The Best Salmon You’ll Ever Make at Home

My phone rang last week, as I was walking up and down the clothing racks at Ross. There was laundry to do, three bathrooms to be shined and wiped, and handful of freelance assignments to finalize, and I was running my finger up and down the corals and turquoises and deep purples of a thousand shirts I couldn’t afford, walking slowly through racks of jeans without hurry, smiling over shoes with heels so high I’d never be able to keep balance on them.

When I saw the caller was my dear Amy, one of those friends with whom I have a deep and abiding history, I immediately rang her back, lifted the phone to my ear, waited for that familiar, “Hello, the Merrills.” It’s how she always answers the phone. Just like clockwork. Just like the smooth, comforting rhythm of waves upon the sand.

“Amy!” I exclaimed. And she nearly immediately replied, “I’ve been watching your blog and you haven’t updated in a long time. I always worry when that happens.”

I admitted most immediately that I hadn’t been blogging because I needed a little break. Becoming a single mom, the only income-earner, the primary caretaker of four children and my own self has been exhausting. It’s up early and to sleep late, the constant worry of can I pay the bills and provide for all the needs of my little people and keep clean socks in the sock drawer?

Also, I admitted the other great secret…

I’ve been in food crisis.

Actually, I haven’t been in much actual crisis in my own day-to-day life. For the first time in maybe ever, I’m finding a truly healthy way to approach food. I’m reading up on research and cutting back my cravings. I’m dropping weight and feeling healthier and stronger than ever before.

But I’m no longer eating vegan. And I’m not even always eating plant-based. I’ve started making a shift to a more Paleo-friendly diet, rich in high-quality, responsibly farmed fish and beef, while cutting out (almost entirely) grains and legumes. And I can’t believe how quickly my body has responded to the menu shift.

For one thing, my food cravings have all but vanished. I realize now, as I dive into the reality of food and how it affects our bodies on a cellular level, that much of my blogging career has actually been a journal of my food abuse.

Blogging, unfortunately, is becoming that for too many of us. Desserts are overly decadent (you’re going to stuff a cookie with a donut hole and cook it in a brownie? Why are we okay with this sort of grotesque overindulgence?), food is no longer food, and we are taking too many things into our diet on sheer heresay.

There were so many people (and documentaries and articles and books) who said vegan-based eating was the ultimate diet for my body and the planet. But a vegan diet in and of itself is void of important nutrients, and therefore not naturally sustainable without supplements of some sort. I think it’s a GREAT way to jumpstart healthy eating, but my nutrition counselor, Thor says I’ll likely be recovering from some of the nutritional depletion veganism wracked on my bones and molecules for at least a year.

I’ve been afraid to tell you that. So many of you started following Cheeky Kitchen after I started cooking up vegan eats. I don’t want to disapooint you. I don’t want to start a food war. So I’ve been hiding amongst the racks of clothing at Ross, trying to keep myself from admitting the truth.

I still haven’t figured it all out.

But after talking to Amy, I realized that Cheeky Kitchen was never a place where you came because I had it figured all out. It’s always been a reflection of my personal passion, evolution towards, and understanding of food. And it’s always been a celebration of those things, as well. After all, food is part of how I experience life. It brings such a beautiful dimension to what can otherwise become day-to-day drudgery. I mean, have you ever tried to keep the sock drawer full without knowing that you’ll be sitting down to a giant bowl of homemade Pho at the end of the day?

That’s what I’m saying. Food rocks. And though you may have come for the vegan eats, or the baked goods, or the faces on the food which once graced the pages of this blog, I hope you’ll stay and learn along with me.

Our American food system is broken. We’re killing ourselves with our overindulgence. Every time we sneak a bite, say “just this once” and dive into a gallon of ice cream, or otherwise obsess over erratic cravings, we tell ourselves that it’s normal, acceptable, and even somehow enjoyable to be out of control.

Oh, the many millions of times I’ve done just that here. I prided myself on being able to let go and let live and suck down a batch of brownies just because it made me somehow seem like a whimsical, spontaneous soul.

I still believe in let go and let live. But, I’m starting to transition the way I do those things to a way that includes naturally smaller amounts of healthy, whole, rich, satisfying foods, days full of unbeatable energy, and a closet full of skinny jeans.

I’ve had so many friends ask me about some of the changes I’ve been making, that Thor and I decided to host “Thorsdays” together for the month of October. Every week, we sit down and create a menu based on the deep-down, nitty-gritty science of what does a body good, then my peeps come over and eat. It’s like, the funnest way to enjoy a Thursday. And, yeah, I totally said funnest.

So, for week one, Thor wanted to focus on Omega-3′s fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids, and medium-chain fatty acids. Basically, you need all of them (your brain actually needs fatty acids to create brain cells) but the typical American diet is extremely high in Omega-6′s, which can potentially lead to inflammation and other negative health effects. So you need to balance those 3′s and 6′s but consuming grass-fed beef and properly raised fish, among other foods.

Keeping this all in mind, I insisted we make the world’s most incredible salmon, and Iamnotkidding. This recipe in patently unbelievable, not to mention extremely high in all the good fatty acids, and extremely nonexistent in everything else lame (like prep time, massive-long list of ingredients, processed junk, and other such nonsense.)

