Blog Archive

Monday, March 4, 2013

Salmon...and a Salmon Panzanella Salad

 Salmon Panzanella Salad

Salmon...and a Salmon Panzanella Salad
by Victoria Challancin

We live in a world of hype, of information-overload, of mis-information overload, where it is hard to know what to believe or even where to turn for sound information.  In today's world of sound bites and short attention spans, snippets of "information" are sprinkled all over the internet like a final dusting of powdered sugar on a beautiful dessert soufflé.  Often with just about that much substance.

So, as a former English Lit teacher and one who actually cares about providing something true and useful for my readers and not just some glossy verisimilitude of half-truths, where do I turn?  These days I still look at the internet, because it is easy, and in my treasure-trove of reference books.  I dig.  I hope for truth.  And I filter through the dross, hoping to offer something useful.  Having said that, I offer you a bit on what I have discovered about salmon.

My love affair with salmon didn't begin in Scotland, but after traveling around the country for six peaceful and glorious weeks with an old boyfriend many years ago, it didn't hurt that I ate it in some form almost every day.  Cold-smoked, hot-smoked, roasted, grilled, baked, in sauces, out of sauces.  Yes, I explored salmon as often as I could.  And in the 70s, it was probably all wild-caught, never farmed, at least in Scotland.  So what, exactly, is the deal with salmon today? tells us there are seven types of salmon:

  • Chinook, the most well known type in North America, also called "King" salmon, the largest of the species
  • Coho, the most hard-fighting salmon for their size
  • Sockeye, known as the best-eating salmon, often caught in nets
  • Chum, harvested by comercial fishermen in seine nets, prized by the Japanese who love caviar
  • Pinks, the least desired catch due to their small size and putrid smell (???? Yikes!)
  • Atlantic Salmon, found ond the east coast of North America, the Great Lakes, and Europe, are the most durable and thus the most easily farmed (yet different from "Hatchery" slamon which are farmed all over the world)
  • Steelhead, are ocean-going rainbow trout, part of the salmon family, but rarely caught at sea, but rather in rivers when the return to spawn

Salmon Panzanella Salad

Wild Salmon vs. Farmed?
While most of us are aware of the positive health benefits of including fish in our diet, we are also alarmed at the warnings against eating too much, due to contaminants and concerns about the impact on the environment of farmed fish.  There are pros and cons to both Wild-Caught Salmon and Farmed Salmon.  Here are a few.

Wild Salmon
The Pros of Eating Wild Salmon:
  • Are considered to be a nutritional "superfood"
  • Are rich in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (both EPA and DHA)--higher in omega 3 fats than farmed salmon
  • Have a higher ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids than farmed salmon
  • Have a naturally pink color that comes from the carotenoids taken in from feeding in the wild
  • Are an excellent source of protein and contains 75% less saturated fat than a steak
  • Live in open waters and eat a natural diet
  • Taste better (probably due to less fat and more muscle because they swim freely in open water)

The Cons of Eating Wild Salmon:
  • Overfishing is a real concern because of the growing demand and many fisheries do not catch wild fish in a sustainable way
  • Fresh wild fish is more expensive than farmed
  • The distance traveled is a factor; the shipping of fish all over the world uses fossil fuels and pollutes the environment

Farmed Salmon
Farmed fish, or "ocean-raised" fish, are raised in floating net pens near the ocean shore.

The Pros of Eating Farmed Salmon:
  • Farmed fish are cheaper to buy and more readily available
  • If farmed with eco-friendly consciousness, there is a lower danger of overfishing or depleting the population of wild fish

The Cons of Eating Farmed Salmon:
  • Often contain methylmercury, dioxins, and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals)
  • Transfer of disease to wild stocks
  • Antibiotics are often given to farmed salmon because farm-raised fish live in crowded conditions and are more susceptible to disease
  • The pink color often comes from a synthetic pigment called canthaxanthin, which has been shown to cause retinal damage and is banned in Great Britain
  • Contain more fat, and thus more PCPs than wild salmon, because these toxins are found in fatty tissue
If buying farmed salmon:
If buying farmed salmon, look for a label which states that it is from a Salmon-Safe Farm, which works to keep the watershed healthy for native salmon to thrive.  These farms claim to:
  • Control erosion
  • Minimize chemicals
  • Protect & enhance stream banks
  • Irrigate efficiently
  • Promote native biodiversity
But if choosing farmed salmon, the EPA suggests eating no more than one serving per month.

