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Archive for February, 2009

Salmon

What can I say about salmon… it is a fish that we hear about all the time.  It is said to be heart healthy, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, and I have even heard it said that salmon can slow down aging!  We know this food is healthful when scientific studies prove that the above claims are actually true.  However when it comes to cooking salmon at home, or any fish fillet for that matter, many people are at a loss.

I think I know why.  I subscribe to several food magazines,  and have even more cookbooks than most people can imagine.  The other day I purchased some salmon and decided to look up a new recipe to try out.  I thought it would be easy to find a simple, healthy salmon recipe.  Not so.  Many cookbooks have just one, or maybe no salmon recipes.  The recipes I did find used smoked salmon, not fresh fillets.  Cooking shows?  Beef, pork, chicken… sometimes shrimp.  What happened to wonderful, delicious, healthy salmon?

Returning to my recipe hunt,  I eventually found one in my Bon Appetit December 2008 issue.  Thank goodness that hadn’t gone in the recycle bin.  It had a good amount of mayonnaise in it and therefore was not low-fat, but I could change that.  The fish came out beautifully and I got big thumbs up from my fiance.  He even went back for seconds.  I served it over a quinoa pilaf (also tough to find recipes for) with roasted asparagus.  Yum.  Add of course we felt really good about eating such a nutritiout meal.  Try it out.  If you don’ t have tarragon at home, you can use fresh dill – but I highly recommend the tarragon, it goes great with fish.

Roasted Salmon with Mustard Tarragon Sauce

Here are a few tips to consider when cooking salmon

  1. Salmon is naturally tender, flaky, and moist.  It requires no marinade, pounding or grinding (like meats) to make it tender.
  2. You can leave the skin on, it will easily slide off when the fish is cooked.  Don’t bother with the mess of skinning the fish.
  3. Watch our for pin bones!  Use your fingers to find and kitchen tweezers to pull them out before cooking.
  4. Fish will cook through when the center is at a lower temperatures than chicken, beef or pork.  Too much cooking time and you can really dry it out.
  5. To test doneness, take a fork and gently pull a piece of fish from the edge.  It should pull apart and flake easily, with little or no resistance.  
  6. Keep in mind that carry-over cooking will occur with thick salmon fillets.  The filet should be opaque and appear cooked through all except for a little pink spot in the very center/thickest part of the fillet.  As the fish sits for a few minutes before serving, it will cook a little further as the heat distributes itself.
  7. Citrus!  Salmon can be a bit fishy-smelling or tasting due to its higher fat content.  A few squeezes of fresh sliced lemon or other citrus will help neutralize the odor and taste.

Nutrition Breakdown for 6oz (raw) Atlantic, wild salmon fillet:

The Good: Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and one fillet can provide around 3,996mg of omega-3 fatty acids.  These help reduce inflammation in the body and therefore protect your heart, arteries, brain, and joints.  You also get 100% of your daily needs for selenium – a powerful antioxidant as well as 100% of your daily vitamin B12.  It is also an excellent source of niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, and phosphorus.  It is a good source of copper, potassium, and iron.  Being so high in antioxidants, no wonder this fish has such an excellent reputation among health care professionals.

The Bad:  Is there any?  Mmmm…. well it is technically high in fat, 35-45% of calories in salmon are from fat.  BUT it being so healthy, and much of the fat is unsaturated, that this is not really a bad thing.  It has about 109 mg of cholesterol in one fillet.  But again, the high level of omega-3 fatty acids cancels this out of the equation. 

Bottom Line:  Eat more salmon!  It is truly one of nature’s gifts to us and our bodies.

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If anyone is getting the winter blues due to over consumption of root vegetables, over-ripe apples, and imported fruits and vegetables from Mexico and South America – here is your wake up call.  In the United States we grow the most delicious, ripe and juicy fruits in the dead of winter.  Citrus!  Because citrus is in season right now you can buy it at low prices.  Recession food anyone?  If that isn’t reason enough to buy citrus, it is also packed with Vitamin C that helps your body fight through the cold season by potentially reducing cold symptoms and the severity of colds.

Grapefruit

I am going to discuss a few of the many nutritional and health benefits of ruby red grapefruit as well as provide you with some ymmy recipes.  First off,  for all the dieters out there, grapefruits are a lower-calorie fruit.  Compared to a navel orange – one navel orange about 3 inches in diameter provides 70 calories and 18 grams of carbohydrates while half of one large grapefruit provides only 37 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates.  Therefore grapefruit can be part of a weight loss diet by helping to reduce calorie intake.

Ruby red grapefruit has lycopene.  Yes, that same nutrient that was found to be beneficial in tomato products.  It helps reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and for everyone else it helps can protect your heart.  The pectin in grapefruit also helps protect your heart by slowing the progression of atherosclerosis and even lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in human studies.  This effect was more pronounced with ruby red colored grapefruit.

Limonoids are a group of phytonutrients that inhibit tumor formation.  Limonin’s presence in the body has been shown to prevent cancer cells growth and multiplication.  In grapefruit, and other citrus, limonoids are readily absorbed and used by our bodies making them a great source of this compound and potentially cancer-fighting foods!

I have only named a few benefits of ruby red grapefruit – and trust me there are many more.  Grapefruits are also a good source of folate, potassium, and fiber.  One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the taste.  They are the best-tasting grapefruits.  They are slightly sweet and not nearly as bitter as white grapefruits.  At their best you can eat them without adding any sugar, though sometimes s very tiny sprinkle helps.  My favorite thing to do is slice one in half, put it in a bowl, and scoop out the yummy fruit sections with a spoon.  Other nice ways to use a grapefruit and its juice is in salads and to make a wonderful vinaigrette.  Think lemon vinaigrette – only with fresh grapefruit juice instead of lemon juice!

Recipe: Mixed Garden Lettuces with Avocado, Ruby Grapefruit, and Pecans

Recipe: Grapefruit Vinaigrette

The above recipes are from one of my favorite cookbooks – Fields of Greens by Annie Somerville.

Here is the nutrition breakdown for one half of a grapefruit (123 grams):

  • Calories:    37
  • Total Fat:    0
  • Cholesterol:  0
  • Sodium:   0
  • Total Carbohydrate:  9 grams
  • Dietary Fiber:   2 grams
  • Protein:    1 gram
  • Other:  Vitamin C – 76% daily value

I encourage everyone (except those on certain heart medications that need to limit their grapfruit intake) to go out and buy some of these before winter has passed us by.  Eat up!

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