As we melt into summer, we turn in desperation toward lighter and slimming meals. Luckily, salmon months are upon us and offer healthy and elegant choices for our shimmering evenings. Dubbed the "king of fish" with its festive color and bright taste, salmon has always been resplendent even for the most ordinary occasions.
Once abundant, salmon now trickle along polluted spawning grounds. Fishing off Iceland and Greenland, where adult salmon are believed to spend their time at sea, has also reduced salmon supplies. And despite our efforts to clean up rivers and streams, salmon remains scarce.
Salmon vary from white to pale pink in the Atlantic salmon to deep orange-red of the sockeye of the west coast. They are a moderately fatty fish and are in the greatest supply in the summer and the fall.
The delicate taste of salmon is often bruised by inept handling and cooking. To avoid this when broiling or grilling salmon, just follow these simple tips from "The Fish-Lovers' Cookbook" by Sheryl and Mel London (Rodale, $16.95).
It is best to buy the salmon according to how you are going to cook it: for poaching and baking, buy the center-cut steak. For broiling, get the cut nearest the head, where it is the fattest. When the recipe calls for scallops or fillets, the tail end is best.
Allow four to six ounces per serving or two pounds of steaks for six people.
Broiling is a challenge because of the intense, dry heat involved. Choose fish that are 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches thick, no matter how it is cut, so it will not dry before it is cooked through. Half-inch steaks should be broiled about three minutes on each side; one-inch steaks take eight to ten minutes. When baking a whole salmon that is about 2 1/4 inches thick, allow about 11 minutes per pound at 400 degrees.
To prevent sticking, it is a good idea to oil the rack. Adjust the broiler pan and rack under the broiler so that the top of the fish will be four to six inches from the heat -- the thicker the fish, the greater the distance.
If the top of the fish seems to be getting brown too quickly, move the pan to the shelf below.
Add a half-inch of boiling water to the pan under the perforated rack -- this creates steam and helps keep the fish moist. If the fish looks as if it is drying out as it cooks, brush with more melted butter.
American salmon is best cooked simply. Below is a recipe for broiled salmon, marinated first to enhance its naturally flavorful juices. Check to make sure you have two tablespoons of butter before you sashay to the store. Once home and served with a cold rice salad, this salmon will toast the hottest summer evening.
Express lane list: salmon, orange, lemon, limes, onion, honey, hot pepper MARINATED AND BROILED SALMON STEAKS IN THREE -- CITRUS SAUCE (6 servings)
2 pounds salmon steaks, 3/4-inch thick
Juice of 1 small orange
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 small onion, grated
1 teaspoon light, mild honey
1 small, fresh hot pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Lime slices for garnish Place salmon steaks in a single layer in a pan that is not made of metal. Mix orange, lemon and lime juice and rinds, onion, honey and hot pepper. Pour over salmon. Marinate in the refrigerator for 3 hours, turning once and occasionally basting the fish with the marinade so the liquid covers all areas of the fish.
Brush a perforated broiling rack (that fits over another pan containing boiling water) with melted butter. Lift the salmon steaks out of the marinade and brush tops with butter. Broil for about 6 minutes, turning them with a spatula halfway through the timing period and test with a skewer. Continue broiling until fish flakes. Heat marinade and pour over fish before serving.
Serve with slices of lime.