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Lemon Sole with Spring Risotto and Pesto

April 4, 2007

My friend Alison turned 30 over the weekend, which was certainly a cause to celebrate! The official birthday festivities took place on Saturday, but I was quite honored when she asked if I would cook her dinner on Sunday evening for her actual birthday. So what does one make for such an event? Something special yet easy so that I could socialize with Alison and our friend Carrie, who also joined us, while preparing dinner.

I still have risotto on my mind after making my Parmesan Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms dish. (I also still have a very large bag of Arborio rice—used to make risotto—that needs to be used up!) So I decided to make this a part of my dish and top it off with a fish fillet.

The risotto I made was similar to my Parmesan Risotto with Leeks and Mushrooms dish, except that I replaced the mushrooms with asparagus. This added a Spring flair to the risotto, which was perfect for an April birthday. I also did not include the cream in order to make the risotto less rich.

For the fish, I chose a lemon sole fillet since this fish is light in flavor and would not fight for attention with the risotto. I think tilapia or halibut would also work with this dish for the same reasons.

Meanwhile, I still needed something that would help the dish really pop. So I decided on a pesto to top it off, but didn’t want the conventional basil and pine nut basil. Instead I chose to use watercress due to its bold flavor and walnuts because, well, I like them. I also toasted the walnuts before adding them to the food processor, which really enhanced the flavor.

Okay, so here is the recipe for 3 servings. Note that you can make the pesto ahead of time and set it aside.

Watercress and Toasted Walnut Pesto

  • ½ cup of walnuts halves, lightly toasted
  • ½ clove of garlic
  • ½ cup of watercress leaves
  • ¼ – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (amount depends on the pesto consistency you desire)
  • Salt to taste
  1. Add the toasted walnuts and garlic to the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.
  2. Add watercress and mix until ingredients are pureed.
  3. Slowly add olive oil until the pesto reaches the desired consistency.
  4. Add salt to taste.

Spring Risotto

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp and 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 15 asparagus stalks, rough ends removed
  • 1 medium leek, chopped and rinsed (remember, you only use the white and light green part of the leek)
  • ¾ cup Arborio rice
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (the green can kind is prohibited!!!)
  1. In a large pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to the lowest setting to keep broth warm and cover.
  2. While broth is heating up, add 1 tsp of olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add asparagus stalks and cook until asparagus is bright green. This should take a few minutes.
  3. Remove asparagus and place aside. Cut into 1 inch pieces once cooled.
  4. Now add the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil and the chopped leaks to the large sauté pan. Sauté the leeks until they just begin to brown.
  5. Add the Arborio rice and mix until the rice is glistening with the oil.
  6. Pour in the wine and mix until absorbed.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth and mix until the rice again absorbs the liquid and reaches a thick, creamy consistency. Continue this process, pouring only 1/2 cup of broth at a time, until the rice is tender. This should take about 20 minutes. Also note, that the amount of broth needed will vary so you may not use all 4 cups. If you need more liquid, water will be just fine.
  8. Add the parmesan cheese and chopped asparagus and mix together.

Lemon Sole Fish Fillet

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup flour
  • 3 lemon sole fillets
  1. Lightly oil the fish fillets with about 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  2. Cover fillets with flour and shake excess off (be careful, lemon sole is fragile).
  3. In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add remaining tbsp of olive oil. Add fish fillets and cook on both sides until opaque. This will take about 2-3 minutes on each side. (My skillet was too small for all three fillets, so I just cooked them one at a time.)
  4. Place risotto onto serving plate, top with fish fillet, and add a large dollop of pesto.

Hope you enjoy this dish!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. gemma permalink
    April 4, 2007 1:51 pm

    wow. I know where i want to go for my birthday dinner – “Chez Kristin” – heard it is amazing

  2. Alison permalink
    April 4, 2007 2:05 pm

    This dish was an amazing birthday treat. The pesto truly made the dish and I think the unique touches of walnuts & watercress made a difference. I felt like I had my own personal 5* chef for my big day! Thanks Kristin.

  3. Luisa permalink
    April 6, 2007 4:15 pm

    I love the idea of walnut-watercress pesto! Yum. This looks like a lovely dinner (happy birthday, Alison!).

  4. Mathew permalink
    June 21, 2007 12:53 pm

    Kristin, that does look amazing.I will make sure that Raquel cooks it for me. (yeah right)

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