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Late spring is salmon season.

Byline: Michele Kayal and Alison Ladman

Add salmon to the long list of foods Americans have mostly lost touch with in terms of seasonality.

It's an understandable lapse. After all, salmon certainly seems to be available all year. And indeed, farmed Atlantic salmon is available fresh all year. Even wild species are available pretty much whenever a hankering strikes, albeit mostly frozen and canned. But wild salmon at its peak -- about 90 percent of which comes from Alaska -- indeed has a season.

Fresh wild salmon -- with a firm flesh and rich flavor tinged by the cold ocean -- is best had from late spring through early fall. And it certainly is worth seeking out, for it has about as much in common with farmed salmon as wild, earth-ripened morels have with canned mushrooms.

''We're all daydreaming about salmon season starting,'' said Laura Cole, owner and executive chef at 229 Parks in Alaska's Denali National Park. ''It marks summer and the highlight of what Alaska has to offer.''

Thanks to its versatility with other flavors, its ease and speed of cooking, as well as a wave of good news about its healthy fats, salmon has become one of America's go-to seafood choices. In 2013, Americans consumed 2.7 pounds of salmon per person, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, making it the country's second favorite seafood after shrimp. It even bumped canned tuna to No. 3.

Americans eat more farmed than wild salmon, and nearly all of it is imported. Farmed salmon enjoys the advantage of being available fresh in supermarkets as consistently as steak and chicken. Its flavor is mild and filets are affordable. But advocates of wild salmon praise its flavor and its provenance as an American fish. Salmon was a staple of early Native Americans.

While many consumers tune in to where their food comes from, even the savviest shoppers likely don't realize that wild Alaskan salmon boasts five varietals: king, sockeye, coho, keta and pink. Each has a distinctive flavor profile and preferred preparations.

Sockeye Sockeye, also called red salmon, is known for its distinct, bright red flesh that retains its color even once cooked. It is prized for its firm, fatty meat and its pronounced, yet versatile flavor.

Sockeye takes well to added butter and other fats, chefs say, as well as to flavorful seasonings.

Sockeye is eaten for both its meat and for its roe, which is used as salmon caviar for sushi. Nearly all of the country's sockeye comes from Alaska, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with the world's largest harvest landing at Bristol Bay in the southwestern part of the state. Sockeye's color and texture make it ideal for canning, but today more than half of the annual catch is sold fresh or frozen.

Like king salmon, the first sockeyes of the season usually come from Copper River and hit fish counters mid-May through mid-June.

Recommended preparations: Like king salmon, sockeye works with any preparation.

Availability: Year-round in cans, pouches and frozen; fresh from mid-May through mid-September.

Broiled Sockeye Salmon Salad

Always check salmon for bones. Gently rub your hand over the flesh, going against the grain. The bones should be in a line running the length of the fish. Use tweezers or needle pliers to remove.

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 11/2-inch chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1 teaspoon hot sauce

2 pounds sockeye salmon, cut into 6 pieces

3/4 cup blueberries

6 cups mixed greens

Balsamic glaze, to serve

Feta cheese, to serve

Fresh dill, to serve

Heat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil.

In a medium bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread on the prepared baking sheet and bake until tender and browned, turning occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes.

Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and heat the oven to broil. Spray another baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, mustard, hot sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Arrange the salmon pieces on the prepared pan and spread the brown sugar mixture over the top of each piece. Cook the salmon 4 inches from the broiler for 2 minutes, or until browned and cooked to the desired level.

Arrange 1 cup of greens on each serving plate. Top with a piece of salmon. Divide sweet potatoes among the plates, along with blueberries. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and sprinkle with feta and fresh dill.

Per serving: 360 calories; 150 calories from fat (42 percent of total calories); 17 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 100 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 36 g protein; 400 mg sodium.

Pink Salmon

With a delicate flavor, rosy pink flesh and a texture similar to trout, pink salmon offers a blank canvas for sauces and other flavorings. Pink salmon is extremely lean, with soft meat and a small flake.

''We got pinks that I sauteed,'' says Anita Lo, owner and executive chef of New York's Annisa restaurant. While she doesn't use them in the restaurant, Lo says pink salmon do well on the grill or in the pan, and offer an environmentally friendly dinner.

As with keta, pink salmon benefits from fat and dairy to mellow it out. The roe also is used for sushi.

Recommended preparations: quiche; salmon burgers; sauteed

Available: Year-round in cans, pouches and frozen; fresh mid-June through September.

Pink Salmon Cakes on Sourdough With Lemon-Herb Aioli

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 4

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon minced fresh savory

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

9 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 large shallots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 pound pink salmon, fresh or canned, chunked or chopped

1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

All-purpose flour, for dusting

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sliced cucumbers

4 thick slices toasted sourdough bread, to serve

To make the aioli, in a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks, mustard, thyme, savory, a pinch each of salt and pepper, and the lemon zest and juice. While whisking, slowly add 8 tablespoons of the olive oil, a dribble at a time. The mixture should be smooth and thick. Adjust the seasoning with additional salt and black pepper, if needed. Refrigerate.

In a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the shallots, garlic and capers and cook until the shallots are tender and beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, then add the chunked salmon and breadcrumbs. Gently mix.

Gently form the mixture into 8 patties, each about 21/2 inches round. Place some flour in a shallow dish, then one at a time set the salmon patties in the flour, turning to lightly coat both sides.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the patties, working in batches if necessary, and sear on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Arrange the salmon cakes on the toasted sourdough slices, topping with cucumber slices and dollops of the aioli. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 690 calories; 430 calories from fat (62 percent of total calories); 48 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 180 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 29 g protein; 660 mg sodium.

Michele Kayal is cofounder of American Food Roots.com.
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Title Annotation:Living
Author:Kayal, Michele; Ladman, Alison
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Apr 19, 2015
Words:1289
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