Hooked on Salmon?

The recent news of the northern California wild salmon collapse shocked many. How could a well-managed fishery that appears on every consumer’s sustainable seafood guide just collapse?

After all, the fishermen were doing their jobs. Northern California salmon is mostly line-caught by small boats. The prices have been high enough the past few years to support the fishermen and keep demand to manageable levels. Consumers felt, quite rightly, that when they splurged on a piece of local wild salmon they were treating themselves to something special and supporting a responsible fishery.

Unfortunately, the collapse of this fishery was beyond the direct control of consumers. It was caused by a combination of pollution run-off from farms, industry, and roads, and agricultural and urban water diversion. Some experts think that global warming-induced changes in the ocean may also be to blame. As well-meaning consumers who believe that the way we spend our dollars can make a difference, what is the best way to make seafood buying decisions in an era of such great volatility?

One course of action recommended by experts like Paul Johnson, author of  Fish Forever: the definitive guide to understanding, selecting, and preparing healthy, delicious, and environmentally sustainable seafood, is to enjoy what he calls “underutilized” species.

Mackerel is one such species. Available nearly year-round in different parts of the country, Mackerel is an oily, robust fish that takes well to many different preparations and pairs wonderfully with assertive sauces, salsas, and marinades. And because it’s me, you know I wouldn’t leave you hooked without a recipe to try.

Mackerel Gremolata

Zest two lemons with a microplane or fine grater and set the zest aside.

Juice the lemons (you may need more than 2) and marinate mackerel fillets for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours in equal parts lemon juice and olive oil that has been whisked together with salt and pepper and spiked generously with chopped garlic and parsley.

Mix together the zest from the lemons, along with finely chopped parsley, chopped garlic, bread crumbs, and chopped capers (optional).

Add a little bit of olive oil to moisten the mixture just slightly.

Preheat the broiler and remove the fish fillets from the marinade.

Lay them out in a single layer and broil for 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.

Top with the gremolata during the final minute of cooking. Serve immediately.

Image: 5th Scharf

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.