Simple salmon

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Now it's easier than ever to keep your health in the pink

Flashing through the cold, dark streams of Scotland, surging up the coast of Oregon and Washington, gliding majestically through the waters of Alaska, sleek, silvery salmon never fail to excite fishermen. And whether set out poached and garnished as the decorative center of attention at a banquet table, laden smoked and savory on a bagel, or barbecued and striped from the grill, the beautiful peachy-pink flesh of salmon never fails to excite the most discriminating of eaters.

Salmon, our most adaptable, most kingly of fish, is surging in popularity these days, not only for its versatility and wonderful taste but also for its wondrous nutritional benefits.

Time was when an expensive cut of red meat used to be the dish of choice at party banquet tables. These days, top caterers are more apt to turn to salmon as their top-of-the-line entree recommendation, and savvy party-givers are apt to agree with them.

The wonderful new thing about salmon, however, is that it is no longer just a dish fit for kings or expense-account diners. With salmon being farmed in greater quantities than ever, the prices for these exquisite fish and the quality available are better than at any time in history.
SIMPLE SALMON

The extraordinary thing about salmon is that it remains unique, distinctively itself no matter how it's cooked. Salmon done up in Cajun or Chinese or Catalan style always seems to taste of salmon alone, rather than its attempted style. Other fish may disappear into generic "fishiness" under a deluge of frying or saucing, but salmon always stands up for itself.

The reasons that we also should stand up for salmon are legion. Salmon is, without a doubt, the most palatable and delicate of all the fish that are considered oily. Nutritionists are the first to point out that the oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, one of the "good" kinds of fat. Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with reduced heart attacks and strokes and with less risk of inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

Salmon, like all fish, is superlow in artery-clogging saturated fat. Plus it stocks some vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins and potassium. For an extra dose of calcium, crumble the bones in canned salmon and eat them, too.
STORING SALMON

Purchase only as much fresh salmon as you want to cook in the next 24 hours. Put it on a bed of ice in a flat container in the coldest part of the refrigerator as soon as possible after its purchase. Cover with waxed paper. If you're lucky enough to have a fisherman in the family, freshly caught salmon can be frozen in a deep freezer chest--never in the freezer section of your refrigerator. (It's not cold enough to freeze the fish quickly.)

Thaw frozen salmon for no more than 30 minutes at room temperature. It should be partially defrosted but still firm.
COOKING SALMON

Because salmon is at its best when it's cooked by a delicate hand, be particularly conscious of cooking times and simplicity of preparation when thinking about salmon. Measure salmon fillets and steaks at their thickest points, then apply the 10-minute rule in all cooking situations, from poaching to baking to broiling: For each inch of thickness at the fish's thickest point, allow 10 minutes' cooking. Baste with water once or twice if you're broiling or baking.

Trendy restaurants like to leave salmon slightly rare in the middle these days, sometimes presenting very raw portions of fish when the diner cuts into the center. Better that the fish should flake through its thickest point for optimum eating reliability. So cook the flesh until it's opaque, then gently test the fish by inserting a fork or knifepoint at the thickest section of the fish, gently pulling the flesh aside. Look for flaking with no raw center, for healthiest and most tasteful dining.

If you are cooking the fish in a sauced preparation or wrapping it in foil with a stuffing in the cavity, add an extra 5 minutes to the cooking time. And if you ever have the opportunity to cook a very large, freshly caught Alaskan king salmon, throw out the 10-minute rule and consider preparing the fish in the native Eskimo way: During the laying of the Alaskan oil pipeline, workers frequently came back to their work camps to a dinner of freshly caught salmon that had been slit open, cleaned, stuffed with carrots and onions, then wrapped and slowly baked under a bed of coals throughout the afternoon to a succulent melting goodness.

For other tasty and innovative ways to prepare and serve this majestic fish, turn to our handy recipe cards on pages 109 through 112.

