Salmon is my jam. No pun intended, but salmon, my friends, is my favorite thing in the world to eat. In almost any variety, I will enjoy salmon. Smoked, grilled, in cream cheese, pan fried, anything! If we're close friends, I've probably tried to make you dinner and that usually involves salmon, ha! As most of you know, nowadays it's super important to choose your fish and seafood carefully. As good as it may taste, choosing the sustainable option is always worth more in the end, both for you and the environment. Love fish, but don't love it to extinction! In the last issue of Bon Appetit magazine (my morning and nighttime reading) there was an interesting article about choosing a good fish from the market that is both feasible for your wallet and the ocean. As I said, my personal favorite is salmon; luckily salmon is one of the fish that is easy to buy on a small budget with big flavor. Usually the supermarket fish isle will have one or two, maybe even three types of salmon: Coho - Sockeye - King - etc. The most obvious differences in quality and breed are color and fat. Cheaper, farm-raised salmon is usually very bright pink with very large white fat rows.
Wild VS Farm-Raised
In theory, farm-raised fish is a great alternative. We can stop fishing out our oceans and leave the wildlife alone. Farm-raised fish can be cheaper and, from a sustainability aspect, much more favorable. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. The majority of fish farms is not sustainable at all, in the contrary. Attached here is a website that can probably explain it better than me:
So even though buying wild fish involves actually fishing in the ocean and therefore adding to the depletion of the ocean life, on a small scale it is much more sustainable. When buying fish from a good source you can almost guarantee that your fish is not coming from mass-netting and that your catch-of-the-day was not full of by-catch. Good fish, wild caught fish, is usually from small fisheries that catch on the line or in very, very small nets to avoid catching everything that roams the ocean floors. This is another reason to buy as 'local' as possible, and if that's not possible, USA caught fish is almost always a good option. To try and make a good decision...buy wild fish if you know it's not endangered or coming from rough waters heavily poisoned (aka mercury. ugh.) and farm-raised if you know that the farm is sustainable and not pumping their fish full of antibiotics, corn, and colors. Enjoy dinner and be happy you're choosing what's good for you and the environment :)
Back to farmed salmon...It may look prettier than the wild option sometimes because it's brighter, but it's not as tasty and not as healthy. The way the majority of fish farms treat their fish and what they feed them is truly nightmare inducing. Since big farms are out for the big bucks not big on health and not big on sustainability, they feed their fish the cheapest there is: GMO corn. Fish are biologically not meant to consume corn, obviously, unless I've been living behind the moon and didn't realize that corn crops grow in the ocean...So since these poor little fishies aren't supposed to eat this monster corn produced by my worst evil enemy - Monsanto - they grow too fast and become sick.
Sick fish can't be sold, so, they figured "Let's just pump the water full of antibiotics so our fish seem healthy again so we can sell them and get filthy rich!" It's gross. These sick fish are not going to look so nice once cut open (whitish gray) so the fish companies add artificial coloring to their GMO feed to make them pink. So unless you want to eat antibiotics and red dye for dinner, try to steer away from the pretty pink salmon in the grocery store. It's sad, but true.
On a happier note, the good options are often hiding behind cheap prices and bad labeling. Try to look for wild fish from Europe or North America. That's always your best bet. Sometimes farm-raised fish from the USA will specifically state that it is NON-GMO and not fed with colors and corn, that's a good option, too. Theres a really great App by the Monterey Bay Aquarium for iPhones and Androids called "Seafood Watch". It's free, and it basically lists almost all types of seafood and fish and if it's your 'Best Choice', a 'Good Alternative', or if you should 'Avoid' it. It's really super useful. So to sum up: always buy wild caught fish and seafood. If that's not an option for you, try farm-raised from the USA.
Tonight I made pan fried sockeye salmon with a side of steamed corn on the cob. This salmon is wild caught from Alaska, really dark red in color and very lean. The filets aren't very thick since the fish are swimming wild and not overfed with fat. If you want to make this for dinner, too, here's what you'll need:
* Salmon Filet - 1 per person
* Sea Salt - more than you'd think
* Organic Coconut Oil - both for the filet and the pan
* Corn on the Cob - 2 per person
* Lemon - for a tart drizzle on the salmon
Making this dinner is super simple and pretty fast. I had dinner with my mom and grandmother tonight, so we had three salmon filets and six ears of corn.
Take the salmon out of the fridge and let it sit on the counter for 30-40min. It's always good to let fish warm up a little before cooking so the shock between temperature isn't too great when coming from fridge to hot pan. Cut salmon in filets and coat with about 1 tablespoon coconut oil each. Skin side up, salt very generously. I just got this really cool Sicilian sea salt with spices and I wanted to try it out.
It has sea salt, pink pepper corn, juniper, rosemary and cinnamon in the grinder. You don't need that at all, though, simple sea salt or kosher salt is perfect, too. So, generously salt (and pepper if you like) the skin side of the salmon. In the meantime, add 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil to your pan and let it heat up on medium-high. In another pot, add 2 inches water, cover, and set to boil (this is for the corn). When the pan with coconut oil is hot, add your salmon filets SKIN SIDE DOWN. This is super important to get a crispy, tasty skin and avoid the fish sticking to the pan. Salt the side facing up and add corn to pot. Now you wait. Being able to cook fish properly is sort of an art, but it's a really simple thing to learn. Basically just watch it. Watch the salmon change color, starting in the pan, from a dark red to a light, opaque pink. When you can see the pink half-way through, flip it over and wait about the same amount of time. By the time the salmon filets are ready, so is the corn (about 5-7 minutes). Take it all out from pan and pot and plate, slice up some lemon for the fish and butter for the corn and voila, perfect summer dinner!
Fish is so good for you, all the Omega-3's and good fats. I know everyone's heard of Omega-3 and all that, but no one really knows what it's all about. It's simple, really. Fish is good for you because it nourishes the body with certain fats that cannot really come from any other food. It's really good for pregnant women to help aid brain development in the baby. This also translates into children and adults: brain health. Fish fats help oil neurons and that makes joint pain go away and your brain will be oh so happy and you'll almost feel yourself getting smarter!
P.S.: On another note - for all of us sushi lovers out there - be aware of 'fake' salmon in your sushi! There are other fish that also have pink flesh and are much cheaper than salmon. Sometimes sushi restaurants will buy the cheap 'fake' salmon to save money but sell it as fancy delicious 'real' salmon and sell you some wack fish. Be aware! Only buy sushi from good restaurants as always. Read more here:
P.P.S.: Just because this is a great and hilarious comic: