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?
SalmonFishingNow.com 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.
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 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.
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.
Recipe: Salmon Panzanella
(Slightly adapted from a recipe from EatingWell.com)
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.
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