That time of the year arrived last week for seafood lovers: The famed Copper River salmon hit Boise, about a week after the harvest began in the cold waters of Alaska.
The Copper River season is short - expected to be 4-6 weeks this year. After that, you might find the salmon on menus or in grocery stores, but chances are it will have been frozen.
It's a few dollars more a pound than other salmon, but worth the cost. This fish is loaded with heart-healthy Omega-3 oils and fat, giving it a rich flavor you don't find in farm-raised salmon and even other natural varieties.
Grill or broil it with a dash of olive oil and salt, for an unmasked blast of its intense flavor.
If you want to try more elaborate recipes, here are a few to consider:
GLAZED SALMON WITH ENGLISH PEAS
The salmon needs to marinate in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes. The pea puree can be refrigerated a day in advance and reheated, but this dish is best when made to order.
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1-inch piece peeled ginger root, grated
Four 6-ounce skinned, center-cut salmon fillets
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shelled English peas
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
1-inch piece jalapeno pepper (seeds and ribs discarded), chopped
Combine the mirin, soy sauce and ginger in a quart-size zip-top bag; seal and shake to combine. Add the salmon fillets to the bag and seal it, pressing out as much air as possible. Lay the bag on a plate so the fillets are flat. Refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes, turning the bag over halfway through.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Blot the fillets on paper towels to dry them. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and reduce it by half over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, ovenproof saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, place the fillets in the pan skinned sides up; cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the fillets are lightly browned and release easily from the pan. Turn the fillets over; transfer the pan to the oven to bake for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, broth, cream, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high; once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the peas. Cook until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to reserve 1/2 cup of the pea-onion mixture (but not the garlic). Transfer the rest of the pan's contents to a blender. Add the cilantro and jalapeno; remove the center knob of the lid to allow steam to escape, and hold a paper towel over the opening. Puree until smooth.
To serve the dish, divide the puree among shallow pasta or soup bowls. Place a salmon fillet on top, along with some of the reserved pea-onion mixture and the reduced-marinade glaze. Serve warm.
Nutrition per serving: 460 calories, 40 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 24 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 115 mg cholesterol, 880 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar
MAPLE-BOURBON GLAZED SALMON FILLET
Start to finish: 30 minutes; servings: 4
2-pound center-cut salmon fillet
Salt and ground white or black pepper
1/4 cup maple syrup
Juice and zest of 1/2 small orange
2 tablespoons bourbon
Heat the grill to medium and prepare it for indirect cooking. On a charcoal grill, bank the coals to one side and cook on the cooler side. On a gas grill, turn off one side and cook over the cooler section.
Check for and remove any small bones in the salmon. Brush the salmon on all sides with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Lay the fish, skin-side down, on the cooking grate on the cooler side of the grill. Cook the salmon until opaque, but still moist, 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the maple syrup, orange zest and juice, the bourbon and a pinch of salt. Brush the glaze over the salmon during the final 10 minutes. Do not turn the salmon during cooking.
To transfer the fish to a serving platter, slide a wide spatula between the flesh and the skin. Lift the salmon off the grill, leaving the skin behind. Cover the salmon with foil to keep warm.
Slide the skin over to the hot side of the grill, then close the lid. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and the salmon oils are bubbling. Remove the skin from the grill and serve on the side as you would a chip.
Nutrition per serving: 530 calories; 250 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 28 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 135 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 14 g sugar; 45 g protein; 380 mg sodium.
Olive oil spray
3/4 pound wild salmon fillet
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with olive oil. Rinse salmon and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on the sheet and broil about 5 inches from the heat for 5 minutes. Remove and turn over. Broil 4 minutes for a 1-inch-thick piece of salmon, 3 minutes for a thinner piece. Meanwhile, mix bread crumbs and ginger together. Remove salmon from broiler and spoon breadcrumbs on top. Spray with olive oil. Return to broiler for 1 minute, watching to make sure the breadcrumbs do not burn. Remove, place on 2 plates, sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Makes 2 servings.
Nutrition per serving: 327 calories (36 percent from fat), 13.0 g fat (2.5 g saturated, 5.1 g monounsaturated), 78 mg cholesterol, 38.9 g protein, 11.7 g carbohydrates, 0.9 g fiber, 185 mg sodium.
Prep: 15 minutes, plus time to chill; cook: 5 minutes; makes: 8 cakes
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 pounds cooked salmon, skin, bones and gray strip of flesh discarded
1 1/4 cups fresh bread crumbs
Mild oil, such as canola, for crisping
In a large bowl mix mayo, dill, onion, zest, salt and pepper. Add salmon. Mix gently with a soft spatula.
Pat into 8 cakes, each about 3 inches across and 1 inch thick. Roll cakes in breadcrumbs. Set cakes on a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Chilling is optional but makes the cakes easier to handle.
Heat a thin film of oil in a heavy cast iron pan set over medium heat. Cook salmon cakes in batches until crisp outside and hot inside, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
30 minutes, plus chilling time; serves 2 to 4.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons ground chile arbol
3/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup lemon juice
In a small saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and saute until aromatic, then remove the pan from heat. Stir in the chile arbol. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then whisk in the agave syrup and lemon juice. Set aside. This makes more chile water than is needed for the remainder of the recipe; the mixture can be used as a marinade and will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
12 ounces salmon filet, 1/2 inch thick
2 to 3 tablespoons oil
1 large navel orange, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 tablespoons of finely diced serrano chiles with seeds, or to taste
1/4 cup finely diced red onions
1/4 cup aji amarillo puree
3/4 cup Chile Water
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup minced green onions
Salt and pepper
In a small bowl, stir together the salt, pepper, cumin and coriander. Pat the spice blend all over the salmon fillet.
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil and sear the salmon quickly on both sides. Remove the salmon and set aside until cool enough to cut. Dice the cooled fillet into cubes one-third to one-half inch thick and refrigerate until chilled.
In a large bowl, combine the diced salmon with the orange, serrano chiles, red onion, aji amarillo puree, chile water, cilantro and green onions. Season if desired with salt and pepper.
Nutrition per 4 serving: 476 calories; 30 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 47 mg cholesterol; 36 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 30 g sugar; 19 g protein; 967 mg sodium.
ASIAN GRILLED SALMON SANDWICH
2 6-ounce wild salmon fillets
1/4 cup low-sodium tamari sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large slices multi-grain bread
Olive oil spray
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup thin sliced peeled cucumber
Heat grill or broiler. Place salmon in a self-sealing plastic bag with tamari sauce and ginger. Marinate 10 minutes turning once during that time. Spray one side of each bread slice with olive oil spray. Set aside.
Mix wasabi powder and water together to form a paste. Mix paste into mayonnaise. Set aside.
Remove salmon from marinade and pat dry with paper towel. Spray grill grates with olive oil spray. Place salmon on grill about 5-inches from heat and grill 2 minutes per side. Salt and pepper cooked side. The timing will be the same using a stovetop grill. While salmon grills, toast the bread on the grill, olive oil sprayed side down.
To serve: Spread each slice of bread with a layer of the mayonnaise mixture. Place a salmon fillet on 2 of the slices. Place cucumber slices and scallion on the salmon. Cover with the remaining bread slices. Makes 2 servings.
Nutrition per serving: 598 calories (39 percent from fat), 26.2 g fat (3.9 g saturated, 7.8 g monounsaturated), 96 mg cholesterol, 45.9 g protein, 41.1 g carbohydrates, 7.1 g fiber, 744 mg sodium.