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Seared salmon on white plates with green sauce and grain salad, set on a gray background.

Pan Seared Salmon with Leek Purée and Sorghum Pilaf

  • Author: Lauren Grant of Zestful Kitchen
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Make the perfect seared salmon with this simple, yet surprising, recipe. Then serve it with a flavorful leek purée and a healthful sorghum pilaf for a fresh, healthy dinner.



For the pilaf:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup dry pearled sorghum, or any hearty grain of choice
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

For the leek purée:

  • 1 pound leeks (about 2 leeks), white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced ½-inch thick, thoroughly washed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the salmon:

  • ⅓ cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon cracked peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons minced lemon zest, divided
  • 4 salmon fillets, skin-on (6 oz. each)
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas, halved on the bias (8 ounces)
  • ½ cup chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


For the pilaf:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saucepan over medium, add onions and cook until translucent, 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds; season with salt and pepper. Stir in sorghum and cook 1 minute. Add broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until sorghum is tender, 35–40 minutes; drain if needed. 

If using a different grain, cook according to package directions.

For the leek purée:

Meanwhile, for the leek purée, bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add leeks, and cook until very tender, about 5 minutes. Drain leeks and transfer to a blender or food processor with butter and purée; season with salt and pepper. Transfer leek purée back to saucepan and keep warm.

For the salmon:

Whisk together 6 cups water, ⅓ cup salt, cracked peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Add salmon fillets, cover, and let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove lid from sorghum and cook, stirring, about 5 minutes until excess liquid has evaporated. Off heat, stir in remaining tablespoon oil, remaining teaspoon zest, peas, scallions, tarragon, and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

Transfer salmon fillets to a paper-towel-lined plate and pat dry. Combine 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Sprinkle half of salt and pepper mixture in bottom of a large nonstick skillet. Arrange fillets, skin side down, in skillet; heat to medium high and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper over top.

Cook fillets until fat begins to render and skin starts to brown, 6–7 minutes. Flip, cook until flesh side starts to brown, 6–8 minutes more. (If you don’t have a 10-inch or larger skillet, cook fillets in batches.)

Serve fillets with leek purée and sorghum pilaf.


For the pilaf: if you aren’t crazy about tarragon, start with 1 tablespoon, or use mint instead.

How to wash leeks: A lot of dirt gets trapped between the layers in leeks, so it’s incredibly important to clean leeks before cooking with them. To clean them, first trim off the dark green parts of the leek, starting at the point where the leaves fan out. Trim the root end, slice the leek in half, lengthwise, then slice crosswise. Transfer the sliced leeks to a large bowl. Run cold water over the leeks until leeks are submerged. Let leeks soak for 5 minutes, then gently lift leeks out of the water (trying not to disturb the water much) and transfer to a bowl; discard water. Repeat soaking and draining once more.

For the best texture and flavor, only brine the salmon for 15–20 minutes. Any longer and the texture of the fish can be impacted. This genius trick was created by the folks at America's Test Kitchen, you know I love them.

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