Michael Jensen; styling by Julia Dowling Rutland
It's official. Seven months of deprivation are coming to an end now that the salmon season's beginning.
Every May, Alaska's twisting and rugged rivers welcome back more than a million wild salmon from the ocean. As communities plan festivals to celebrate the event, the fish begin making their way through Prince William Sound, ready for their 300-mile journey upriver through the clear, chilly rapids of the Copper River.
Salmon store extra amounts of healthy fat and oil in preparation for this challenging trek. These oils are responsible for the rich texture and flavor of salmon's firm red flesh and offer excellent sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Of all wild salmon, king salmon has the highest amount of omega-3.
Ray Riutta, executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, expects this year's harvest to be a good one. "The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is projecting the seventh-strongest run on record this year," he says. "This is a real testament to Alaska's successful sustainable fisheries management."
While frozen wild salmon can be purchased year-round, the abundance of fresh salmon from mid-May through early autumn means consumers can easily find Alaskan king, sockeye, coho, keta, and pink salmon at low prices.
Cooking salmon tonight?
Celebrate the first salmon run by preparing one of these recipes at home. Salmon's full flavor and natural tenderness make it perfect for grilling, baking, poaching, roasting, and even serving as tartare.
Chinook Salmon on Alderwood with Vidalia Onion and Mustard Crust
Take advantage of salmon season and buy a whole fish. Have your fishmonger fillet it, or do it yourself. ( Learn how to fillet a whole salmon.) Grilling the salmon on an alderwood plank enhances the essence of the fish while imparting a mild smoky flavor. Plank cooking looks impressive, but takes only minutes to prepare. Best part―no cleanup.
Developed in the Pacific Northwest, this salmon recipe still screams tropics. Ginger and soy sauce in the marinade lend Asian flair. And while the ingredients may look exotic, they're easily found in most markets. Look for mango nectar in the fruit-juice or soft-drink aisle, and if you can't find star anise, substitute a pinch of five-spice power or ground cloves in the recipe.
Salmon and Mushroom Wellington
Serve your guests a delicious package of tender salmon surrounded by puff pastry. A lighter alternative to the classic beef version, this can be made ahead of time and then popped in the oven at the last minute.
Salmon-Stuffed Crab Cakes
This new twist on an old favorite might change the way you look at crab cakes forever. The addition of smoked salmon to a traditional crab cake recipe adds great depth of flavor. Make these as an entrée or appetizers.
Easy Pesto Salmon
Look to your garden for a little help. A fresh basil-and-spinach pesto brightens this dish and complements the rich flavor of salmon. Go ahead and make a little extra pesto to have on hand for pizzas and easy shrimp-and-pesto pasta.