The Golightly Gourmet: The turning of the season is heralded by our mighty salmon

The salmon is the profound and enduring symbol of the Northwest that reminds us of the turning of the seasons.


By Dana Zia

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! How incredible is that!?!
Salmon are an important part of our diet, here in our food happy home. Hubby is a fanatic fisherman that loves to bring home these magnificent fish for us to dine on.  We feel humbled and incredibly lucky to have abundant access to such a noble food right here in our back yard.  Oh and it is so good and so good for us!
I love experimenting with many different recipes to honor this fish that is the backbone of many cultures. There is one recipe that I love to cook this time of year when the blackberries are plumb and juicy on the vine. It is a nice blending of the seasons as summer fades into fall. It is grilled cumin marinated salmon with blackberry sauce. Oh my… it really wonderful.

Ok, I’m going to share this recipe with you but you must pinky promise me not to use it on farmed salmon. Please. Farmed salmon are not only unhealthy to eat but they are threatening our wild runs and polluting our oceans. On top of that, it takes 2,162,000 tons of fish taken from the oceans to produce 871,200 tons of farmed salmon. Not a good trade!
Here’s the corker that should get everyone’s attention, all of them are dyed. Yup, a farmed salmon’s flesh is naturally gray because they do not have access to eat their natural foods, so the farms feed red dye to the salmon right before harvesting them. This process of farming creates a fish that is low in omega 3s and is not a healthy food to eat. Kinda like the fast food of salmon that is harmful to our environment. Farmed fish is commonly called “Atlantic Salmon” and is easy to tell at the market as it is a much lighter pink color.
Not surprisingly, this difference means a lot in the taste. Chefs around the country rate wild salmon far superior to farmed. A recent taste test scored farmed salmon at 4.83 out of 10, while wild salmon rated 9.7. By eating wild salmon, you are giving your body and mouth something great, getting omega 3s, (that which we all seek), help to save the wild runs and the oceans clean plus supports our local fisherman. Now that’s a great deal!
Remember, vote with your dollar and ask for wild salmon. I know this is an old rant but the amount salmon being farmed is escalating and this is only happening because we are buying them. Ok, I’m done preaching, let’s get on with the fun. Here is the recipe for you in all its glory. Respectfully enjoy the deliciousness of this venerable fish from our beautiful oceans and rivers.

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

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
¼ – ½ teaspoon of chipotle chili powder
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 to 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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