Farmed salmon is cheap, accessible and tasty. For $5.99 or so a pound, you get lots of health-promoting omega-3’s, relatively few scary contaminents, and no real worries about mercury. You get guilt, too, because while farmed salmon is good for our bodies, it is almost always raised in ways that damage the earth and oceans.
Wild Alaskan salmon, on the other hand, is just as good (and quite possibly much better) for our bodies and is fished responsibly. The flavor and texture are light years beyond farmed salmon: it’s like comparing the elegance and grace of Audrey Hepburn as Unicef Ambassador to “Kiss-my-grits” Flo from the tv show “Alice”. Wild salmon from the Copper River is rich and silky with a subtle sweet flavor that whispers of the sea. Farmed salmon announces itself in every bite: I AM SALMON: EAT ME.
Alaska has very strict rules about how much of each kind of salmon (king, sockeye, Coho, pink and chum) can be fished and when; these rules ensure the ongoing health of the waters and the salmon population (and along with that, the livelihood of the many people connected with the fishing industry). Unfortunately for many of us in the Lower 48, these important protections come at a price: wild Alaskan salmon is currently $16.99/ pound at my local Whole Foods.
You can also buy direct from Alaskan fishermen. I went out gill net fishing with Bill Webber, whose company Gulkana Seafoods Direct (www.gulkanaseafoodsdirect.com), sells direct to some of the best restaurants in the country (including chef Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, a Las Vegas restaurant specializing in sustainable seafood)– and to consumers. When you buy direct, you usually have to buy a minimum quantity (twenty pounds, in this case), so either clear your freezer or go in on it with friends.
Wild salmon freezes beautifully, by the way. I know because Iwas lucky enough to be included in a pot luck dinner at a fisherman’s house in Cordova, where I ate salmon that had been in the freezer nine months– and it was among the best salmon I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Roast Salmon with Tomatoes and Olives
On the table in about 20 minutes.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green and black olives
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup parsley, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet, cut in 4 pieces
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high. Add onion and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, olives, lemon juice and sugar and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.
- Place salmon in a baking dish and spoon tomato sauce over it. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked to desired degree of doneness.
Makes 4 servings (about 375 calories per serving)
Gillnet fishing for wild Copper River salmon in Alaska
Fisherman Bill Weber and chef Rick Moonen hoping to catch sockeye with their smiles
Our first salmon of the day!
Look at the gorgeous color of just-caught sockeye