Recently, my friend, LouAnn, served Salmon Chowder. It was delicious! I got to thinking how versatile salmon is. This pink fish has gained enormous popularity in recent years. But, it can be confusing: Wild caught or farm grown? Sockeye or Chinook? Alaskan or Atlantic? I looked around and here’s what I found.
Salmon is found in both fresh and saltwater. There are several species of salmon, including sockeye, pink, coho, chum, chinook, and Atlantic. Salmon can be baked, broiled, seared or grilled. It has a reputation for being among the most heart-healthy of dishes because it contains Omega 3 fatty acids. These are essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce, therefore it requires intake from food (or vitamins) to supply the nutrients. Omega 3 is credited with promoting healthy joints and skin, reducing the risk of heart disease and aiding in neurological development in unborn children. Atlantic salmon has the highest concentration of omega 3 in the salmon family. The American Heart Association recommends that adults have two servings of omega 3 per week. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, omega 3 improves heart muscle function and reduce es the risk of deadly heart arrhythmia.
A 4-ounce serving of salmon contains contains up to 58 percent of the daily required protein, as well as essential amino acids that promote growth and help maintain muscle tissue. The protein helps the body maintain metabolism at levels that promote weight loss. Eating salmon three or more days a week helps you feel full longer.
That same fillet will give you nearly half of your daily vitamin B-12, in addition to niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin and pantothenic acid. It provides more than 50 percent of your recommended intake of selenium, fighting heart disease, cancer, age-related mental decline and thyroid disease (according to the National Institutes of Health). The same serving of salmon also delivers 25 percent of your daily phosphorous. MedlinePlus.com reports that phosphorous has many benefits, from building strong bones and teeth to maintaining a healthy heart and kidneys.
Contamination from mercury, pesticides, and other pollutants has become a concern, but there are still salmon runs that pose relatively low risk, including wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Southeast Alaskan chum, sockeye, coho, pink, and chinook salmon, together with Kodiak coho, pink, and chum salmon have also been found to be the lowest risk category of wild-caught salmon. Some salmon runs from British Columbia and the U.S. West Coast also stand out as lower risk for contaminants, but are more unreliable in terms of sustainability. There are four criteria: The inherent vulnerability of the fish, effects of fishing on overall habitat, status of wild stocks, and the other types of fish that are caught unintentionally during salmon fishing.
The debate over wild-caught vs farm-raised is more complicated. Advocates of sustainable food argue that farming creates an unnatural habitat for fish, which compromises quality. Regulations prohibit the use of animal by-products for feeding land animals, but this part of certification for farmed fish has been controversial. When salmon migrate out to sea, many different types of fish comprise their natural diet. So, it seems appropriate to allow the feeding of fish oil and fishmeal from wild fish to farm-raised salmon. However, non-organic animal by-products in their diet is believed to increase the risk of contamination. Farmed salmon accounts for about 80% of all salmon consumed worldwide, so it’s not always easy to find wild-caught salmon.
Fresh salmon is available whole, as steaks or in fillet form. It can also be purchased frozen, canned, dried or smoked. A whole fish should be kept buried in ice, while steaks and fillets should be displayed on top of a bed of ice. Most residential refrigerators are not quite cold enough for maximum freshness of raw fish. If you’re not going to prepare it right away, place your well wrapped fillets on a baking dish filled with ice in your refrigerator.
Unless you buy certified organic or wild-caught Alaskan salmon, it’s best to remove the skin. While it may contain some of the healthy nutrients, it’s also going to contain the majority of pollutants.
My favorite thing about salmon – besides the taste – is that it is easy peasy to prepare! There are seemingly a million ways to enjoy it! For optimal health benefits, simply broil it (be careful not to char it, even at the edges). You can whip up and endless array of sauces (or buy one, like sweet chili sauce or teriyaki). Salmon seems to be delicious with just about anything, whether you prefer spicy or sweet, buttery or plain. Serve broiled salmon over pasta, topped with olive oil, dill, lemon, scallions and black pepper. Combine leftover, cold salmon with greens for a delicious salad. Replace your usual shellfish or haddock with salmon in a chowder! Ground salmon makes a great “burger” alternative! Sprinkle left-over Salmon chunks with taco seasoning and use on Taco Tuesday!
One of the best salmon dishes I’ve ever eaten was grilled with a simple sauce of butter and chopped parsley! You literally cannot ruin it.
- Salmon fillet, about 2 pounds
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 425
- Place whole fillet in baking dish lined with parchment paper (or foil) for easy clean-up
- Cover fish with a piece of parchment (to prevent drying) and bake for 10 minutes
- Remove top parchment and spread mixture of garlic, parsley & cheese over fish
- Return to oven and bake until top is browned and cheese is melted (or 135 degrees internally)
Pesto Salmon with Italian Veggies Foil Packets
- Salmon fillets, skinless, individual serving sized (about 6 ounces)
- Asparagus or green beans, trimmed
- Pesto, store bought or homemade
- Grape tomatoes, halved
- Olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Aluminum foil
- Cooking spray, like PAM.
- Preheat oven to 400.
- IF using green beans, parboil or steam them first (3 mins).
- (Asparagus does not need to be pre cooked).
- Spray sheets of foil, about 14 inches each, with cooking spray.
- Divide beans or asparagus among foil sheets, placing in center.
- Place salmon fillet on top.
- Spread pesto over Salmon
- Top with tomatoes and drizzle all Ingredients with oil and lemon juice.
- Fold foil up and crimp edges. Leave a small, lose seam on top for steam to escape.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, depending on thickness of fillets.
- Allow to stand 5-10 minutes before unwrapping.
Easy Salmon Burgers
- 1 pound salmon fillet
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- ¾ cup finely chopped bell peppers (red and yellow look pretty)
- Ground Chili pepper, to taste
- Cooking spray, like PAM
- Remove skin and mince salmon.
- Mix with rest of the ingredients.
- Form into patties.
- Cook in a sprayed grill pan, turning as needed, until cooked thru – about 4 minutes each side at medium-high heat
(Serve with Chipotle Mayo or your favorite dipping sauce!)