You definitely are not a true West Coaster until you are able to name off all the species of salmon we have migrating up our estuaries, and floating around our waters.
I recently have tested a good friend of mine who moved here from Ottawa, Canada a while ago, and she only missed one or two. I thought that was a pretty good effort, and a true testament of her integration. For those of you who are unaware, there are 5 different salmon species along the West Coast, from Alaska down to California.
Coho: These guys are silver, and were once the most heavily fished salmon – therefore largely depleted in some area.
Pink: These are the humpback of salmon, they are the smallest species, are the lowest in fat content, and are frequently used for canning. Did you know that the white lines running up and down salmon flesh is fat!?
Chum: These are the best for smoking. They have a pretty spectacular set of teeth – similar to that of a dog. And they are the most widespread salmon – some being found all the way over in Korea.
Spring / Chinook / King: These guys are the biggest – they can even get up to 125 lbs! But they are the least abundant.
Sockeye: These are the red guys. They have the darkest flesh of the species (and I was once told that had something to do with the fact that they swim and migrate the farthest). They spawn in lakes as well as rivers, which has actually made them prone to becoming landlocked. Their landlocked species is called “Kokanee” salmon. How cool is that!?
So yes, I may seem like a salmon-nerd… but I kind of am. I double-checked my facts, but most of what you’ve just read, I wrote before I double-checked. I’m kind of fascinated with this gnarly looking species.
Sockeye Salmon Ceviche
Serves 2, or more if it’s just an hors d’oeuvres
- 2 fillets sockeye salmon, skin and pin-bones removed**, cut into 1/4-in cubes
- 2 – 3 limes – enough to cover the salmon completely
- 1 avocado, diced into 1/4-in cubes
- 1/2 cup cucumber, diced into 1/4-in cubes
- 1/4 cup red onion, minced
- 1/4 cup green onion, minced
- 1/2 cup mango, diced into 1/4-in cubes
- 2 vine-ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, cut into 1/4-in cubes
- 1 Tbsp jalapeno, diced (with or without seeds – and more if you would like it spicier)
- 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- Coarse salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
In a non-corrosive dish (no plastic or Tupperware!) combine salmon and lime juice together – ensure the salmon is completely covered by the lime juice. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes – but I’d say more like 1 – 2 hours if you have the time. This also depends on how fresh your salmon is – if you’ve just line-caught it, then 30 minutes would be fine – if you’ve store-bought it, better “cook” it a bit longer. While your fish is “cooking” prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cucumber, red onion, tomato, green onion, jalapeno and mango. When the salmon has finished “cooking”, it should be opaque and no longer squishy. Drain it from the lime juice, and add it to the mixing bowl. Combine gently, adding in the cilantro and avocado – you don’t want to break anything up. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Serve cold with some homemade corn chips, and a cerveza.
**Pin-bones aren’t very pleasant to work with – either ask your fish monger to remove them all (easiest thing to do), or do it yourself. Run your finger along the flesh of the fillet – you should see and feel these little bones pop up. Grab a pair of tweezers (clean them first – and them clean them well after, the last thing you need is fishy smelling tweezers), and start pulling them out. Keep going until you run your finger over the top of the fillet, and only feel smooth flesh.
Homemade Corn Chips
Yields: a whole bunch
- 1 package small soft corn tortillas
- Ground chili – or cumin (your preference)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
Preheat oven to 400F.
Cut the tortillas in half, and then in half again. You want a little more surface area for ceviche. If you’re just going to eat them with salsa, I would cut them into 1/8th’s.
Spread them onto a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, chili (or cumin) and toss them in the oven for 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crunchy.
Sprinkle liberally with salt as soon as they come out of the oven. Let them cool down, or enjoy warm with ceviche, salsa, guacamole – whatever you prefer!