January 20, 2013

Wild sockeye salmon poached in green tea

I've had salmon on the brain lately. And not in a good way. 

In case you haven't heard, the FDA is on the brink of approving the first ever genetically engineered (GE) animal for human consumption: a supersized salmon with growth hormone genes inserted into its DNA, making it grow twice as fast as conventional salmon. This new franken-salmon won't be labeled, so we'll have no way of differentiating it from conventional salmon at the grocery store. Thankfully, the FDA is required to consider public opinion before making an approval. So if enough of us speak up, we have the power to stop this. If you only sign one petition this week, please make it be this one from Avaaz. As I write this, the petition has gathered 717,823 signatures. Let's get it to 1 million, please share it on your facebook page and tweet it. Or even better, call the White House directly (202) 456-1111 and tell President Obama you don't want to eat genetically engineered salmon.

As always, when I feel discouraged about this crazy world we're living in, I console myself with food. And this weekend, I really needed to knock my own socks off and get happy about salmon again. So here's what I made: wild sockeye salmon poached in green tea, served on a broccoli ginger fritter with a poached egg and miso hollandaise. 

My dear food-loving and miso-obsessed friend Steven (aka Jojo) came over and happily gobbled this up with me. It was a lovely Sunday afternoon brunch.

It was especially a pleasure eating this dish since I don't eat salmon very often. The high price of wild sockeye salmon and the fact that stocks in some areas are depleted and at risk keeps it in the category of "very occasional treats" for me, and I don't really eat any other type of salmon since most salmon that is readily available for sale is farmed. Fox News (of all places!) actually had a great explanation of why to avoid farmed salmon in its article entitled 7 Foods You Should Never Eat. Here's a little excerpt:
Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT... There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.
Why are we humans so obsessed with tampering with what nature already makes perfectly? What is UP with us?! 

Before we get to the actual recipe, my GE rant is still not quite done, so please bear with me. Because what really frustrates me is that the big money biotech PR machine is getting its panties all in a knot right now to get the public onboard this whole GE salmon thing. But let's be clear about a few things, and just debunk some of the myths that they are spreading out there before we make a giant mistake.

MYTH #1 - GE salmon is perfectly safe for humans to eat
Nobody knows for sure whether GE salmon is safe to eat in the long term because the only studies to substantiate this claim come from the company that created them. They stand to make millions in profits. These studies are not independent science and the government has done no safety studies of its own. To say that the FDA's decision will be science-based is a farce. Especially given that the FDA has ex-Monsanto executives at its helm and an embarrassing little habit of ignoring its own scientists' warnings and concerns. 

MYTH #2 - GE salmon will feed the world
The idea that GE salmon will "feed the world" as the biotech industry claims, is naive and misleading. Fish farming, whether genetically engineered or not, is generally not very sustainable. In 2006, the aquaculture industry consumed almost 90% of small prey fish such as sardines, anchovies, and herring captured worldwide. These small fish are a major food source for marine wildlife, as well as the number one protein source for many cultures around the world. In fact, these smaller fish are in many instances the best fish for all of us to be consuming since they are lower on the food chain and contain less mercury and toxic chemical than larger fish species. According to Food and Water Watch, GE salmon will require about 5 times as much feed as non-GE salmon, thus accelerating the decline of available fish in lower-income countries.

MYTH #3 - GE salmon will be contained and will not escape into the wild
Scientists say that even if only a few of these GE salmon accidentally escape into the wild, within 40 generations wild fish stocks could be decimated. As in, extinct. As it stands now, hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon escape into the wild each year. And even AquaBounty, the company that developed and patented this GE salmon, admits that "no single containment measure can be assured of 100% effectiveness."AquaBounty claims that the GE salmon will be sterile and therefore in the case of an escape, unable to reproduce and intermix with wild fish. Sounds reassuring at first, but upon further investigation, it turns out the company's batch testing only needs to show an above 95% sterility rate, meaning hundreds of thousands of fertile eggs will be able to slip by unnoticed. In fact, AquaBounty's plan is to test only 200 eggs per batch of 100,000 to 200,000 eggs, so they'll only actually be testing 1% of the eggs. Even the FDA has called AquaBounty's claim to raise only sterile fish "potentially misleading". 

And now my rant is done, because I need to go to bed, so I leave you in peace dear reader, to go forth and poach some delicious (and hopefully not farmed) salmon. And if you want to know more about the dangers behind GE fish, this is a great starting place

My mom used to often poach fish to tender, melt-in-your-mouth perfection but I had never done it myself. Which is weird since it's probably the easiest, quickest, and healthiest way to cook fish.

