by Dana Zia, The Golightly Gourmet

The salmon is the profound and enduring symbol of the Northwest that reminds us of the turning of the seasons.  Every year, at about this time, as the fall snap comes into the air and the rains return, the salmon forge upstream on their hero’s journey to spawn in our rivers and streams. Some of them have swam thousands of miles just like their ancestors have for millions of years.  I’m not joking when I say millions as it is figured that our pacific salmon have been around for 4-6 million years!

Not only are salmon ancient they are delicious to eat but are also one of the most nutritious fish you can eat. Eating two or three servings of fish a week is a simple way to improve your health and stave off certain illnesses and diseases. Salmon is one of the most nutritious types of fish to add to your diet. It supplies iron, zinc, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, in addition to a whole host of other nutrients you need for good health such as selenium, which is a mineral that keeps your thyroid working properly and boosts your immune system.

One of the most famous nutrients that salmon is known for is being loaded with is…. (drumroll)… Omega 3 fatty acids.  So what is the big deal about Omega 3s anyway? Simply put, they are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that your body must have for good health. Omega 3s are considered a healthy fat and good cholesterol and when consumed in adequate amounts, they help with blood clotting and cell membranes within the brain. Your body cannot make it by itself so it must be consumed from what you eat.

The problem is that Westerners consume very little omega-3s compared to diets of the past. Traditionally, diets used to be closer to a 1:1 ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. These days, however, due to the popularity of convenience foods, we consume closer to 15:1 or even 20:1 ratio, which promotes systemic (body wide) inflammation of the joints and swelling as well of the cardiovascular system which can contribute to heart disease and certain autoimmune disorders

Fish containing omega 3s, which, when substituted for saturated fatty acids such as those in meat, may lower your cholesterol.Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure slightly, reduce blood clotting, decrease stroke and heart failure risk and reduce irregular heartbeats. Eating at least one to two servings a week of an omega 3 rich fish such as salmon, appears to reduce the risk of heart disease and systemic inflammation.

Not only are omega 3s good for your heart, they are good for your brain. It has been shown that omega-3 fatty acids increase the efficiency of brain functions and improves memory. Along with the amino acids, Vit A, Vit D and that wonderful selenium, these fatty acids can help protect the nervous system from damage related to aging. I know everyone wants that!

This time of year is the perfect time to get eating your salmon as it is abundant and fresh from our beautiful waters. Get in the habit of eating it 2-3 times a week this season and just keep it up. Some other great fish in this category are tuna, halibut, trout, mackerel, and ocean perch. This recipe I am sharing with you blends two of our local foods, blackberry and salmon into one beautiful dish. Delicious meets nutritious!

Cumin chipotle salmon with blackberry sauce

This serves 6-8 people, depending on appetite and size of the fish steak.

6 large salmon steaks, 6-8 ounces each, 1 inch thick

Marinade

¼ cup of olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder (optional)

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika or sweet paprika

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, minced fine

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

2 teaspoons of kosher salt

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

3-6 cloves of garlic, minced

Blackberry sauce

2 cups of blackberries, fresh or frozen

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoons of coconut oil or butter

Zest of one lime

Juice of one lime

1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, minced fine

1/4  to 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chili powder (depending on how spicy you like it!)

Dash of salt and pepper

Mix up all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and drop the steaks in there and roll around in the marinade. Set in the fridge to wait for its shining moment on the grill, about 20 minutes. Zest the lime and put in a small sauce pan then squeeze the lime juice and butter or oil into it. Set on a burner at medium heat and melt the butter/oil. When it is melted, add the honey and the chipotle powder stir together till well blended, then add the blackberries. Stir it up this fragrant mix and simmer over the medium heat for about 5 minutes till the blackberries have lost their form and you have a fine sauce. Add the salt and pepper, taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Let the sauce slightly cool then squish it through a sieve with a rubber spatula to remove the seeds. Put it back in the sauce pan and keep it on low till the salmon is done.

Time to fire up the grill! Lightly oil your racks then heat your grill on high till it is nice a hot.  Take your fish steaks out of the marinade, discarding the marinade, then place the salmon steaks on the hot grill.  Cook about 5-6 minutes on each side with the lid shut till just opaque in the center. Don’t overcook or fuss too much with them or they can fall apart. I like to take my salmon off the grill when it is still slightly raw in the center and let it rest 5 mins. It will continue to cook and be perfectly done that way. Ladle a puddle of the sauce in the middle of a plate and nest the salmon steak in the puddle. (If you put a pile of mashed potatoes on the plate first it is even better!) Top the steak with a bit more sauce and a sprig of rosemary. After all, making this beautiful is honoring this timeless fish.

 

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