Monday, January 30, 2012

Superfoods Month: Salmon with fruit salsa by Maura Ammenheuser

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Today's Superfood: Salmon
Protein, omega-3, vitamin D, vitamin B12, tryptophan, selenium, vitamin B3

Erika says: Look at this gorgeous salmon! It's from Maura Ammenheuser, a stay-at-home mom of two, personal trainer and writer/editor. She currently leads the Momarama parenting blog for The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California.

Salmon is fish with benefits.

It’s packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, a scary-sounding term for very healthy fat. Omega-3s offer anti-inflammatory qualities that can help combat joint pain and osteoporosis, improve blood-sugar control and even reduce aspects of depression and bipolar disorder.

A 3-ounce portion has only about 140 calories, but a whopping 23 grams of protein. A hefty 6-ounce portion still contains only about 360 calories and 39 grams of protein. On the taste side, salmon’s a versatile fish that can be cooked many ways. And it boasts a beautiful orange-pink color, always pretty on the plate.

Because I’m a lazy cook, I gravitate toward food that’s easy and fast. Fish in general fits the bill. Salmon’s strong taste is an asset. Its intensity means it stands up to all kinds of seasonings, which means I can throw a salmon dinner together with whatever I have on hand and never worry about obscure ingredients or complicated preparation. I’ve cooked salmon with everything from lemon and dill to curry to bottled barbecue sauce. It all works.

My favorite way to prepare salmon, however, is topping it with fruit salsa. (The salsa can be made a day or two in advance, making this meal even faster.) I prefer grilling the fish with a generous dollop of fruit salsa, wrapping the whole thing in foil packets and sliding it onto the grill. But if you don’t own a grill, or it’s too unpleasant to cook outdoors in the winter snow or rain, this technique is easily tweaked for baking in the oven.

I follow recipes slavishly, but when I’m whipping up a dinner of my own inspiration I don’t bother measuring portions or taking notes. So this is more guideline than recipe. Alter ingredients and quantities according to taste. The only thing you should obsess about is making sure you don’t overcook the fish.

Click here for all the recipes in this Superfoods series

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Salmon with fruit salsa
A sweet-tart fruit salsa contrasts beautifully with the rich texture of salmon. Save any leftover salsa for tomorrow's chips.
  • 4 4-ounce pieces salmon filet or steak, wild or farmed
  • 2 fresh mangos, peeled and diced small
  • 1/2 to 1 cup canned or fresh pineapple, diced small
  • 1 fresh peach, peeled and diced small
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, juice and some of the pulp (do not substitute bottled lime juice)
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • dash of ground coriander (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a shallow baking dish with a thin layer of cooking spray.Place the fish flat in the pan in a single layer. Spray a mist of oil over the fish. Top with a thick dose of fruit salsa.Bake, keeping a close eye on the fish. Baking time varies with the thickness of the fish. My photo shows a very large, thick salmon steak (about two inches) that took 25 minutes to cook. Thinner slices could be done in less than 15 minutes. To judge whether the fish is done, poke its thickest portion with a fork. If the fish still appears dark pink and wet in the middle, it’s not ready. If it falls easily into tender flakes, it’s perfect; get it out of the oven right now. If the fish produces chalky white somewhat tough flakes, you’ve overcooked it. Make a note of how long it was in the oven and check on it sooner next time.If you prefer grilling, make this fish outdoors in a foil packet rather than in the oven. Tear a portion of foil large enough to accommodate a single piece of fish; spray the foil, place one piece of fish on it, spray the top of the fish, then add the salsa. Cover with a separate piece of foil and crimp the foil edges together to form a packet. Carefully place the packets on a preheated grill over medium-low heat, placing them top (salsa-side) down. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, then carefully turn them so the top/salsa side now faces up. Cook another 4 to 5 minutes, then use one packet as your test case.Remove one packet from the grill, partially open the foil packet and test the fish with a fork to see if it’s done. The moment the fish flakes easily, take it off the grill. Serve by placing one packet on each person’s plate. The fish inside will be a bit messy from the fruit juices so it’s easier to just plop the packets on the plates rather than trying to remove the fish from the packets and make them pretty on a serving platter. They’ll likely fall apart under the spatula, anyway.You can use this recipe with almost any type of fish. It’s especially good with halibut fillets. Just adjust the cooking time according to the thickness of the fish. Again, keep testing the fish with a fork and remove from the heat when it flakes easily. The fish-and-fruit-salsa combo pairs nicely with nearly any kind of rice plus blanched or lightly roasted green beans or asparagus.Note: Using mango, pineapple and peach is a best-case scenario. It’s perfectly okay to use only one or two of these fruits rather than all three; adjust the amount to get enough salsa. Tossing a teensy bit of chopped orange or grapefruit in there probably won’t hurt anything, either. The world won’t end if you skip the bell pepper or onion, either. But don’t expect this to taste like salsa if you omit the cilantro and jalapeno.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

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