Here's what you'll need for this recipe:
3 cups strong green tea (I threw in a few whole cloves and star anise, for the heck of it. But you can throw in whatever is fragrant and inspires you: lemon, honey, mint, or even sake would be mmm nice)
1 fillet of fresh wild salmon (cut in sizes that will fit your saucepan)

Bring the tea to a gentle boil in a small to medium saucepan and drop in the salmon, skin and all. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on size. It can cook very fast so watch it carefully as it is best to err on the side of undercooking rather than overcooking. If it is undercooked, you can always throw it in for an extra minute or two. My mom would always allow the very centre of the fish stay bright red, almost raw. Julia Child explains poaching as follows: “Fish is done when the flesh has turned from translucent to opaque and, rather than feeling squashy to the touch like raw fish, it feels lightly springy. It should still be juicy. Fish that is resistant and flaky is overdone – too bad!”

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Will make 4 to 5 medium-sized fritters

1 small to medium broccoli (3 cups chopped)
1 large egg
1/2 cup flour (I used a gluten-free mix of rice & tapioca flours)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 finely chopped clove of garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 green onions, finely chopped 
Salt & pepper to taste
Olive oil for frying

Steam your chopped broccoli for a good 6 to 7 minutes. It should be tender but not mushy, and still maintain its vibrant green colour. (I made the mistake of undercooking the broccoli the first time I made these, but the fritters will be better if the broccoli is well cooked, though still green, and finely chopped). Drain the broccoli, cool it slightly, and chop it very finely into small pieces.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg and ginger, garlic, green onions, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl mix the flour and baking powder together. Mix the flour into the egg mixture until uniform and add the broccoli. Mix fully.

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet and when the oil is hot, drop about 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet and flatten to about 1/2 inch thick. Even if it doesn't look like it, the batter will hold together, don't worry. Once it is golden, flip over the fritter and cook the other side for about 2 minutes or until crispy and golden. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
2 tbsp. butter
1/3 cup white miso (if it is a soy-based miso, be sure to get the non-GMO or organic stuff)
2 tbsp tapioca flour (or organic / non-GMO cornstarch)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 egg yolk
1 3/4 cup water (or vegetable broth)
Salt and pepper to taste

Fry up the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until golden and soft. Add the garlic and 1 of the 2 tbsps of butter. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the miso and stir well. Add 3/4 cup water and stir until uniform. Remove from heat and blend with a hand blender until smooth. Return to medium heat and mix in 1 more cup of water. In a small bowl, take about 1/2 cup of your sauce and stir in the tapioca flour / cornstarch until dissolved. Whisk in the egg yolk and add the lemon juice. Mix well and pour this into the saucepan while whisking vigorously. Add the last tbsp of butter. Continue whisking and cooking the sauce for a few more minutes until the hollandaise has thickened. Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer to obtain a silky smooth sauce.

In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil about 6 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of vinegar. Gently crack the eggs into the water. Turn off the heat and cover. Let the eggs sit for about 4 to 5 minutes, depending on how soft you want the yolks. Remove with a slotted spoon.

I sprinkled broccoli microgreens on my plate (very easy to grow! click here), placed a fritter in the middle, gently pulled apart some salmon to lay on top, added my poached egg, and drenched the whole thing with miso hollandaise. Topped if off with a few more microgreens and voila.


  1. Very nice. I love the way you garnish your dish.

  2. My sister-in-law just found out about your site in the Edible Toronto magazine (she lives in Kitchener), and sent me the link. My husband and I live in Montreal and have toyed around with a food blog, www.thegrilledpeach.com. Mainly I don't have enough time to post as often as I'd like, but I've also had a hard time tying in my political/environmental concerns/views into my posts. I'm afraid of being patronizing, preachy, etc... (you'll see the section 'Food culture' on our blog needs more content.) But I think you're doing and incredible job and I am very inspired!! Thank you :)

    1. Hi Brooke, thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you found me via Edible Toronto :-) Your blog looks packed with great recipes, I'll be sure to visit it again. Yes, it's for sure hard to talk about environmental issues without clobbering people over the head and making an annoyance of oneself sometimes so I appreciate the encouragement, thanks so much! :-)

  3. Very nice, I think I will try something like this one this weekend. Can I use tulsi herb rather than a green tea leaves? Will it ruin the entire dish or it is just fine as well?

    1. Hi Hanna, I think tulsi could work very well, if you really like it, it' such a fragrant herb that it has the potential to be overpowering, but I don't think so... only one way to find out: try it (and let me know how it turns out! :-) ... to be honest the green tea flavour did not really come through very much in the poaching, if at all, but I found that the star anise flavour did, so I more potent herbs / spices (such as tulsi) will definitely impart more flavour to the dish. I'm a big tulsi fan, I grew a huge patch of it last summer and planning to do so again this summer :-)

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  5. Actually green tea is an wonderful remedy for making your health fit & perfect, if you have using ayurvedic its a added taste to drink so that green tea brand also increased in India, Thanks for this wonderful recipe. I will try it.

  6. Nice recipe with good ideas. Do you try the green tea? The world is well versed with green tea health benefits as it is a good combination of healthy ingredients and exquisite flavors. So buy green tea online India and enjoy its unique taste and texture.

  7. it's very great recipe i will try in my next weekend

  8. green tea is very good for health and wild sockeye salmon poached in green tea is looking nice recipe will try it


  9. It looks delecious. thank's for your sharing