Bottom Line
Consumers nee to do their own research and make up their own minds.  The bottom line for me is that if eating salmon, I prefer to eat it less often and save up to buy the best, wild-caught, more expensive kind.  But don't discount canned salmon either: because farmed salmon doesn't can well, canned salmon often comes from wild salmon and retains many of its health benefits.  Check the label.

Almost every cuisine has ways to use leftover bread.  Just think of the use of corn tortillas in Mexican chilaquiles, the torn up pita in the Arab salad called fattoush, the Greek sauce skordalia, the French cabbage soup grabure, Spanish gazpacho, not to mention breadcrumbs, croutons, and so much more.  We are mostly economical cooks, the world over, and ways to use stale or older bread is common and probably has been since the dawn of the introduction of wheat.

Today's recipe is based on a classic Italian Panzanella, or bread and tomato salad, common in various forms throughout Italy.  In these salads, the bread is moistened with vinegar, water, tomato juice, olive oil, or a vinaigrette.

In a cooking class for Mexican cooks last week, we made this delicious salad variation, which adds grilled salmon.  I suspected I would love it when I read the recipe, if for no other reason, than because the vinaigrette contains chopped up Kalamata olives and capers.  I chose a locally made, crusty sour dough bread and yes, wild-caught salmon (I bought frozen marinated sock-eye salmon, which, according to the label, had no junky ingredients whatsoever).

Recipe:  Salmon Panzanella
(Slightly adapted from a recipe from

8 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (I used probably 1/4 cup)
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 thick slices day-old whole-grain bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (I used sour dough)
2 large tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium cucumber, peeled (only if waxed, seeded, and cut into a-inch pieces
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 pound center-cut salmon, skinned and cut into 4 portions
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Preheat grill or grill pan to high.

Whisk olives, vinegar, capers and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in oil until combined.  Add bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and basil.

Oil the grill rack or grill pan.  Season both sides of salmon with salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Grill the salmon until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side, depending on size.

Divide the salad among 4 plates and top each with a piece of salmon.

Parting Shot:  Late Afternoon on Tom's Terrace

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life and love, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using photos or text.  Thanks!


Eha said...

Vicki: this is the clearest and soundest and least boring information I have ever read on a vital [and delicious] subject and I DO hope you will not mind my sharing with some lists of friends! I very much agree with all you have said, did not know quite a bit of it, also prefer a little wild caught rather than farmed salmon and DO use a lot of tinned! Thanks a million :) !

Victoria of Flavors of the Sun said...

So pleased it was helpful. Thanks for sharing with me, and by all means, do share with others.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That's really interesting about the recommendation of once a month for farmed salmon! I know so many people that eat it once a week. I'll have to pass on this post to them :)

Hotly Spiced said...

Love the photo on Tom's terrace. I had no idea they fed antibiotics and a whole lot of other nasties to farmed fish. Honestly - haven't they learned their lesson or are they deliberately trying to poison us! We all know feeding an animal or fish dangerous substances ultimately ends up in our own systems - why isn't there a law against such foolishness? xx

Eha said...

@ Charlie: Vicki is basically talking about the US laws, but I can assure you matters are not that different in Oz! Take care with anything labelled 'Atlantic'! I would rather use wild Alaskan salmon from a can and make patties, pasta sauces and even curries with that than eat AS too often! Mind you: there are many fewer of us than the huge US population and all the daily medical newssheets I get say we are on the way to change - but by 2015, 2018 etc et al! Also most of our salmon comes from the socalled 'pristine' waters around Tasmania and less 'dirty stuff' needs to be used to keep the fish alive and healthy!! said...

A lesson and eye candy at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Salmon is my favorite stir fry recipe, Salmon was very easy to cook. I will also experiment this and add my recipe for stir fry sauce. Thanks for sharing it here.