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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Blackened Wild Salmon with Lime Yogurt Sauce

Blackening meat with spices is a healthy alternative to charring, which creates cancer-causing compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These carcinogens are most concentrated in charred meats but can also be found in well-done meats, smoked meats, cigarette smoke, air pollution, and unvented fires.

In this recipe I blacken wild salmon. It’s a fish full of high quality protein and one of the best sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce the risk of death in general and also in particular from two of the three leading causes of death the in United States: heart disease and stroke. Wild salmon also contains vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like astaxanthin, a carotenoid that gives the flesh a vibrant red color.

To keep up with consumer demand for salmon, fish farms have flourished. Most salmon sold in supermarkets and restaurants in the United States are farmed-raised and labeled Atlantic salmon. Because these fish don’t eat their natural diet, they’re missing the essential omega-3 fats that our bodies need to be healthy. They’re also missing natural color, so the fish are treated with chemical dyes to compensate.

Most farmed salmon are raised on feed made from genetically modified ingredients and they’re given antibiotics and pesticides to fight sea lice parasites and viral and bacterial diseases. (Organic farm-raised salmon may be given organic feed, which contains fewer toxins, but it’s still not a natural diet for salmon and it changes their nutritional profile.) To make matters worse, salmon farming is associated with water pollution, environmental destruction, and “very high” use of chemicals in countries that have no regulations to limit their application including those that import fish to the United States.

When it comes to salmon, eat wild varieties or none at all. Wild salmon from Alaska come from well-managed fisheries and contain low levels of contaminants. Look for chinook, chum, coho, pink, and sockeye salmon, or Arctic char, a member of the salmon family. If you don’t have wild salmon, find another fish high in healthy fats and low in toxins.

Search the online database from the Environmental Defense Fund for the most up-to-date information on the best and worst choices in fish and seafood. Or download the Seafood Watch app and take it with you to markets and restaurants.

The blackening spice rub can be applied to almost anything: other kinds of fish; meats like chicken, pork, lamb, and beef; tempeh and tofu; and even vegetables. This recipe makes plenty, so save any extra for future use. The mixture contains smoked paprika, smoked sea salt, and dried chipotle chilies (smoked jalapeno peppers), which give dishes a grilled flavor even when you cook them on the stovetop. (Smoking chili peppers and sea salt doesn't create the same carcinogens as smoking meats and fish.) If you don’t have these ingredients on hand, you can substitute regular paprika, plain sea salt, and crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne.

This dish is naturally gluten-free. To make it dairy-free as well, skip the yogurt sauce and serve the salmon with wedges of fresh lime (or lemon) for squeezing. If your citrus is organic, grind up the zest with the other spices. Citrus zest contains flavonoids like nobiletin and tangeritin that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumor effects in the body.


1 dried chipotle chili pepper, cut into pieces with a kitchen shears
1 dried Thai bird chili pepper (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon mixed peppercorns
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon smoked sea salt or other sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (or substitute 1 teaspoon ground cumin)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound wild Alaskan salmon fillet cut into 4-ounce portions
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Organic lime, zest and juice (or substitute lemon)
1 cup Greek or strained yogurt

  1. Add the dried chilies, peppercorns, thyme, paprika, salt, cumin, and turmeric to an electric grinder. Pulse until finely ground. Alternatively, grind with a mortar and pestle.
  2. Place the salmon skin-side down. Sprinkle the spice rub generously over the top. Set the fish aside to absorb the seasoning and come to room temperature before cooking.
  3. Stir the lime zest into the yogurt. Add enough lime juice to taste. Set it aside while you cook the salmon.
  4. Warm the oil in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the salmon, seasoned-side down. (If the skillet isn't hot when you add the salmon, it will stick.) Cook until the fish lifts away easily, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Flip the salmon, cover the pan, and turn off the heat. Finish cooking the fish with residual heat, about 5 to 7 minutes more, depending on the thickness of the fish. This allows the fish to be thoroughly cooked without becoming dry or over-cooked.
  6. Toss a salad while you wait for the salmon to finish cooking, then serve it immediately with the lime yogurt sauce.


National Cancer Institute. Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. [Web page]. National Institutes of Health website. Accessed July 10, 2015.

Mozaffarian D1, Lemaitre RN, King IB, Song X, Huang H, Sacks FM, Rimm EB, Wang M, Siscovick DS. Plasma phospholipid long-chain ω-3 fatty acids and total and cause-specific mortality in older adults: a cohort study. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2013;158(7):515-25.

