Monday, September 8, 2008

Salmon: Up in Smoke?

There is quite a bit of controversy about salmon. Some experts say eating salmon up to twice a week is a great idea. It is rich in protein and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Others say to eat salmon, but make sure it is wild-caught, because the high levels of mercury, PCBs, and other toxins in farm-raised fish is extremely unhealthy.

The vast amount of research on this topic is a lot to wade through, but it seems as if the general consensus is that the benefits of eating salmon outweigh the risks. However, I have to admit that after reading this article, I was pretty disgusted by the idea of farm-raised fish, so today I buy only wild-caught. Yes, wild-caught is a little "fishier" tasting than the more mild farm-raised variety, but it is lower in fat and calories, so it's definitely worth trying.
Salmon is a very versatile fish because it is great steamed, poached, pan-fried, baked, broiled or grilled. Pick your method--- it holds up to all these techniques. During the summertime, I favor using my outdoor grill to cook salmon. It gives great flavor, in addition to keeping the heat (and the smell!) out of the house.

I recently purchased a smoker box for my grill, which adds additional flavor to the fish. By adding wet wood chips to the metal box and placing it on the grill next to the salmon, a fair amount of smoke is produced, gently flavoring and perfuming the fish (the result will not taste like traditional smoked salmon---it's just subtly flavored fresh fish). If you do not have a smoker box, simply add wet wood chips to a small metal pot, which gets placed on the grill. Wood chips for this purpose are available at specialty food stores and most hardware stores in several varieties, like hickory, apple wood, etc.

So make some healthy salmon tonight---- and try adding some smoke to your fire!

Grilled Apple Wood Salmon
Serves 4
3 handfuls apple wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
1 ½ lb wild-caught salmon fillet (preferably skin on, lessening the chance it will stick to the grill)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Lemon wedges

Preheat outdoor grill to high heat.
Place the soaked wood chips into a smoker box or small metal pot, and place on grill grates. Once it begins smoking, move to a cooler (but still hot) part of the grill.
Brush the salmon fillet on both sides with olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place the fillet skin-side down on grill and reduce heat to medium-high.
Allow to cook approximately 12-15 minutes, until firm to the touch. It is not necessary to flip the salmon. Note: if you press flesh with your finger and it leaves an indent, the fish is not cooked. When it is, the flesh will spring back up after being touched).
Remove from grill and serve hot with lemon wedges

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