A sea of choices
Frozen seafood is sometimes the best option for dinners
Our bistro-style salmon dish is suitable for entertaining. Serve it as a main course with a green salad of arugula and endive. Have crusty bread on hand and offer a simple fruit tart or dark chocolate treat for dessert. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
Admittedly, I am not a fan of most "thawed for my convenience" selections. Especially if I am not cooking the item within a few hours of my purchase. So I turn to the freezer case where, hopefully, the fish has remained solidly frozen since its harvest. Then I can transport it safely home and thaw it carefully in the refrigerator.
In addition to great taste and flavor, I want to purchase seafood that nourishes my family without harming the environment or fish populations. Fortunately, responsibly fished seafood is now available in the freezer cases of many stores. It just takes a little effort. I rely on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch app on my mobile phone. I've given out copies of Chicago's Shedd Aquarium's Right Bite, a wallet-size guide to purchasing seafood (at sheddaquarium.org), to friends and family to help them make informed purchases.
Among the "Best Choices" recommendations is wild-caught salmon. Because farmed salmon is not produced in eco-friendly conditions, switching from farmed to wild-caught salmon makes an impact. Wild Alaskan salmon makes my heart beat faster (and healthier they say). Freshwater habitats in Alaska have remained relatively pristine, and both the fish populations and the fisheries are intensively monitored. The current abundance of Alaskan salmon reflects the success of the state's management practices.
I have purchased wild Alaskan salmon from the freezer case at the local supermarket and online. Most of it is frozen at sea, which quickly preserves the fish's buttery, firm texture and deep salmon color. Not only is the wild variety a better choice for the environment, it has a far superior flavor to farmed salmon — rich, almost sweet, not fishy.
For other seafood purchases, look for key words on the package such as sustainable, wild-caught and U.S. farmed in a fully recirculating system to make wise dinner selections. I choose shrimp and refrigerated canned crab for indulgent treats. For shrimp, read the packages: U.S. farmed and wild-caught shrimp are good choices. Avoid farmed imported shrimp. For crab, simply avoid any imported from Russia, advises the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The bistro-style salmon that follows proves suitable for entertaining. Serve it as a main course with a green salad of arugula and endive. Pass crusty bread and offer a simple fruit tart or dark chocolate treat for dessert.
Bistro-style salmon with brothy beans, spinach
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Note: Allow 24 hours to thaw frozen salmon in the refrigerator. U.S. Pacific, wild-caught Alaskan halibut makes a great substitute for the salmon.
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 large sweet onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 leek, halved, well-rinsed, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
½ cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc