Baked salmon with pistachio crust is a wonderful spring dinner. Squeeze a little fresh lemon over the top, add fresh asparagus and maybe a side or brown rice or quinoa plus a salad and you're ready to serve.
Baked Salmon with Pistachio Crust
Pistachio crusted salmon was my student project for a food photography and styling workshop. Taught by Denise Vivaldo, Cindie Flannigan, Matt Armendariz, and Adam Pearson, it was an information packed two-day experience. Everyone learned so much from this talented team.
Day One – Making Food Camera Ready
Day one focused on food styling tips and making food ready for the camera. Food styling is about control. Denise and Cindie taught us about color and movement in food that is going to be photographed. What your eye sees is not what the camera sees. It’s amazing how looking through the lens changes everything.
Because your eye moves but a camera lens is still you have to create the movement, and it's hard to make food look good for the camera. While professional chefs are trained to get hot food to the table, the reverse is true for most food photography: cold food works better.
Professional food stylists on commercial shoots are paid to make food look beautiful. It's different when shooting for a food blog, because most bloggers eat what they shoot.
Tips from the Teachers
A few tips from the teachers:
- Pick good subjects for the camera in terms of shape and color
- Food must be identifiable to the camera
- Consider contrast, elevation and texture
- Think about your garnishes
- Keep props simple, remembering that utensils create movement
- Every picture tells a story, so decide on the story you are trying to tell
- Please yourself and develop your own style
- Shoot tethered with cable attached between your camera and a computer so you can see the results of shooting instantly.
- Use a tripod for stability and clearer images
Day Two – Every Picture Tells a Story
Day two of the workshop was about putting teaching into action. Our teachers guided us through a day of food styling, shooting and implementing what we had learned day one.
The challenge at the end of day one was coming up with a dish we wanted to shoot as our project. Everyone arrived early armed with groceries to prepare, then shoot their chosen project. Our worktables were large boards covered with heavy felt on sawhorses. An ironing board and steamer were ready to press linens as we set our scenes. We prepared in the studio kitchen and chose props from Adam’s huge collection.
It's All About the Light
Matt explained what makes for a great food photograph: light direction, light quality, how to diffuse, how to change the light. Light, light, light. It’s ALL about the light. The right light makes all of the difference in the world between an average photo and a breathtaking one.
As each project was a work in progress, we gathered to learn about the small changes that would eventually result in a professional looking food photograph. It was exciting and educational to watch each student’s project from beginning to end and the beautiful photographic result.
More Salmon Recipes
For another easy salmon recipe try my simple seared salmon. If you like food photography, here are a few more tips.
Baked Salmon with Pistachio Crust
- 4 6 ounce salmon filets preferably wild, skinned
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ½ cup unsalted shelled pistachios toasted and finely chopped
- ¼ cup Japanese Panko crumbs or unseasoned breadcrumbs toasted, gluten-free
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 lemon wedges
- Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Carefully turn the salmon skinned side up and with a very sharp, thin knife (like a filet knife) trim out any dark purple areas. This is the blood line and it can be strong tasting. If you don’t mind that, skip the trimming. Place filets on a foil covered rimmed baking sheet.
- In a small bowl, mix the mustard, butter and honey into a smooth paste. Set aside. In another small bowl, mix the pistachios, crumbs, parsley and chives. Season the salmon filets with sprinkles of salt and pepper. Spread a little of the butter mixture on top of the filets. Coat the top of the filets with some of the nut-crumb-herb mix, patting lightly. If you have extra of the herb crust mix it keeps for a few days refrigerated.
- Place the salmon in the oven and roast for 12-14 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.
GregB from Austin says
Chef Sally, I plan to make this recipe this week for my family, and we're all eagerly looking forward to it. However, I don't have a convection oven and have never cooked with one, just an old-fashioned electric stove. I'm accustomed to cooking salmon on the grill, or in a skillet, and thus am even further removed from any experience with "salmon + oven"...
I've got filets (shipped to me frozen from Togiak, AK) that are about 1-1/2" thick, or will be after I've trimmed them. Do you have any tips for time or temp in a regular oven?
Hi Greg! Once you do this you'll see how easy it is, roasting salmon in the oven. Any oven will do. You don't need convection. For a regular oven, roast at 400 degrees. Be sure when you prep the filets (after you skin them) trim out any dark bloodline, which can be strong tasting. When the salmon is done the crust will be golden brown and the filets just barley opaque inside. It will depend too on personal preference - if you like your salmon more done or more rare. If you have a digital thermometer. the center should be about 145 degrees. Please comment back and let me know how it goes! One more tip, make sure the salmon is close to room temp before roasting. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator (never on the counter), then allow to sit on the counter for a good 45 minutes to get the chill off. Your fish will roast better and you'll get better results.
GregB from Austin says
I made this tonight and it was hugely successful. The crunch of the pistachios, the zing of the dijon, and the richness of the fresh salmon were in perfect balance. I used salted pistachios and thus needed no salt to season the fish, just pepper; it came out great. We had a great Willamette Pinot Noir which paired perfectly. Thanks for the recipe - and the inspirational write-up on food styling.
I made the salmon last night. Oh goodness, five stars, way too good! Great directions! It was gorgeous and delicious!
Chef Sally says
Great Lyndsey! Thanks for letting me know. Good to know when it works!
Lacey @ dishfolio.com says
Great photos and story! We'd love for you to share in our food community at dishfolio.com!
I really enjoyed reading this and see that your notes have paid off by this great summary you've written!! Looks like a very useful two days and really worth the experience. I really believe you have to learn some of these things in person and a workshop with Matt & Adam is perfect. I have not worked with Food Fanatics so I can't say, but surely if Matt and Adam work with them, they must be good too!
Thanks for sharing!