CRUSTED SALMON HASH

This handsome hash is great with either fresh or canned salmon (one-pound can), well-drained and flaked. (If using canned salmon, add when potatoes and onions are mixed together after cooking.) Serve with a healthy dollop of homemade salsa or a good bottled one perked up with chopped fresh cilantro and red onion.

Per serving: 341 calories, 9.1 grams fat (24% of calories), 1.4 g. dietary fiber, 23.2 g. protein, 40.7 g. carbohydrates, 47 milligrams cholesterol, 416 mg. sodium. Also a very good source of B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, iron.

Prep time: 15 min.

Cooking time: 30-35 min.

Serves: 4

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 pound skinless, boneless fresh salmon, cut into 1/2-inch
cubes
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tender stalk celery, sliced
2 sweet yellow or orange peppers, minced
3 tbsp. minced parsley
1 tsp. fresh or dried savory
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
* freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
* lemon wedges
* salsa

1. In a vegetable steamer, steam potatoes until fork tender (about 6 to 8 minutes). When potatoes are * cooked, remove from steamer and place salmon cubes in steamer basket. Steam until fish turns uniformly pale (3 to 4 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, spray a 10-inch nonstick frying pan with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat and add onion, garlic, celery, half of the minced peppers (reserving the rest for garnish) and 1/4 cup water. Cook, covered, until onion is tender and water has evaporated. Add potatoes to onion mixture and cook together over medium heat. Using a spatula, turn over the mass frequently, allowing a light crust to form.
3. Turn out potatoes into a large bowl. Add salmon, parsley, savory, cayenne and pepper to taste. Turn mass gently to mix, but do not allow salmon to break apart too much.
4. Clean frying pan and heat oil. Pack hash mix into the frying pan and press firmly. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Remove cover; press and compact mixture again. Cover and cook 2 more minutes. Uncover and again firm with back of a fork or spatula. Continue cooking, uncovered, until a dense golden crust has formed and the hash cake slips easily in the pan when shaken.
5. Reverse hash cake onto a serving platter and serve at once topped with a scoop of reserved minced sweet bell peppers and a dollop of nonfat sour cream. Accompany with a lemon wedge and a side of salsa.

BAKED SALMON CAKES WITH CUCUMBER SLAW

Feel free to use canned salmon, well drained, with bones and skin removed, or leftover cooked fresh salmon for these cakes. Though traditionally fried, this oven-baked version is spectacular.

Per serving: 489 calories, 10.1 grams fat (19% of calories), 6.2 g. dietary fiber, 34.4 g. protein,67.8 g. carbohydrates, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 559 mg. sodium. Also a very good source of B vitamins, vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium. Preheat oven: 350 degrees

Prep time: 25 min.

Cooking time: 20 min.

Serves: 4

2 cucumbers, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 pound skinless, boneless, cooked salmon, cut into1-inch chunks
2 egg whites
1 cup finely crushed unsalted saltines
2 tbsp. minced onion
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
* freshly ground blackpepper (to taste)
1 tsp. olive oil
2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tbsp. minced fresh dill
* juice of 1/2 lemon
* lemon wedges (garnish)
4 hamburger rolls *
* oven-roasted root vegetables

1. Remove seeds from cucumber halves. Shred cucumbers through the medium-large blade of a grater into a medium bowl and refrigerate.
2. Place salmon and egg whites in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Scrape down sides of bowl, then stir in 3/4 cup of the cracker crumbs, the onion, mustard, garlic, lemon zest, Old Bay, cayenne and black pepper. Cover mixture and refrigerate 30 minutes.
3. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Shape chilled salmon mixture into four patties and place on foil. Pat remaining cracker crumbs over the tops of the salmon patties. Drizzle some olive oil over each top.
4. Cover patties with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Then remove foil and broil briefly until crumbs are a golden brown.
5. While salmon cakes are baking, squeeze all moisture out of the cucumber shreds. Stir in yogurt, dill and lemon juice. Serve salmon cakes like fish sandwiches on hamburger rolls (or bread) with lemon wedges and cucumber slaw on the side. Oven-roasted or grilled root vegetables complete the scene for this nautical nosh.

