Food Styling 101 with Menu Makers

Basil Seared Salmon with Risotto and Fried Okra

Article by Maria Dinoia and Executive Chef Callie Cottrell

Photography by Peggy Weatherford

Originally published in Franklin Lifestyle

Basil Seared Salmon

  • 4 8-ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 teaspoon salt and pepper mix
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil 
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


Pat salmon dry with paper towel. Season each fillet with salt and pepper and gently press chopped basil onto fish. Preheat nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Sear salmon in canola oil pretty side down (bloodline should be facing up.)  Keep heat fairly high and continue to brown and crisp outside of fillet. After 3-4 minutes, gently flip fish with fish spatula. Continue cooking for 4-6 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low. Set aside on warm plate while you make the sauce.

Lemon Risotto with Sweet Peas and Summer Squash

  • 7 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup minced white onion
  • 1 3/4 cups arborio rice
  • 1 1/2 cups diced yellow summer squash
  • 1 cup fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped finely


Heat butter over medium heat in heavy nonstick skillet. Add onion and rice, cooking for about 3-4 minutes. Add squash and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes longer. Stir in 2 cups stock and continue to stir and simmer as the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue to simmer and ladle in stock a half cup at a time, until absorbed. When all liquid is absorbed, add the wine. When the rice is tender, add sweet peas, cream and Parmesan. Stir until absorbed and peas are tender. Finish with lemon zest and juice and salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh parsley.

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Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Okra

  • 10 okra pods, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun-style seasoning
  • Oil for frying (canola or soybean preferred)  

In a small bowl, soak okra in egg and buttermilk mixture for 5 minutes. In another small bowl, mix cornmeal and Cajun seasoning. Heat oil on medium-high heat until it reaches 375 degrees. Dredge okra in the cornmeal mixture, coating evenly. Carefully place okra in hot oil and cook until golden, turning after about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Easy Butter Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine
  • Dash of red pepper
  • Dash of salt
  • 10 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Heat the lemon juice and wine in a small saucepan over low heat. Gradually add pieces of butter, stirring constantly with a whisk until butter is melted and blended well. Whisk in salt and red pepper.

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