Spectacular Salmon

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Tamar Genger MA, RD
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pan-seared-salmon

When I was growing up my parents used to only buy salmon steaks.  I didn’t even know salmon fillet existed.  Now salmon is practically everywhere!  From fish displays at the grocery store to restaurant menus and the now ubiquitous sushi counter, you have to swim pretty fast upstream to run away from salmon.  Not only does it taste great, but it is relatively affordable, easy to prepare and a healthy alternative to red meat.

Salmon is a high quality protein source that is low in saturated fat and has the added bonus of Omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 is one of only 2 essential fatty acids in our diet (along with Omega-6), which means our body cannot produce these fatty acids organically. Omega-3 plays an important role in brain function and structure, as well as bone and nervous system growth and development.  They have also been found to help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol, which can decrease risk for heart disease.  Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help control inflammation, decreasing the risk for diabetes, arthritis, and even some cancers.   The USDA recommends at least 8 ounces of fish per week, equivalent to two standard size servings.   And if you prefer staring at the mirror instead of your dinner plate, you can take additional comfort to know that salmon is good for your skin.

Is salmon safe? Many people are legitimately concerned about mercury and the high toxicity of farm-raised fish.  Farmed salmon has been shown to contain high levels of PCBs (toxins).  If you are staying away from salmon because of concerns over toxicity you may be making a mistake.  According to a 2006 study in the Journal of American Medical Association, the benefits of eating farmed salmon still outweigh any risks imposed by contaminants.  If you follow the FDA guidelines, up to 12 ounces of fish each week is safe for most everyone.

The best choice is to find wild salmon, which is low in toxins and higher in Omega-3 fatty acids.  Prepare it simply Pan Seared and you have a quick, restaurant quality, delicious dinner any night of the week.   For a more kid friendly approach try these baked Salmon Fish Sticks.   However, it is also higher in price.    An alternative to fresh wild salmon is canned or packets of salmon.  These are usually made from wild salmon and can be mixed into a salad or sandwich and make excellent Salmon Cakes.  I try and balance my salmon intake between farmed and wild.  Most of the time if I eat salmon at a restaurant or sushi place I assume it is farmed, but at home I go “wild”!

Most Americans do not eat enough fish to meet their Omega-3 needs.  Luckily, we have a longstanding Jewish tradition to eat fish on Shabbat.  Whether you serve a fancy gefilte fish terrine or pickled herring out of a jar this is one Jewish food custom that was ahead of its time.  Don’t forget bagels and lox on Sunday morning.  That is another great way to help your family catch their fish!

**GIVEAWAY** In keeping with our fish week theme, we are giving away a gift package from Vita Food Products . One lucky winner will win a sample of Vita's new premium natural line of smoked salmon and herring.  The product line comes recommended by Dr. Andrew Weil:  Vita Smoked salmon - Sockeye, Coho, Norwegian Atlantic. Vita Herring - wine and mustard. This is a prize package worth $50! In order for you to qualify to win let us know your favorite fish dish - one entry. If you Submit a Recipe for fish it counts for a bonus 3 entries! Please make sure it's a kosher recipe! [Contest open to US Residents only. Winner will be picked at random. Contest ends 9 am EST Wednesday May 18 2011].