WARM SALMON SALAD WITH GAZPACHO DRESSING

This method for frying salmon steak allows its golden crisp crust to trap delicious juices inside so the fish doesn't dry out, a common problem when cooking salmon.

Per serving: 640 calories, 17 grams fat (24% of calories), 7.4 g. dietary fiber, 39.1 g. protein, 82.3 g. carbohydrates, 62.7 milligrams cholesterol, 747 mg. sodium. Also a very good source of B vitamins, vitamins A and C, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron.

Prep time: 15-20 min.

Cooking time: 12 min.

Serves: 4
SALAD

8 large romaine lettuce leaves
8 cups assorted young, tender greens (spinach,
frisee, mache, watercress)
4 5-ounce salmon steaks(1 1/4 inches thick)
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp. olive oil

DRESSING

1 small red onion, diced
2 tsp. olive oil
1/3 cup low-sodium tomato juice
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 tbsp. balsamic or red-wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, pressed
* pinch cayenne pepper
* freshly ground pepper
1 small avocado, cubed (optional)
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 1-lb. French baguette *

1. To make salad: Arrange two large leaves of romaine on each of four dinner plates. Arrange scattering of other greens around plate, leaving plate centers bare to receive fish salad. Set aside in refrigerator.
2. Remove center backbone of each steak and neatly cut each steak in two, leaving the skin on. Fit the two steak halves together, thick end to thin end, with centers touching. Tie each steak twosome together with string.
3. Spread flour on a plate and dip steaks to coat.
4. Heat olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick frying pan. Redip each steak in flour to assure a heavy coating. Fry steaks over medium heat for about 3 minutes on one side or until golden crust forms. Lower heat and fry steaks on other side for another4 to 5 minutes.
5. Cut off string and remove skin from each steak. Place one steak in the center of each plate of greens.
6. To make dressing: Place onion, olive oil and tomato juice in a clean frying pan. Heat to simmer and let onion wilt briefly. Turn off heat and mix in all remaining ingredients but avocado, cherry tomatoes and baguette. Give pan a few shakes to mix, then spoon dressing over each steak and onto the greens. Scatter avocado and tomatoes on each plate. Serve with lots of crusty chunks of French baguette.

ORIENTAL SALMON WITH BLACK BEANS AND HERBS

Fermented Chinese black beans are found in small bottles in the ethnic sections of supermarkets.

Per serving: 467 calories, 9.2 grams fat (18% of calories), 3.8 g. dietary fiber, 30.7 g. protein,63.3 g. carbohydrates, 62.7 milligrams cholesterol, 338 mg. sodium. Also a very good sourceof B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron.

Prep time: 20 min.

Cooking time: 1 min.

Serves: 4

1 pound center-cut salmon fillet, boned, well chilled
1 scallion, trimmed
1 medium tomato
2 tbsp. fermented black beans
* handful of mixed fresh Italian parsley and cilantro
1/3 cup clam juice
1 tbsp. `lite' soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice or white-wine vinegar
1 tsp. sesame oil
4 cups cooked rice
* steamed broccoli rabe

1. Cut salmon into 1/3-inch-thick horizontal slices (about 12). Place slices between two sheets of plastic wrap and flatten to 1/8 inch with a meat pounder. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and oil foil lightly. Place flattened slices on foil, cover and refrigerate until needed.
2. Cut scallion into thin slices and separate into rings. Cut tomato in half across the middle andgently squeeze out all seeds and juice. Cut remaining flesh into 1/4-inch cubes.
3. Place black beans in a sieve and rinse under hot water to remove salt. Blot dry. Reserve tomatoes, scallion rings, beans and herbs for garnish.
4. Mix clam juice, soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil and heat almost to a simmer. Heat broiler. Brush fish with half the clam-juice mixture. Broil salmon, on one side only, for one minute. Immediately transfer to four warm plates, scatter with garnishes and drizzle with remaining dressing. Serve with rice and steamed broccoli rabe.

