[Editor’s note: Recipes at the end of the story.]
What’s pink, fatty and so good to eat?
If you guessed salmon, you’re right!
Nowadays, when we hear that almost everything we like to eat is bad for us, it’s such a delight to be able to talk about a food that is so delicious and yet so salubrious. In fact, if there is such a thing as a “superfood,” salmon comes pretty close.
This extremely nutritious fish is loaded with good fats, especially the highly touted omega 3s, which basically work by reducing inflammation, which is thought to be the culprit in heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some cancers.
Recent studies have also suggested their potential to slow cognitive problems such as Alzheimer’s. They may also help to prevent strokes. People who have sufficient levels of the mighty 3s seem to have less depression and suicide risk. Most interesting was a recent study that gave prison inmates a combination of omega 3s and vitamins and found aggressive behavior reduced by a third in just two weeks.
Another surprising fact is that a 4-ounce serving of salmon fulfills a full day’s requirement of vitamin D. D is the new hot-button vitamin that no one seems to get enough of, even in sunny Southern California. This fabulous fish also provides a good dose of B12, B6, niacin, selenium and magnesium. If you eat canned salmon, those tiny bones turn out to be an excellent source of calcium.
If you are confused about the controversies currently swirling around fish, here are a few salmon basics that may help you choose wisely.
Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are: Choose wild caught Alaskan or Canadian salmon. Pacific salmon in Alaska is one of the most intensely managed species in the world and there is excellent monitoring of both population and fisheries.
Farmed salmon and Atlantic or Norwegian salmon (also farmed) are a big no-no. The reasons to avoid it comprise a long list: mainly, the use of antibiotics (more per pound of body weight than any other food source), chemical pollutants, pesticides, PCBs, DDTs and red food dye (allowable in the U.S. but not in other countries).
The conundrum is if the farmer feeds salmon small fish, it reduces the available fish food for wild salmon. However, if they are fed meal, they have less omega 3s in their flesh. Salmon farming also raises issues of crowding, water pollution and disease. If salmon is unlabeled in markets or restaurants, you can be almost certain that it is farmed.
So, where can we get the good stuff, short of fishing trips to Alaska? Right downtown every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market, you will find Sam the fish man rapidly selling out of the freshest and most reasonably priced salmon for miles around. Every week, Sam drives to LAX or Burbank airport to pick up his order of wild caught Alaskan or Canadian salmon. If you can’t drag yourself out of bed first thing in the morning, give him a call at (818) 266-3654 and he will reserve some for you.
Now that you have some beautiful center cut filets, what are you going to do with them if you are tired of always throwing them on the grill? Expand your repertoire with this easy and delicious recipe. The salmon is prepared with a rub and is finished with one of three sauces.
Elle recommends serving the salmon with your favorite rice to soak up all the delicious sauce.
Salmon in Spicy Orange Sauce
basic salmon preparation
2 pounds of wild caught Alaskan salmon
pinch of salt
1 tsp oil or cooking spray
Rub: Combine 1 tb. sugar, ¼ tsp salt, ½ tsp each, cayenne, turmeric, paprika
2 green onions, chopped, keep white and green separate, save green for garnish
1 orange, zested and juiced
1/3 cup of Thai sweet chili sauce
2 tb light or regular soy sauce
1 inch peeled piece of fresh ginger
optional: 1 tb orange liqueur or TJ’s orange Muscat vinegar
1 Combine in a bowl zest, juice, chili sauce, soy sauce and optional liquid
2. Finely chop ginger or put through garlic press. Add to bowl.
3. Sprinkle fish lightly with salt, pat on non-skin side generously with rub mixture.
4. Add oil or spray an 8-10” skillet. Turn flame on high. When hot, add fish skin side down. Cook two minutes. Turn fish over. Cook one minute. Take pan off heat. (If desired, peel off skin.)
5. Turn fish once again and pour off excess fat. Return to flame. Add green onion whites. Cook one minute.
6. Pour on sauce, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately garnished with green onion greens.
Salmon with Thai Coconut Curry
Basic salmon preparation (same as above)
2 tsp cooking oil
1 chopped shallot
1 tb. Thai red or green curry paste
1 can coconut milk (reduced fat OK)
1 tb. fish sauce (soy sauce can be substituted)
10 whole cherry tomatoes
(optional)1/2 stalk lemon grass or a Kaffir lime leaf
1. Sauté shallot and curry paste in oil on a low flame for 5 minutes. Add coconut milk and fish sauce. Simmer 5 minutes.
2. Prepare salmon as above. Cook fish in a skillet according to steps 3-5 in preceding recipe. Pour half of sauce on fish, add cherry tomatoes and cook covered on low flame for 5-7 minutes.
Salmon in Green Sauce
Basic salmon (as above)
1 jar Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde
1 serrano chili or jalapeno chili (remove seeds and ribs if you don’t like it spicy)
1 bunch of cilantro (tough stems removed)
1 tsp cumin
1. Combine sauce ingredients in blender until liquefied
2. Prepare salmon as above. Cook according to steps 3-5 in basic recipe. Add sauce mixture. Cook covered on low flame 5-7 minutes.
ELLE HARROW AND TERRY MARKOWITZ owned A La Carte for 20 years. They can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org