At a few months sober I was invited to a benefit at the Mission San Juan Capistrano. It was called Mexico meets Napa. It was fresh Mexican food prepared on site, with wine and tequila tasting. I didn’t worry about being triggered because I had already fallen in love with my sobriety (Within reason. I mean I’m not insane. It wasn’t easy.)
So I entered the mission with confidence that I wouldn’t be tempted. As I walked through the entrance and down the brick path, I passed a candle lit chapel. It was breathtaking. I followed the path until it opened on to a vast courtyard. It was an early July evening in Southern California. There was a light breeze and I could smell the ocean mingled with the delicious scent of food cooking. The light at dusk was gorgeous; the sky pink and blue. I paused to take it all in before joining a crowd filled with people in their summer best, laughing and eating, some seated at tables but most on their feet chatting as they moved from table to table. A mariachi band played on a nearby stage. I wandered around on my own, stopping at the tables to chat with the chefs and enjoy their amazing dishes. I devoured vegan ceviche, fat tortas filled with smoky shredded pork bathed in a rich Chile sauce to eat with two hands and lots of napkins, and a tender roasted salmon flavoured with cilantro, the inspiration for today’s recipe.
As I drove home, I reflected on the fact that when I was drinking I would have already been a few drinks in on arrival, and headed straight to the tequila tables, ignoring the sumptuous food in favour of drinking my calories. Being sober and completely present, I was able to experience this evening with all five senses. It was memorable, both in the beauty of the evening, and also because I can remember it!
This week I’ll be sharing my cilantro, ginger salmon, an Asian twist on the salmon I enjoyed at the benefit. It remains my most requested recipe usually by people who claim they “hate” salmon.
The salmon is marinated anywhere from 1 hr to all day (say 8 hours). It could probably stay in the marinade longer but I’ve never tried it. The marinade consists of fragrant cilantro, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and a few other tasty aromatics. The cilantro ginger mixture acts as a topping and a marinade. The ginger and onion sweeten as they caramelise.
While The health benefits of salmon are many, I’ve been doing a deep dive into nutrition and brain health recently, so I’m going to concentrate on Salmon as brain food. A lot of us in recovery suffer from anxiety and/or depression and can use the support that our diet can bring.
Omega-3 and the brain
Our brains are 60% fat and require a constant supply of Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3s provide well known cardio vascular benefits, but did you know they’re also crucial to brain health? In fact, the two are related. What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Vital for normal brain function and development, low levels of Omega-3 essential fatty acids are associated with premature brain ageing and even depression and anxiety. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, as well as an antioxidant. Oxidative stress can cause cell loss or even brain damage and can render the brain more prone to depression. You can add improved sleep to the list of Omega 3 benefits. They influence a number of factors related to sleep. The one I found most interesting is that they contribute to the development of melatonin, our ‘’sleep” hormone.
Salmon contains an abundance of bioavailable Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is considered an essential fat because we can’t produce it in our bodies. We must get it from the food we eat. It’s always preferable to get your nutrients from food sources and one of the most efficient ways to get Omega-3 is by eating fatty, cold water fish, like salmon, twice a week. I try to use wild caught salmon but if it’s not in season, farmed salmon can be at least as nutritious, sometimes more so. Like us, salmon get their Omega-3 from the foods they eat so it depends on what the farmed fish are being fed.
This recipe is close to foolproof and yields a filet that is sweet and firm but tender. If your salmon filets still have the skin on, I do recommend removing it before serving, in this preparation it won’t get crispy but will slide off easily after cooking.
A note about ginger
When shopping for ginger, be sure to snap off a piece to make sure it’s fresh. The skin should be smooth, and when you break it open it should be a buttery yellow and moist. The best way to chop ginger is to first remove the skin with the side of a spoon, then cut lengthwise into planks, stack them (doesn’t have to be perfect) slice lengthwise into sticks and begin chopping crosswise.
Pour the marinade over the filets, spooning the cilantro, ginger mixture onto the top.
If you would like to serve your salmon with asparagus, as I did here simply toss your trimmed asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper place on a separate baking sheet and place in the oven with the salmon. The temperature and baking times are the same.
- 2 green onions, white and pale green section only, thinly sliced
- 1½ inch long piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (to make about ⅛ cup)
- 1-2 bunches of cilantro roughly chopped to make ½ cup
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbl soy sauce
- 1½ Tbl rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
- 2 tsp canola or other neutral flavoured oil (not olive oil)
- 2 5-6 oz salmon filets
- Combine all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl
- Place salmon filets in a baking dish
- Pour marinade over filets, spooning the cilantro ginger mixture on top
- Marinate in the refrigerator for 1 - 8 hours
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
- Remove salmon from fridge, baste a few times with liquid in bottom of baking dish
- Place in oven and roast for 20-25 minutes. I like it slightly rare in the middle (22 mins)