Wild salmon is a healthy choice for Lenten meals

swthompson@herald-leader.comMarch 4, 2014 

Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, a six-week period when many Christians abstain from certain kinds of food. In observance, many people eliminate red meat from their diets and eat mostly seafood, especially on Fridays. Fish is a good source of protein and, unlike fatty meat products, it's not high in saturated fat, and it's a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. But before you grab everything out of the supermarket's seafood case, think about what the environmental experts are saying: Many of the popular seafood items we eat, including cod, pollock, crab, clams, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and shrimp, contain only low amounts of omega-3s.

According to the Environmental Working Group website, EWG.org, scientists' analyses show that there are several seafood species that do provide substantial amounts of omega-3s and are low in mercury. The favorable choice is salmon.

The scientists say that 4 to 8 ounces of salmon a week can provide 100 percent of the recommended amount of omega-3s, and they suggest that consumers choose wild salmon over farmed salmon.

Because of the way a lot of farmed salmon is raised, it can contain contaminants. The experts say that other excellent healthy fish choices include anchovy, sardines, mussels, herring and farmed trout.

This Lenten season, many restaurants will add more seafood dishes to their menus, and salmon is always a pleasing choice.

Art Howard, owner of The Ketch Seafood Grill on Regency Road, serves salmon marinated in jerk sauce and grilled on a cedar plank.

"During Lent, we rotate a few specials along with the fresh fish of the day," Howard said. "On Friday, we will feature cioppino, which contains mahi mahi, shrimp, snow crab, calamari, and veggies in a light and zesty tomato broth with saffron rice." Pan-fried rainbow trout prepared with almonds, capers, onion, lemon, and brown butter also is available during Lent.

At Coba Cocina on Richmond Road, the new spring menu features agave-glazed wild salmon. The fresh, hand-cut salmon fillet is brushed with butter and Coba's signature Mexican seasonings, then seared, pan-roasted and finished with an agave-chipotle sauce. Here are recipes for salmon from a selection of new cookbooks.

Simple salmon sandwich

8 slices thick-cut, naturally smoked bacon

4 fillets (6 ounces each) salmon (preferably wild-caught Alaskan)

Salt and pepper

8 slices brioche, or multi-grain or rye bread

8 slices beefsteak tomato

Small head red leaf lettuce

Lemon herb aioli:

½ cup white wine

¼ cup finely chopped shallots

1 to 2 garlic cloves

4 rosemary sprigs, finely chopped

8 thyme sprigs, finely chopped

½ tablespoon turmeric

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon

1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Pinch of cayenne

Juice of ½ lemon

To prepare salmon:Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the bacon on a baking sheet, and cook in the oven for 18 minutes, or fry in a pan until crisp. Add a couple teaspoons of bacon grease to a sauté pan over medium heat and pan-sear the salmon to desired doneness. While cooking, season with salt and pepper to taste. (You might have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan.)

Spread each slice of brioche with lemon herb aioli. Divide even portions of salmon (if fillets are too thick, break into 2-inch chunks), bacon, tomato and lettuce among half the bread slices. Top the sandwiches with the other brioche slices, slice in half and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

To make aioli: Place the wine, shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme and turmeric into a sauté pan. Saute over medium heat until reduced by half. Set aside to cool for about 30 minutes. When it's completely cool, incorporate the mayonnaise, tarragon, chives, cayenne and lemon juice. You can store it in the refrigerator in an air-tight container as long as 2 weeks. Makes about 2 cups.

Source: The Big New York Sandwich Book by Sara Reistad-Long and Jean Tang

Baked salmon with spinach and couscous

½ cup brown rice couscous

1 1/3 cups boiling water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried tarragon or oregano, crumbled

½ teaspoon salt

2 packages (5 ounces each) fresh baby spinach

1 skinless salmon fillet (1 pound)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

Lemon slices for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-by-13 baking dish, stir together the couscous, boiling water, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, the tarragon and salt. Top with the spinach and the salmon.

Cover with foil and bake until the salmon pulls apart in flakes but is still moist, and the couscous is tender, about 12 minutes. Lift the salmon out of the pan and place on a cutting board.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the oil and pine nuts to the couscous-spinach mixture, and fluff with a fork. Divide the couscous-spinach mixture among 4 plates. Cut the salmon into 4 pieces and place on top. Garnish with lemon slices, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 376 calories, 20 g. fat, 27 g. protein, 26 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. fiber, 470 mg. sodium.

Source: The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution Cookbook by Arthur Agatston, M.D.

Roasted pesto salmon with grape tomatoes

2 containers (10 ounces each) grape tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 skinless salmon fillets (6 ounces each)

½ cup basil pesto (recipe follows)

Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Basil pesto:

4 ounces fresh basil leaves (4 loosely packed cups)

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup toasted and cooled pine nuts

2 large cloves garlic, peeled

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet tray with foil. Arrange the tomatoes on the sheet tray, drizzle with olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your basil pesto: Add the basil, oil, Parmesan, pine nuts and garlic to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding some salt and pepper.

Season both sides of the salmon fillets with salt and pepper. Top each fillet with a generous 2-tablespoon dollop of fresh pesto and spread it across the top. (Reserve the remaining ½ cup for another use.)

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and add the salmon to the sheet tray. Roast for 10 minutes more, until the tomatoes are soft and the salmon is cooked through. Give the tomatoes one more pinch of salt.

Serve the salmon topped with the roasted tomatoes. Sprinkle the tomatoes with a hit of crushed red pepper flakes for some kick, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Jamie Deen's Good Food

Sharon Thompson: (859) 231-3321. Twitter: @FlavorsofKY. Blog: Flavorsofkentucky.bloginky.com.

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