Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bounty of the Northwest

My husband and I watched Food, Inc. last weekend and I have been disturbed about meat, in particular, ever since. I know a lot of people who are afraid to watch it. I thought it was worthwhile, even though now I am completely upset with the food industry in the United States. It is absolutely insane that because of lobbying in Washington, DC by food producers (think Tyson, etc.), there are things about our food that we are not even allowed to know.
Anyway, I could rant forever about this, but that's not really the point of my post. One of the suggestions in the movie is to buy as much food locally-grown as possible. This suggestion made dinner tonight taste even better - a meal made of all local ingredients: fresh-caught wild sockeye salmon, potatoes from our CSA (grown north of Seattle) and zucchini grown in my grandparents' garden. I love simple meals, and I love that I didn't have to feel weird about anything I ate tonight. The best part was that my three-year-old LOVED the fish and kept asking for more and more. I think he ate about 1/3 of a pound of salmon. This is unheard of.
While I was preparing dinner and thinking that I might blog about it, I thought I would discuss salmon in particular, since any good native-northwesterner should absolutely know about good salmon (and be a critic too). When my husband and I were on a cruise in Alaska a few years back, we learned a five-fingered trick to naming the five types of Salmon that live in this region. As far as good-eating goes, Sockeye and Chinook (also known as King) salmon are the tastiest ones to go for. There are a few other things to look for when buying salmon.
1) Is it fresh-caught WILD? Wild as opposed to farm-grown is a huge difference. One thing we learned in Food, Inc. is that fish-farmers are teaching fish to eat corn. Eew! Gross! Wild-caught fish is also more sustainable (if you're into that sort of thing).
2) Buy Pacific salmon not Atlantic salmon. Perhaps if you are on the east coast, Atlantic salmon is okay, but over here in the northwest it is inferior. In fact, if you look at a package in the store, you will most likely see the words "color added." Umm. No thanks.
3) Speaking of color, and this is probably the biggest deal when it comes to salmon, choose the deepest red-colored salmon you can find. It is the most tender and has the best flavor. It should look something like this when raw:As far as cooking salmon goes, it is very easy. My favorite preparation is to bake it with a little butter, salt and pepper on top, then top that with lemon slices and slivered almonds. Tonight, however, I had no almonds and no lemon (see HERE for why), so I had to improvise with pine nuts and a little garlic salt. I baked this piece in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes and it came out perfectly. It cooks very well on a baking stone, should you have one. Salmon can be eaten raw, so you can cook it to your own level of comfort. I tend to like well-cooked, flaky fish. This was done but still moist and a little soft. Exactly done. It can also be cooked on a barbecue, but place it on aluminum foil or water-soaked wood planks and not directly on the grill - it is too delicate and will fall apart.
...and now for my last tip of the evening. I very much feel like I should like yams/sweet potatoes, but try as I might, I do not. They are very healthy, though, and I am trying very hard to not give my children my prejudices. So, from time to time, I try to work them into a meal. My favorite method (and really the only one I can stand) is to mix them into mashed potatoes. I almost prefer mashed potatoes this way now amazingly enough. Here's how I make them:

Yammy Mashed Potatoes
1 large garnet yam
3 medium-to-large white or yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup butter (in chunks to melt faster)
1/2 cup sour cream

Peel and cube potatoes and yam, boil (together) until soft. Drain water. Add butter and sour cream, mash to desired consistency. Voila. That's it. If you want to fancy them up a little, you can toss in about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese when you add the butter. Another way to increase flavor is to boil a head of garlic (peel all the cloves and toss them in with the potatoes), then leave them in there and mash into the potatoes.

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