Nov 032007

Many years ago I was very, very anti-fish. I eschewed that which went forward on no legs — just fins — preferring my critters to cluck or moo.

As I got older I started to get skeptical about my anti-fish rule. There were some species that were tasty, and swordfish is really the first actual fish that was prepared like a fish (i.e. not in stick form) that I would readily ate. A couple of years later we moved to Washington state and my parents fell in love with all the salmon there. I refused to eat the stuff, hating everything about it. At some point when we lived there I started to come around — really, it’s tough to resist fresh wild salmon, especially when it’s prepared well like my parents do.

Before too long I was eating the stuff enthusiastically and my salmon-hating days were all but forgotten (in fact, I hadn’t remembered that I used to hate salmon for a good eight years or so until I sat down to write this entry). But there was trouble in paradise — I started going to college in Texas, the land of beef, where if a fish and a cow met they would probably annihilate each other just like matter and antimatter. So for many moons I was salmonless, refusing to eat that Atlantic and farmed pale facsimile of salmon.

Salmon salad
Nikon D50

After college I moved to Alaska though — and soon re-discovered my favorite fishy friend. It’s so abundant and readily available out here — even in the winter — that I soon started to look for different ways to prepare it. Don’t get me wrong, sprinkled with rosemary and garlic and grilled is awesome, but there’s more than one way to cook a fish. I needed something that would fit into my diet more easily (i.e. not just dinner) because I certainly wasn’t eating enough of the stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I ran across an article on NPR’s Kitchen Window that featured canned wild Alaska salmon. I was immediately intrigued and mentally filed it away. A couple of days ago I ran across a couple of cans of the stuff in the grocery store and the recipes could sense that their time had come.

So today when I was feeling pretty peckish for lunch, I mixed up the salad, pulled out some greens, and sliced into a fresh loaf of my favorite sandwich bread. First impressions? This salmon salad is superb — it almost reminds me of a super-gourmet tuna salad, but with much better flavor and no mayo (and hence a heck of a lot less fat). To me, this is the perfect way to re-create a bad recipe: add a couple of very flavorful, very healthy ingredients (dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, dill, and cranberries) and omit the unhealthy and untasty bad stuff (mayo, yellow mustard, egg yolks, and pickles) and replace one fish (tuna) with another that has less mercury and more omega-3s. You’re left with something much better tasting and much better for you. If that’s not a winner I don’t know what is.

The salmon salad sandwich, ready to be devoured
Nikon D50

Wild salmon salad
Adapted from a recipe on NPR’s Kitchen Window
Makes enough for 2-3 sandwiches

One 7.5oz can boneless, skinless wild salmon (pink is good), drained
2 tablespoons chopped dried cranberries or currants
2 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans or pepitas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
A generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl break up salmon, add cranberries, dill, and pecans, and mix to combine.
In another medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, zest, mustard, salt and pepper. Add oil, whisking until blended.
Add vinaigrette to salmon mixture and toss to combine. If you think it tastes too fishy add a generous squeeze of lemon. Serve on fresh mixed greens and sliced bread (pictured) for a sandwich or wrap in a lettuce leaf and eat.
If you’re serving this as a lettuce wrap or as an actual salad (not a sandwich) try mixing a grain such as bulgar wheat, boiled spelt berries (45 minutes will leave it tender yet pleasantly toothy), or wild rice. I haven’t tried this yet but will soon!

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