My younger son loves salmon, in part because he likes the taste, in part in part because according to him, they are “smart fish.” Salmon are typically “anadromous:” they are born in fresh water, migrate to the ocean, and then return to fresh water to reproduce. Folklore has it that salmon return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn. The word salmon comes from the Latin word salmon, which is believed to have directed from the word salire, which means “to leap”. Jumping is what salmon are well-known for. Believe it or not, they can jump as high as 12 feet. Some say that salmon jump to avoid obstacles when swimming upstream, but others believe they jump to fill so-called swim bladders with air so that they are more buoyant. Salmon are native to tributaries of the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Currently the harvest in Alaska represents about 80% of the total wild-caught salmon.
When I was a kid, salmon was the most prevalent fish on menus. Many people, myself included, shifted away from it when we had the chance. But it may be time to reconsider. Salmon is simply loaded with nutrients and may reduce risk factors for several diseases. Salmon is one of the best sources of the “essential” long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). EPA and DHA have been credited with several health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of cancer and improving the function of the cells that line your arteries. Salmon is also a source of high-quality protein, B vitamins, and potassium. Research suggests eating salmon may actually help protect bone health, decrease thyroid antibodies, lower the risk of heart diseases, lower LDL cholesterol, and help with weight management. Most foods simply don’t offer such health benefits.
Many people are concerned when buying salmon: wild versus farmed? Here is a link to a thoughtful piece from the State of Washington Department of Health that says, above all, just keep eating salmon (“[B]oth wild and farmed salmon have low levels of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants…Wild salmon is a great choice and farmed salmon is a good alternative.”). Another great seafood safety reference is The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Consumer Guide; this is an easy way to check what fish is safest to eat near you. As always, remember to buy the freshest you can get from a reputable purveyor, and cook it/freeze it properly.
Safety and sustainability aside, this is a nice easy salmon recipe that I like. There is nothing fancy about it, but the cucumber sour cream sauce is a wonderful accompaniment to the rich roasted salmon. In the summer you can grill instead of roast; just remember to apply oil to the grill and fish first, so it doesn’t stick.
Oven Roasted Salmon with Cucumber Sour Cream Sauce
- For the Salmon:
- 6 (6-ounce) salmon fillets with the skin on
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- For the Cucumber Sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups baby spinach, packed
- 1 1/2 cups arugula, packed
- 1 shallot, rough chop
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded rough chop
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt to taste
- Step 1 For the Salmon: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Step 2 Mix the wine, orange juice and soy sauce in a large shallow baking pan.
- Step 3 Using a slicer knife, gently score the salmon skin with an “X” to prevent it from curling up when roasting. Place the salmon flesh side down in the baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for about 15-20 minutes. Turn once or twice when possible.
- Step 4 While the salmon is marinating, make the cucumber sauce.
- Step 5 In a food processor, such as a Cuisinart, fitted with a metal blade, chop the spinach, arugula and shallot.
- Step 6 Add the cucumber, sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pulse lightly until blended and cucumbers are mostly chopped. Adjust the seasoning with salt to taste. Cover the sauce and refrigerate until needed. Note, the sauce can be made up to 6 hours in advance.
- Step 7 To cook the salmon, shake off any excess marinade and transfer the fillets to the prepared baking sheet, placing them skin side down. Season with salt.
- Step 8 Roast the salmon until it is opaque in the center, about 12-14 minutes.
- Step 9 Serve the salmon with a generous dollop of the cucumber sauce.