Many people love salmon but are afraid to cook it at home. Try this easy, Asian-inspired recipe with tips and photos on preparation to make your salmon dinner a success. Serve it warm over asparagus spears or chilled over salad greens. This black and white sesame salmon could become one of your go-to recipes for a quick weeknight meal or easy entertaining.
For the Love of Salmon
There’s so much to love about salmon. With it’s beautiful orange color, salmon is a delight to the eye. But more than just pretty, it’s also highly nutritious; a health-promoting choice because of Omega-3 fatty acids. It’s on all of the “good for you” lists like this one in the Nutrition Action health letter.
First, you’ve got to seek out good quality fish. Although many stores in our area offer salmon, I drive a little further and pay a little more to get what I know is quality. The best choice continues to be fresh, wild King salmon from Alaska or California.
When buying salmon, it should be moist, firm and have an ocean smell. The flesh should not be coming apart or tearing. It should not smell fishy or strong. In hot weather, I’ll ask the fish counter to package my salmon in a small bag of ice to transport it home and keep it fresh.
For advice on choosing salmon at the market, check out this link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Print off their pocket guide to carry with you or download the applet to your smart phone.
How to Prep Salmon
To remove the skin you will need a very sharp, thin, flexible knife (a filet knife or boning knife). Hold the edge of the salmon skin flat on your cutting board and slide your knife between the skin and flesh, angling the knife blade down just slightly. Slice completely under the flesh while holding the skin tight. It should come off in one clean piece. Turn the salmon over and discard the skin.
Next, trim off any of the dark purple flesh. This is the bloodline and it can be very strong in flavor. Some people don’t mind it. I prefer to trim it off. Be careful to trim just the dark purple areas so you don’t waste any of the salmon. Turn the filet over and portion into two pieces, either across the width or length depending on what you have. Run your fingers over the filet sides for pin bones. Use tweezers or small pliers to remove them.
Discard the bloodline, or if you have pets, cook it briefly for them in a non-stick pan or in the microwave. They’ll love it as a healthy treat mixed into their food.
When your salmon filets are trimmed and ready, turn them over and brush with a few drops of sesame or coconut oil. Place filets presentation side (top side) down on a plate of the mixed sesame seeds and press to coat. Turn filets over and set aside to cook.
Sear the Salmon
Heat a teaspoon or two of sesame or coconut oil in non-stick frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Season the salmon filets with salt and pepper (I use Szechuan salt and pepper blend from Penzeys).
Carefully place filets in the pan seed side down. Don’t move the filets until a crust forms and the sesame seeds are looking golden. Carefully turn the filets over, turn down the heat to low, cover, and allow the salmon to finish cooking until it’s barely translucent in the center.
Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your salmon filets so it’s impossible to give an exact time. It should be around 135 to 145 degrees if you have a digital thermometer, depending on how you like your salmon. Experience will tell you.
Helpful links, information and tools:
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Pocket Guides for the seafood to buy or avoid and why
- All About Salmon, Nutrition and Health Benefits, from About.com
- If you don’t have one, you’ll need a good basic nonstick pan. I use the Scanpan CTX which you can buy at cooking stores or via my Amazon Affiliate link. Another good non-stick pan I’ve been cooking with lately is from GreenPan. It’s less expensive than the Scanpan.
- After experimenting with brands of coconut oil, my favorite is Dr. Bronner’s white label, unrefined and light tasting