Odyssey of the Salmon
Need to keep moving... brown bear, dart right... current getting stronger, must be a waterfall...
final kick then leap... whoa! another brown bear, whew!... so tired but need to get to the
shallows... to spawn... then die...
Both the beginning and the end of the odyssey of the coho, chum, king, red, pink, silver and
sockeye salmon. Beginning in pristine fresh water streams, migration and maturity at sea only to
return to the exact birthplace facing a treacherous gauntlet of brown, black and grizzly bears,
waterfalls and sometimes manmade dams all the while undergoing a physical metamorphosis
that transforms an attractive fish to a gnarly beast of a fish. And if successful, the reward being
a final spawn then death. All I know is that if I return as a salmon, I'll be that one lazy salmon
who simply lounges in the pristine icy oceans off of Alaska. Spawn? Nope, don't feel the need.
Should I Look for Farmed Salmon?
Since wild salmon go through so much just to spawn, should I seek out farm raised salmon to
"protect" the wild variety. According to The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, NO! For
starters they recommend wild Alaskan salmon which is harvested via drift gillnet, purse seine or
trolled and regulated to maintain sustainability. The issue with most farmed salmon - especially
those raised in offshore cages - is that this artificial crowding of salmon in enclosed pens
increases the chances of parasitic infections not to mention a lot more salmon waste released
into the surrounding waters. And on occasion these penned salmon do escape from their
enclosures and can now infect the wild strain in the open ocean. And salmon farming does
require quite a lot of salmon feed, namely protein. So much so that they consume a lot more
protein than they'll ever produce for market. The Seafood Watch guide does recommend as an
alternative, US tank raised farmed salmon which doesn't pollute offshore waters, eliminates the
possibility of salmon escape and frequently employs salmon meal as the primary food versus
possibly depleting another species of fish just to feed the salmon. Personally, I just look for wild
salmon (which usually is listed on the packaging) since most markets rarely tell you if it's tank
farmed versus open water farmed. Plus I feel that wild salmon has a natural salmon color versus
the astaxanthin and canthaxanthin fortified feeds for farmed salmon (it either gives the flesh an
exaggerated red color or a faint yellow-orange tinge).
Other than its vivid salmon hue, the thing that sets salmon apart from most other seafood or
protein sources is its abundance of omega-3 fatty acids. Namely these are eicosapentaenoic acid
(EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which really can't be produced by humans, even if
your diet is fortified with its precursor alpha-linolenic acid. There are many studies that show
potential cardiovascular benefits of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids though cumulative
study analysis hasn't concluded without a doubt they these compounds actually do what is
claimed. At the very least, if you're consuming salmon protein it probably means you're
consuming less beef, pork or dairy protein along with the nasty saturated fat associated with
those protein sources.
There are also newer claims that the long chain omega-3 fatty acids may also improve a wide
variety of psychiatric conditions from bipolar disorder to depression to attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder. Though I'm not convinced of these claims, several psychiatric
organizations feel strong enough to recommend supplementing the diets of all of their patients
with 1 to 6 grams of long chain omega-3 fatty acids. Personally if I do need supplementation,
I'd rather accomplish it with a nice serving of salmon (or other fatty cold water fish) than with
a Lovaza or fish oil capsule.
I love salmon in all forms though my favorite application is raw or rare. In the 50th, a fish
staple is poke (po-keh) which is cubed raw fish mixed with a variety of seasoning such as shoyu,
seaweed, chili flakes, green onion, white onion and kukui nut. One of my current favorites is
salmon poke which is cubed raw salmon seasoned with shoyu and wasabi mixed with finely sliced
cabbage. The slight crunch of the cabbage contrasts the silky texture of the fish while the
occasional wasabi hit balances the richness of the salmon fat. And my local supermarket
apparently didn't pricing much thought - the salmon poke goes for $9.99 per pound but prices
the salmon filet at $12.99 per pound. So I continue to purchase a lot of this item.
I also enjoy pseudo-cooked salmon or cold smoked salmon. Most people enjoy these silky salty
slices with cream cheese on a bagel. I prefer mine chopped and made into a luscious spread as a
favorite wine or champagne appetizer or as a luxurious sandwich spread. And since I purchase my
smoked salmon from the big box retailers, the cost is relatively affordable. Since the salmon,
capers and canned olives carry their fair share of salt, no salt needs to be added.
The Gochiso Gourmet's Smoked Salmon Spread
1 lb of lox or other cold smoked salmon, roughly chopped
1/2 large sweet white or red onion, thinly sliced
5 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
1 heaping tbsp of capers, drained and rinsed
One-half 4.25 ounce can of chopped olives
2 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
2/3 cup mayonnaise
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Roughly chop the smoked salmon and set aside. Slice the onion and celery to 1/4 inch widths
then finely slice and add to the salmon. After draining, rinsing and squeezing out the excess
water, roughly chop the capers and add to the salmon. Mix in the olives, dill and marjoram then
add the mayonnaise, mix all ingredients and season with the black pepper. Chill for 1 hour then
serve with toast points, crackers or use as a sandwich spread.
I also do enjoy cooked salmon applications, one of my favorite sushi items is the salmon skin
roll. The deep fried salmon skin almost tasting like bacon but without all of that saturated fat.
In fact I would attempt to make it myself but alas, I have no deep fryer. Another favorite
cooked application is a recipe demonstrated by David Rosengarten years ago when the Food
Network was still in its fledgling state. He wrapped bacon around a piece of raw salmon then
broiled it just until the outer bits of the salmon cooked (and left the inside portion rare). He
then made a "sauce" with minced garlic, chopped bacon, fresh chopped shiitake and oyster
sauce mixed in plain water and added chopped fresh parsley. The expended bacon (it was used
simply to baste the salmon) was then removed and the "sauce" spooned over the salmon. Served
with a fruity young Pinot Noir, I still crave this recipe every couple of months.
So if you too crave the flavor of salmon or simply crave your daily requirement for omega-3
fatty acids, get a nice piece of salmon and go to it! Raw, cured, cooked, it's all good! But do it
fast before the sustainable becomes unsustainable. Otherwise the capsule form and memories
will be all that's left...