I am WILD about salmon. Let me tell you why. (And if you want to cut to the chase, just scroll down for a special gift and the recipe!)
Wild salmon is a vital part of our family diet at home, and at the same time, it represents so much more than a food source for me. In many ways, it is a bastion of our global health and humans’ capacity for love.
For local communities in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska – wild salmon’s last strongholds – salmon is deeply symbolic. As David James Duncan writes in his book, My Story as Told by Water, “Salmon shield us from fear of death by showing us how to give of ourselves for things greater than ourselves.”
This is because salmon do not just feed humans. They feed an entire ecosystem. In Braiding Sweetgrass, botanist, poet and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer, reflects on her hike along the Cascade Head Trail in Oregon: “The diversity of salmon in the river–Chinook, Chum, Pink and Coho–ensured that the people would not go hungry, likewise the forests. Swimming many miles inland, they brought a much-needed resource for the trees: nitrogen. The spent carcasses of spawned-out salmon, dragged into the woods by bears and eagles and people, fertilized the trees as well as Skunk Cabbage. Using table isotope analysis, scientists traced the source of nitrogen in the wood of ancient forests all the way back to the ocean. Salmon fed everyone.” For local communities, wild salmon provides livelihoods, breeding an entire industry designed to protect their habitat, process sustainably harvested catch, and distribute nutrient-rich seafood globally.
This is why it’s important that you know wild salmon is in peril.
As I write, plans are moving forward to approve North America and one of the world’s largest copper mines in Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to one of the last pristine, all-wild salmon runs in the world. Under our current administration, things are pretty dire.
So, what can we do? Well, ironically, we can eat wild!
Mark Titus, filmmaker of the riveting documentary, The Breach and forthcoming The Wild, explains, “This seems counterintuitive at first blush. Why would you kill something you purport to love? But the contention has been and remains, if we demand wild salmon on our plates, we will demand the pristine habitat for them to continue coming back to us in perpetuity.”
Since my trip to Alaska in 2015, I am a complete convert. I only eat wild seafood unless I’m in a situation where it would be rude to turn down.
One of my favorite purveyors is Wild For Salmon, owned by the amazing fishing duo, Steve & Jenn Kurian, who spend their summers in Bristol Bay harvesting a range of seafood, including sockeye salmon, scallops, shrimp, albacore tuna, and so much more. They have several pre-packaged products like salmon burgers and salmon ravioli, which have revolutionized quick dinners in our family of three. They’ve formed a “community supported fishery” (CSF) whereby they sell their products at affordable prices through local buying clubs (Ithacans – we have one!) or directly to customers doors. Everything arrives frozen, which contrary to popular opinion, far exceeds the quality of “fresh” seafood one would find at the supermarket, and does not degrade texture or flavor. Their seafood has been frozen at peak flavor within hours of harvest, and remains frozen during transport. On the other hand, most non-local “fresh” seafood often spends days in transit on ice, and more time in the display case.
Another pro about frozen seafood? My freezer is always stocked with pre-portioned, nutrient-dense, flavor-bursting options! It requires a little planning to defrost the seafood in the refrigerator overnight, or before heading to work in the morning, but honestly, it’s a simple habit to pick up and one you won’t regret.
Speaking of freezer stocks, I recently made a rule for myself that I had to go through all the fruits, veggies, meat and seafood I had in my freezer before buying more at the store, as well as the roots, squash, potatoes, and other items lingering from the fall harvest. This is how this recipe came together.
I wanted something rich and seasonal (molasses-ginger, eh-hem), healthy and delicious. This recipe is gluten and dairy-free, and is now officially my favorite way to prepare wild sockeye portions. The sticky-sweet molasses-ginger glaze is heavenly, and the acorn squash is caramelized with onions, adding a luscious accompaniment to the salmon. The pomegranate arils add a bright crunch and wintry feel that elevate the dish. The final dish was a hit for Bobby and Ayla, and given that I have loads more squash and salmon to plow through, is officially in the meal rotation. And…
Wild For Salmon is offering 10% off their entire product selection from Friday 12/8 through Monday 12/11 using discount code EMMA17. Scoop some salmon now!
Thank you for reading, and sending you all the salmony love!
XO – Emma
P.S. This will come in handy: How To Break Down Any Winter Squash!!!
P.P.S. There are more sustainable salmon and seafood recipes in my forthcoming cookbook, Feast by Firelight – you can pre-order it today here!
You can substitute the acorn squash with any other squash, like butternut or pumpkin; if you cut it into smaller pieces, it will cook even faster.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons molasses
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 10 turns of the pepper mill
- 2 acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 7 cups)
- 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 20 turns pepper mill
- 2 portions Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon, defrosted
- 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
- 1/4 cup parsley leaves (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and position one rack in the middle and another in the top third of the oven.
- To prepare the glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, molasses, grated ginger, salt, and pepper.
- Add cubed squash, onions, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt, and pepper to a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with your hands to coat the squash with oil and seasoning. Roast on the middle rack for 30 minutes, until onions begin to caramelize and squash is soft. After 30 minutes, toss the squash with a spatula and continue roasting for 15 minutes.
- Transfer the salmon to a shallow dish with the glaze. Flip the salmon, coating both sides with the glaze and refrigerate. Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet and heat over medium. When hot, add the salmon to the pan skin-side down and pour the glaze from the glaze over top. Allow to sizzle for one minute on the stovetop, then transfer the pan to the top rack in the oven for 10 minutes, while the squash finishes cooking. The glaze will reduce into a beautiful, tangy, sticky sauce. To double check if the salmon is ready, see if it flakes away easily with a fork.
- I love serving this dish right in the cast iron pan! Scatter the roasted squash around the salmon portions and sprinkle the pomegranate arils and optional parsley over top. Just be sure to warn fellow eaters that the serving pan is piping hot! Best if you dish out portions yourself, using an oven mitt to hold the handle.