Fish and seafood are a mainstay of the Mediterranean diet; they are packed with nutrients and have been linked with numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and cardiac death (studies here and here).
The USDA recommends that we eat at least 8 oz (2-3 servings) of fish each week (more if pregnant or breastfeeding). And yet, only about 10-20% of Americans meet these targets, research indicates.
According to the hilariously entitled article, “The Chickening of America,” the per-capita consumption of seafood in this country is remarkably low – on average, we consume only about 15 pounds per person per year, while the per-capita consumption of egg, chicken, beef and pork–at 195 pounds–is about 13 times higher! Our seafood consumption is paltry compared to European fish consumption of around 54 pounds per person per year.
I’m not sure why Americans don’t eat more fish. Some of my clients tell me they don’t like its “fishy” taste; I must admit, supermarket fish in landlocked Colorado, where I live, doesn’t always taste as fresh as in places that are closer to the coast. Other folks worry about choking on fish bones — though nowadays that should be a minor concern, since most of the fish we buy at the store or order at restaurants has been carefully filleted.
Over the years I’ve discovered that whenever a client tells me they don’t like fish and I ask them: “Do you like tuna salad?”, they almost always answer: “Oh yes, I love it!” Once we have established they like tuna salad, it’s just a small step to persuade them to try salmon salad, prepared the same way as tuna salad (though with less mayonnaise since salmon contains more fat than tuna.)
There are two reasons I prefer salmon over tuna.
For one, salmon provides about three times more omega-3 fatty acids than tuna: 1.4 grams of EPA and DHA in a 6-ounce serving of raw sockeye salmon vs. 0.4 grams in 6 ounces of raw skipjack tuna, according to the website Seafood Health Facts. Canned tuna — the type most commonly used to make tuna salad — contains even less omega-3 (0.2 to 0.5 grams per 6-ounce serving), and tuna salad contains a miserable 0.06 grams.
Why should you care about omega-3s? Because they are thought to lower cardiovascular disease risk, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play protective roles in cancer and other conditions. (Read this article; 17 Science-Based Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fats.)
Heavy metal contamination is another concern with tuna, which tends to have a higher mercury content than salmon. Mercury is a toxic heavy metal, and too much can have negative health effects. Specifically, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women should limit their intake of high-mercury fish and focus on lower-mercury options, according to the Food & Drug Administration. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has produced this helpful heavy-metals advisory table:
Once you’re ready to make your salmon salad, you have to choose between canned and fresh salmon.
I used to use canned salmon (canned, bone-in fish is a good source of calcium), but then I started to wonder how those fragile omega-3 fats might fare during high-heat canning. Sure enough, while some sources state that no omega-3 fatty acids are lost during cooking, others have found found that up to 85 percent of the EPA-DHA omega-3s were destroyed when fish was fried or microwaved (and similar losses occurred with canning).
Gentle cooking destroyed the least EPA and DHA, with raw fish having the highest amounts, depending upon their freshness. (For more on this, see this excellent article on “fish myths” by Phil Maffetone, PhD.) Therefore I now use fresh salmon (usually wild-caught sockeye) that I either poach or bake at low temperature in the oven. In this recipe I show you how to poach salmon — my preferred method because it’s quick, simple and doesn’t stink up the house in the way frying or roasting can.
This salmon salad is endlessly versatile. It can provide a quick-and-easy protein boost to salads and tastes great in sandwiches or wraps (add avocado, microgreens or other delicious flavorings if there’s room). Topped with grated cheese and broiled, it makes a delicious and comforting salmon melt (a favorite weeknight meal in my home, served with a lightly dressed salad greens). Or just spoon it onto cucumber slices, celery sticks or crackers and serve as snacks or canapes.
For the poached salmon
- 1 lb fresh sockeye salmon
- ½ cup water if you don't consume alcohol, use 1 cup water
- ½ cup white wine
- 3 sprigs dill
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- 4 slices lemon
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
To make the fish salad
- 3 tbs mayonnaise preferably made with avocado oil (Chosen Foods or Primal Kitchen) or homemade (using avocado oil and/or olive oil)
- 3 tbsp Greek yogurt plain, whole (or plant-based yogurt, plain)
- 2 tbsp wholegrain mustard or creamed horseradish
- 2 stalks celery finely diced
- 1 large shallot finely diced
- 2 medium dill pickles finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced
- ¼ cup dill finely chopped
- ½ tsp lemon zest from an untreated (organic) lemon, finely grated (Microplane)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice freshly pressed
- ½ tsp black pepper freshly ground
- 2 tsp fish sauce my favorite is Red Boat
- Combine water, wine (if using), dill, parsley, shallots, salt and pepper in a large skillet that has a lid and bring to a simmer on medium heat.
- Place salmon fillets skin-side down on the skillet and cover. Bring to a gentle boil and reduce heat to simmer on medium-low for 5-6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Check for doneness; the fish should flake easily when poked with the tip of a paring knife. When it's ready, lift out with a fish slilce and transfer to a plate. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- While the salmon is cooking, place mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, mustard, celery, shallot, dill pickles, fresh dill & chives, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl and stir with a spatula to combine.
- Once the fish has cooled sufficiently (you can refrigerate it to speed up the process), remove the skin and flake the fish into the bowl with the herby emulsion. Toss with the spatula until all the ingredients are well combined. Season to taste with fish sauce or salt (whichever using), pepper and lemon juice.
- Transfer to a container, cover with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until use. Keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days.