Friday, March 21, 2008

Dinner at our house

And on the table? Wild salmon, not farm-raised. I knew when I was getting dinner not to buy the farmed stuff, but when I thought about it, I couldn't remember why. After consulting a short piece in Saveur, a longer one in Eating Well, an article from Cornell University, and my mother, I feel ready to tell you what I've learned.

The debate is this: which is better (or if you're feeling cynical, worse) for your health - farm-raised or wild salmon? Amongst a lot of white water, it seems to me that farm-raised is worse. Salmon, when wild, has good muscle tone and fat so that it can travel back up the river it was born in. I have to admit I like the idea of this, especially when I'm home again. Anyway, because of these migratory patterns, wild salmon are only available at certain times of the year. Now is not one of them, so our Whole Foods salmon from last night had been frozen. Not frozen like when you see bags of frozen scallops in the A&P, way better than that. It was actually delicious. I mean, it wasn't the best of my life - in fact, I think that was a fresh, wild king (Chinook) salmon fillet at The Blue Water Grill in the city when I was 15. Luscious.

So, besides having the potential to be luscious, salmon is a great fish for nutrients. Enter the fish farm. Farming allows us to control the availability (now fresh year-round) of the salmon and what they eat, making sure they digest the kinds of things that result in Omega-3 fatty acids, good for us in all kinds of ways, especially the prevention of arterial plaque build-up. But these farmed fish are apparently also ingesting, in massive quantities, some pretty nasty carcinogens from unclean waters. And the bottom line? Chemical contamination risks outweigh the benefits of more Omega-3 fatty acids.

This is the kind of information that often animated dinner conversation and determined what was on our plates at home when I was younger, and I'm now endowed with a similar curiousity. I mean, what exactly was that broccolini with the snappy packaging?

A little research turned up the fact that Broccolini - a hybrid of the broccoli we know and Chinese kale - has only been available in the U.S. since the late 1990's. It's a little sweeter than the usual broccoli and tender when boiled, as we did last night. Isn't it incredible to think that the leafy green crucifer you're eating, which has an Italian sounding name, was actually created by scientists in Japan and then trademarked as Broccolini when it entered the States?

I handle these moments by making a vinaigrette and tossing it all together with chopped garlic and raisins. Then I made a kind of rogue marinade for the salmon out of Dijon mustard, curry powder, garlic, maple syrup, the juice of a lemon and olive oil, and seared all the flavors in by grilling it.

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