Salmon gets the spotlight this week because I’m making it for dinner tonight using this incredible recipe. I actually bought fresh salmon from the store, from the actual seafood section! This is a pleasant change from my usual salmon-in-a-can, also known as “fish taste in your mouth that lasts at least 24 hours”… in-a-can. I like canned salmon, but wow does it linger. Also, cats eat it, and that makes me feel weird.
Anyway, here’s my ode to salmon.
Salmon is a pretty popular food. Part of the reason is because it’s pinky-orange flesh is a little bit impossible to resist, even when it’s uncooked (people eat that shiz raw). The color comes from carotenoid pigments, which I discussed in last week’s informative and controversial avocado entry.
You can typically find salmon swimming near the coasts of the North Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and in the Great Lakes of North America. Salmon have a busy life. They start out their lives in fresh water and migrate to the ocean. Then, they come back to fresh water to have little fish babies.
The word “salmon” comes from the Latin word Salmo, which probably comes from the word Salire (“to leap”). If you’ve ever seen footage of salmon swimming through a stream, you understand why. Those buggers leap a lot. They’re like obsessed with leaping.
The Salmo genus comes from the north Atlantic while the other genus Oncorhynchus comes from the north Pacific. But that isn’t really interesting. What’s interesting about salmon is how delicious they are in my mouth, and how good they are for us.
Salmon is an awesome source of omega-3 fatty acids, so it’s a stellar food choice for anyone who wants their heart to work well. I know I do. Seeing as heart disease has been the #1 killer of Americans for like a bajillion years (OK, 80 years), it may be a good idea to start eating things that will help our hearts be healthier. We can’t live forever, but at least we can delay the inevitable, eh?
As discussed last week, omega-3 fatty acids also provide a crap load of other benefits. It sharpens the mind, eases depression, reduces stiffness and joint pain, and improves lung function.
Salmon also contains a healthy load of B Vitamins, including B2, B3, B6 and B12.
- B2 and B3 vitamins help your body convert your food into energy. I myself noticed a dramatic difference in my energy level when I started upping my daily salmon dose.
- B6 helps you maintain a healthy brain function, so in combination with omega-3, you really have no excuse to be stupid. Vitamin B6 also helps your body with disease prevention, red blood cell production, breaking down protein and normal nerve cell function.
- B12 supports the health of your immune system, promotes red blood cell production, and keeps you in a jolly mood. B12 is only found in animal sources like fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, so those who do not eat animal products have to get it some other way. I go to the clinic every month for a B12 shot, because for some reason I suck at swallowing pills. Plus, the shot usually doesn’t hurt too badly and it’s a quick way to get it into my system. It makes me feel like a rock star, but that could be a placebo effect. Eh, who cares. I’m a freaking rock star.
The Vitamin A that salmon provides helps optimize your immune system by strengthening your mucous membranes, the linings of your eyes, and your respiratory, intestinal, and urinary tracts. By strengthening these entry points, your body is better equipped to fight off some of the worst “kill-me” illnesses, such as stomach bugs, the flu, and urinary tract infections. Vitamin A is also important for healthy eyes, strong bones and teeth, cancer prevention, and healthy skin.
As if there weren’t enough vitamins already, salmon just has to show off by also giving us Vitamin D, which is best known for its relationship with the sun. Direct contact with sunlight promotes Vitamin D synthesis in our skin, which is actually the best way to get the vitamin. But when you can’t do that, especially in the winter months, the second best way is by eating things. Things like salmon. Vitamin D is known for its ability to promote the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Without enough Vitamin D, bones can become thin, weak, or misshapen. The sunshine vitamin also promotes cell growth, healthy immune function, and reduction of inflammation in the body.
So, what’s next? Another vitamin? Oh yes indeed. Vitamin E is yet another gift brought to you by the leaping pink fish. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that has a long list of benefits, the main one probably being protection against roaming free radicals. Vitamin E attacks them before they get a chance to damage our cells and give us cancer. Vitamin E also protects us against toxins that are in the environment and in our every day products (too many for comfort). Yep, vitamins can really do this stuff. I’m not just picking random letters from the alphabet and saying a bunch of nice things.
