breath mint for later...)

Equipment for the pesto

  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • Tablespoon Measure
  • 1/4 cup measure
  • Cheese grater
  • Food processor or blender

Unfortunately, making pesto is really difficult if you don't have something to blend all of the ingredients into a smooth paste. However, a food processor or blender is a really great investment because you can make smoothies or puree soups.

To begin, wash and dry 1 cup of basil. The drying is important because wet basil can add extra moisture to your pesto making it watery and then it would lack "zesto". Separate the basil from the hard stems. Place in the food processor

Add 2 cloves of garlic. You can add more or less depending on your taste but definitely include some garlic. The recipe is really intended for fresh garlic, so try to pass on the dried stuff (it lacks the depth of fresh garlic)

As you probably know, garlic has a pesky skin that needs to be removed before eating. A great way to get it off quickly is to take the side of your kitchen knife and place it on top of the garlic clove. Apply pressure on the knife, also noting that you need to get a manicure ASAP. You will feel the garlic give a little under the weight of your hand...

The skin will now easily pull away from the clove. Toss into your food processor

Next, you'll need to get the zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 Tablespoon). This can be done by carefully slicing away the outermost layer of the lemon. A zestor, which is specially made to only take off the very outside skin, makes this much easier, but isn't necessary.

The trick to zesting is to only scrape off the yellow part. Try to avoid getting the white stuff in your zest (below), that's the pith and it has a bitter flavor. If this happens, you've cut too deeply. If you're having a difficult time zesting, just substitute the zest for about 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice. Add to your food processor

Next you'll add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. This is about 1/2 of a large lemon. Squeeze into the processor making sure to avoid the seeds

Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese. It's important to grate it before adding it to the food processor so you get a smooth pesto

Pulse the food processor until the mixture is smooth

To the blended mixture, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Blend again until incorporated.

Place this on everything, your fish, your chicken, your pasta, your dog...

Super Quick Lemon-Basil Pesto


  • 1 cup of basil, washed, dried, and separated from the stem
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1/4 of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil


  • Combine the basil, lemon zest, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and garlic in a food processor. Blend.
  • Add the olive oil and puree until smooth and incorporated

I made this pesto with some grilled salmon, steamed broccoli, and couscous which I'll show you below

For the salmon, I sprinkled the filets with salt and pepper and then grilled them for five minutes on each side until the inside was no longer pink. If you don't have a grill, you can sear the filets in a skillet using 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook for four minutes on each side, or until lightly browned. Finish cooking by placing the seared fish (in an oven safe pan or dish) in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the filet, or until the middle is no longer pink.

You can also use pretty much any other fish or chicken, if you have a preference, but the cooking may vary. The pesto is very versatile.

To make the couscous...

Boil 1 1/4 cups of water. Add 1 cup of couscous to the boiling water and stir. Remove from the heat. Cover the couscous and let it sit for 5 minutes. If you want, you can add salt to taste and/or 1 tablespoon of butter or oil to couscous. Honestly, I think it is fine without it because most of the time I'm pairing it with another flavor anyway.

After five minutes, remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork.

It will be puffy and yummy. If you want, you can even add some of the pesto straight to the couscous.

There are many methods to prepare broccoli, I chose to steam mine by placing 1 lb. of broccoli florets in a large bowl filled with about an inch and a half of water. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and poked a few holes in the top. I, then, microwaved the florets for 4 minutes, or until it was cooked through but still firm and nicely green. Be careful when removing the plastic wrap. The broccoli and stem will be VERY hot.

One word... yummmm...