Give Us Your Feedback At the Prevention Magazine Food Center, our talented team of nutritionists and culinary specialists prepares our very special recipes with you in mind. If you have any comments or suggestions, please write: Prevention Cuisine, 33 E. Minor Street, Emmaus, PA 18098. We regret that we cannot answer each letter individually.

Where's the Salt? We don't add salt to Prevention recipes because there's too much evidence that salt can cause problems like high blood pressure in certain people. We do, however, make an exception to this rule when salt is absolutely essential in a recipe, such as in certain soups and breads.

The recipes offered in Prevention are consistently low in cholesterol and sodium and packed with fiber and good nutrition. Best of all, each contains 25 percent of calories or less from fat. Good news if you're concerned about heart disease, cancer or your weight! So eat up. Here's healthy fare simple to prepare and worth savoring.

PHOTO (COLOR): Fish 'n' 4 complements: Greens, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and avocados bring out the best in Warm Salmon Salad (recipe on p. 111).

PHOTO (COLOR): Net results: Set your sails for savory and satisfying Baked Salmon Cakes With Cucumber Slaw (recipe on p. 109).

PHOTO (COLOR): New-wave nutrition: Oriental Salmon dramatically embellished with black beans and herbs (recipe on p. 111).

ILLUSTRATIONS

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By Judith Olney with Barb Fritz and the Prevention Magazine Food Center

SALMON ACCOMPANIMENTS

Whether you choose to broil a salmon steak or poach a tail section, whether you make salmon cakes or salmon burgers from canned fish, there are certain accompaniments that seem to attend salmon with special grace.

Yes, salmon goes well with either white, wild or brown rice. But don't forget that staple Russian dish kulebiaka,in which salmon is baked, along with mushrooms and a garnish of hard-cooked eggs, in a bed of cracked bulgur wheat or buckwheat kasha. Salmon can stand up to these healthy grains withno loss of face.

There is no prettier salmon presentation than a blue and white plate, a serving of pink fish and a green vegetable. A quick saute of spinach and garlic, fresh steamed asparagus or broccoli all do nicely. But for wonderful counterpoint delicacy, try the crunch of cucumbers. Sliced cucumbers become a wonderful crisp salad when simply dressed with yogurt, lemons and fresh chopped dill. Cooked cucumbers are wonderful also: Peel and carve them into seedless ovals, then simply parboil them until crisp-tender; dress them with fresh dill and a few drops of olive oil.

One of the freshest ways to present salmon is in the lomi lomi style of Hawaii. Cube cooked or lightly smoked salmon and mix it with equal amounts of cubed tomatoes, mild red onions and minced parsley. Dress with lemon juice and a few drops of olive oil and mound on a bed of lettuce leaves.

ILLUSTRATION

SELECTING SALMON

When shopping for fresh salmon, here are some tips for selecting the freshest fish:

* Use your nose and eyes and fingers when you select your purchase. Bring fish up to the nose and sniff for a slightly salty, fresh seaweed odor, as opposed to a strong, oily odor.
* Feel the flesh of the fish. There should be a firm, slightly elastic quality, a certain resistance to the flesh. If you are buying a whole fish or side, run a finger over the scales. They should stick tightly to the salmon's skin. Press the fish with your finger--if it leaves an indentation, it's probably old fish. Cut fillets and steaks should feel firm, not watery, not flaccid.
* If you don't want to deal with pin bones, purchase tail sections of salmon, which are always boneless. (The best way to remove pin bones from salmon, by the way, is with a pair of pliers.)
* To judge the quality of canned salmon, stand the can upright for a night at room temperature. Open can, gently depress fish, and spoon off some of the oil that comes to the surface. The more oil and the richer its color, the better the quality of the fish. The fish should also feel firm and be an attractive pink color.

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