Some minerals that can be found in salmon include iron (cell growth), magnesium (energy, headache prevention), zinc (immunity and healing), calcium and phosphorus (strong bones).
The last nutritional benefit of salmon that I feel like talking about right now is protein. One serving of Alaskan salmon can contain 23 grams to 27 grams of protein. Salmon contains complete proteins that contain a butt-load of amino acids. These proteins can help you grow some sick muscles, increase your metabolism, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Like a boss.
You can buy salmon whole, as a steak, or as a filet. What you choose depends on how many people you are feeding and how much you feel like doing. If you’re like me, you don’t feel like doing a lot and would rather buy a bunch of steaks. But if you want to save some money, and have better work ethic than I do, you could buy the whole fish. Just be prepared to de-bone and un-skin the thing, which doesn’t sound like fun. Really, I would just shell out the extra cash.
When you’re at the seafood counter, ask the handler if you can smell the fish. This part sounds odd but it’s really important that your fish doesn’t smell like roadkill laced with poo. It should smell salty, sweet, and not like a fish. If it smells like fish, it’s bad fish. If the handler looks at you funny, give him a little sniff too.
If there’s a thermometer in the refrigerator case somewhere, check it out. It should be at 29 degrees F. Select fish that’s directly on top of the ice because it’s more likely to have been kept at a safe temperature.
The flesh should be firm and intact, not feathered. If you press on it, it should push back a little. And this should probably go without saying, but the salmon shouldn’t be slimy, and the scales shouldn’t be falling off.
If you look into the salmon’s eyes and it winks at you, put it back. Just put it back.
And finally, I would advise that you do not give your fish a name.
Storing, Handling and Preparation
There are lots of different types of salmon, but I don’t feel like talking about all of them. What they all have in common though is that they can make you welcome death if you do anything seriously wrong in the storing and handling area.
When you leave the store, get home as soon as possible without breaking any major traffic laws. I’d say take no longer than 30 minutes. Fish goes bad quickly at unsafe temperatures (anywhere between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F). Put the fish in your refrigerator (which should be 40 degrees F at the warmest) as soon as you get home. Use the salmon within one day. If you don’t, throw it in the freezer instead where it will stay good for up to 6 months.
The best way to defrost frozen salmon is to put it in your refrigerator 24-30 hours prior to making dinner. Do not set it on a counter to thaw or run warm water over it to speed up the process. You’re basically creating a bacterial utopia that way. Once thawed, smell it again. Sorry, I have this weird thing with smelling fish.
Whether you grill, fry, or bake the salmon, make sure it reaches the safe temperature of 140 degrees F. You’ll usually know it’s done when the flesh flakes easily with a fork. See one of the recipes below for some ideas on how to prepare your salmon.
Raw vs. Cooked
Eating any raw flesh just sounds like a bad idea to me, but there are tons of B.A. people who do it every day in the form of sushi, sashimi, crudo and salmon tartare and walk away from it parasite-free. To “safely” eat raw salmon, the fish must be frozen at -31 degrees F or lower for 15 hours. If it’s not, you’re at risk of having a new, wriggly little guest in your digestive system called Diphyllobothrium latum.
I really don’t want to ruin sushi for anyone, but I just think you should know that there are risks in eating raw fish. I’d like to think most reputable places store and prepare their fish properly, but I’m still not really tempted to try it.
Alright well now that I’m sick of salmon, vitamins and tapeworms, here are some recipes to wrap this entry up with. The recipe I made tonight was tha bomb.
Salmon with Brown Sugar and Bourbon Glaze – All Recipes
Salmon Chowder – Heather Christo Cooks
BLT Salmon – lemons for lulu
Salmon and Asparagus Frattata – epicurious
Salmon with Mango Salsa – Martha Stewart
Oregon Salmon Patties – All Recipes