Cedar Smoked Basil Pesto Halibut

This is one of our favorite summer dinners. With multiple varieties of basil growing in the garden, its just a matter of cutting what you need for your pesto. Paired with fresh Alaskan halibut fillets and a Northwest Pacific cedar plank, we are talking some great outdoor flavors that scream summer! Serrano peppers add just a hint of heat, certainly optional but you will love it. You can use the regular sweet basil available year round but we love the full flavor of assorted basil. We have 5 varieties in the garden in the summer. Try the local farmers market or start your own herb garden. Green City Market in Chicago is a great place to find what you need also. Soak your cedar plank ahead of time so that it will smolder slowly and impart that wonderful campfire flavor to the fish. Soak for at least 2 hours.This recipe can be used for many different types of fish. Try your favorite fish and see if you can't take it to a whole new level of flavor.

  • This recipe makes 3 cups of pesto which is enough for 6 lbs of fish. Use extra pesto on pasta, bread or freeze. 



  • 8 cups fresh basil leaves- assorted varieties if possible

  • 2 cups parmesan cheese, grated

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup fresh garlic cloves, peeled

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 serrano pepper


  • 1/2 pound of fish per person, skinned

  • 1 plank for 2 pounds of fish, approximately 


  • Soak the plank(s) at least a couple of hours ahead. Place a heavy pan on top to submerge.

  • Place garlic, pine nuts,and serrano pepper in food processor, process until minced. Add basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Start processing, slowly add olive oil thru top chute. Continue until smooth, add parmesan cheese. Pulse to mix.Makes about 3 cups.

  • Take fish from refrigerator at least 30 minutes before planking.

  • Remove plank from water, place fish on plank and slather with pesto. Place plank on hot grill, close lid, cook for 12 to 14 minutes. Check the plank once about halfway thru. It should be nice and smokey but not on fire. Keep lid closed. Remove fillets directly from plank and serve.

  • Plank can be left to burn up or placed in water to douse. Never throw hot planks in the garbage!

  • Enjoy!