Simple seared salmon brings tasty and healthy balance to the...

Simple seared salmon brings tasty and healthy balance to the holiday season. Credit: Marge Perry

A weeknight dinner that is simple, sophisticated and healthy adds tasty balance between the holiday indulgences. The blend of rich salmon, bright orange, pungent basil and sweet nuts is satisfying in a way that belies the ease with which you can throw this dinner together.

The key to getting a beautiful golden crust on salmon is the get the oil in the pan good and hot — but not so hot that it is smoking. The oil is at the right temperature when it shimmers, as if you can see the heat rising just above it. Overheated oil will burn the outside of the salmon before the inside gets the chance to cook through.

Salmon with Toasted Pine Nuts, Basil, and Orange

1/2 cup pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 shallots, finely chopped

3 tablespoons drained capers

1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh orange zest

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon + 1/8 teaspoon salt, divided

4 (6-7oz.) skin-on salmon fillets

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium; add the pine nuts and cook, shaking pan often, until lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a bowl.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the capers and cook 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl with the pine nuts. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil and the orange zest. Let cool 5 minutes before adding the basil and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.

3. Season the salmon with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add the salmon, flesh side down, and cook until nicely browned, 5 minutes. Flip the salmon over and continue cooking until the skin is crisp and the salmon cooked through but still slightly translucent in the center, 4-5 minutes longer. Place a salmon fillet on each of 4 serving plates and top with the pine nut mixture. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

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