Seafood Watch. Seafood Watch Farmed Atlantic Salmon Fact Sheet April 2014. [Web page]. Seafood Watch website. Accessed July 10, 2015.

Seafood Watch. Salmon, Atlantic. [Web page]. Seafood Watch website. Accessed July 10, 2015.

Environmental Defense Fund. Salmon. [Web page]. EDF website. Accessed July 10, 2015.

Wang L, Wang J, Fang L, Zheng Z, Zhi D, Wang S, Li S, Ho CT, Zhao H. Anticancer Activities of Citrus Peel Polymethoxyflavones Related to Angiogenesis and Others. Biomed Research International. 2014;2014:453972.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Chocolate Ice Pops


These home-made ice pops are dairy-free and full of antioxidant-rich cocoa powder. It's important to eat plenty of foods high in antioxidants, especially during the summer to counteract the oxidizing effects of the sun. Some antioxidants, like the flavonols found in cocoa powder, have also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke and cancer.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2-Ingredient Summer Dessert

This simple summer dessert is as easy as it is elegant. Because there are only two ingredients, quality matters. Use the best berries you can find, preferably organic because they're #4 on EWG's Dirty Dozen list. If you have berries that are under-ripe, this is a good way to sweeten them up a bit.

I used 85% dark chocolate ("The Dark Chocolate Lover's Bar" from Trader Joe's) for this recipe, but a 72% variety would also work well. When it comes to the health benefits of  chocolate, darker is better, so use the darkest variety you like to eat. I find that 3.5 ounces is the right amount for a quart of berries.

It's the tips of strawberries that are usually dipped in chocolate, but I prefer to cut off the tops and dip the big end instead. This creates a flat and stable surface, so they don't roll around.


3.5 ounces 85% dark chocolate
1 quart fresh strawberries, tops removed

  1. Fill a saucepan with an inch of water and warm it over low heat .
  2. Place the chocolate in a glass or stainless steel. Set the bowl on top of the pan of simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl is not in contact with the water.
  3. While the chocolate melts, cover a baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. 
  4. Once the chocolate has just melted, turn off the heat and transfer the bowl to a heat-proof surface. Do not over-heat the chocolate.
  5. Hold each berry by the tip and dip the base into the melted chocolate before placing it on the prepared sheet. 
  6. Once all the berries have been dipped, transfer them to the fridge. 
  7. Once they have set, store them on the wax or parchment paper in an air-tight container. 
  8. Take them out of the fridge at least 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Broccoli Stem Salad with Lemongrass Vinaigrette


Don't throw away your  broccoli stems! The centers are tender and full of flavor. They're the stars of this dish, which turned  into a rainbow of colors, textures, and flavors. I often cook broccoli stems along with the florets, but this time I used only the stems and saved the tops for another meal. Along with other crunchy vegetables and chopped peanuts, this salad is light but filling.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Oyster Mushrooms Sautéed with Fresh Herbs


When I have a special ingredient, I like to serve it without a lot of fuss. Just something simple, to savor the unique flavor instead of covering it up. In this dish I sauté oyster mushrooms with some basic aromatic ingredients that play a good supporting role.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mediterranean Braised Chicken


This slow-simmered chicken dish boasts flavors of Spain and Italy. Capers, olives, and sherry vinegar make it a bit sour; a touch of honey adds a little sweetness; and a roasted red pepper adds a subtle hint of smoke in this well-balanced one-pot meal.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Indian-Style Scrambled Eggs


These Indian-inspired scrambled eggs make a quick and healthy meal. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner because they contain everything a meal should have -- protein, healthy fat, and fiber-rich vegetables -- as well as a good dose of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory herbs and spices.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Greek Lentil Salad with Spring Onions


This flavorful dish is full of ingredients you might find in a Greek salad: feta cheese, tomatoes, oregano, and Kalamata olives. Cucumbers are usually part of the mix but because they aren't in season yet, I substituted spring onions. And because it's also too early for fresh local tomatoes, I used sun-dried ones soaked in olive oil. You can serve this salad as a side dish or as a main course, topped with grilled calamari, shrimp, or wild salmon.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Colored Easter Eggs You'll Really Want to Eat


Forget synthetic dyes and artificial food coloring. These eggs are colored naturally with a beet-balsamic vinaigrette, which also makes them taste good. The purple they soak up on the outside is a stunning contrast to the bright yellow yolk inside.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Easter Candy for Grown-Ups: Dark Chocolate Rum Balls


These DIY dark chocolate truffles will melt in your mouth. Unlike other rum balls full of sugar and corn syrup, they have no added sweeteners and it takes only a few ingredients to put them together.