Also on the menu, Baby Kale Salad with Raspberries & Spicy Mapled Walnuts all coated in a Coconut-Citrus Dressing.

For dessert, I nabbed some Comte cheese from Costco, which is a milk, hard, raw-milk cheese and we served it up with sweet purple grapes and giant sips of organic red wine.

So there you have it. My totally unvegan, tepid tiptoe into new nutritional waters. There’s so much to learn. I’ve got so much to share.

Now that I’ve broken the food-crisis silence, now that I’ve gone and spilled the beans on where I hide out when I’m AWOL from blogging, I think it’s time to get real, show you what’s working for me in my kitchen, and keep on keepin’ Cheeky.

You down?

Print

Salmon & Spicy Raspberry-Kale Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Simple doesn't have to mean uninspiring. This beautiful salmon cooks up tender and flavorful. Served with a side of Raspberry-Kale, this recipe makes a healthy, tasty meal in minutes. Though you may feel tempted to scrimp at the store and buy a cheap cut of salmon, or a bottle of non-virgin coconut oil, the flavors will be dramatically increased if you go big and bring home the good stuff on both accounts.

Ingredients:

For the Salmon:
1 pound high-quality, responsibly farmed salmon (try Whole Foods North Atlantic salmon)
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
6 fresh garlic cloves, finely chopped
sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

For the Salad:
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
juice and grated rind of 1 orange, 1 lemon, and 1 lime
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
10 cups baby kale
1 pint raspberries

Directions:

For the Salmon:
Preheat oven to broil. Drizzle melted coconut oil over salmon. Sprinkle with chopped garlic. Salt and pepper generously. Place on top rack in oven and cook JUST until the fish flakes all the way through, about 7-9 minutes. Remove and all to rest for a few minutes before serving.

For the Salad:
Place walnuts, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and cayenne into a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the maple syrup boils and reduces. Transfer to a piece of parchment and cool.

In a blender or food processor, combine the coconut oil, orange, lemon, lime, apple cider vinegar, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt together then blend until pureed. Drizzle over kale. Toss with raspberries and walnuts. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with salmon and enjoy!

Food for thought. Lierre Keith was a vegan for nearly 20 years before becoming a nutritional activist. Check out her fascinating story here

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49 Responses to “The Best Salmon You’ll Ever Make at Home”

  1. 1

    Ammie on October 15, 2012 at 7:41 am Reply

    I’m glad you’ve come out of hiding and I’m delighted that you’ve listened to your body. Everyone’s body says something different and what works for mine may not work for yours. :) I cannot wait to make these two dishes!! The fish looks like it could melt in your mouth! Don’t even get me started on this salad…I am in a serious love affair with kale. Yum!!

  2. 2

    Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough on October 15, 2012 at 7:45 am Reply

    What a beautiful and honest post, Brooke, and I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for sharing. :) Can’t wait to see what unfolds on Cheeky Kitchen as a result!

  3. 3

    Ashley on October 15, 2012 at 8:15 am Reply

    I just made salmon last week and wish I had used coconut oil. I didn’t even think of that! Guess this recipe will be on the menu this week :) thank you for your wonderful post too! I feel that everyone needs to choose the food path that is best for them, and that path is found through trial and error.

  4. 4

    Alzbeta on October 15, 2012 at 8:41 am Reply

    We’ve been edging our way into trying to eat only “real food” in our little family :). It’s a slow process as we learn to balance cost with feeding our bodies what they need as well as learning moderation in oh, so many things :). It’s wonderful following your journey, thank you for sharing!

  5. 5

    STH on October 15, 2012 at 11:21 am Reply

    Oy, I’m so tired of the Food Wars. Meat is evil! Grains are killing us all! Butter is the cure for everything!

    The reality is what dieticians have been telling us all along: that foods all have different nutrients and you need to eat a variety of foods in order to get all of them. Humans are very adaptable and can get along on all sorts of weird restricted diets, but the healthiest thing is to eat lots of different things.

    We eat a plant-based diet here, but it also includes meat because I simply can’t keep my blood sugar stable without it. And my SO is a diabetic and needs lean protein as well. So plants, lean meat, whole grains. Very little processed food. The few sweets we have are made with fruit and whole grains. Real food with real nutrients, no fads, I say.

  6. 6

    Mary on October 15, 2012 at 11:47 am Reply

    Brooke, I Love your blog! I’ve been attempting & struggling with the whole vegan/vegetarian -ism with my family for a few years and recently came to similar conclusions.
    Keep the delicious recipes coming!

  7. 7

    Steph@stephsbitebybite on October 15, 2012 at 11:49 am Reply

    Oh my gosh!! This first picture has my mouth drooling!

  8. 8

    Kim Gowanloch on October 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm Reply

    I totally feel the same way!! My daughter has had some weird health issues that no one can pin point. After reading all about the china study we tried to be vegans. I have 4 kiddos too and they were super grouchy! We just try to eat healthy organic and unprocessed as much as we can. I am sending my husband this recipe to cook for us!! (he is the chef in the house) Hooray!

  9. 9

    Karen on October 15, 2012 at 12:44 pm Reply

    I LOVE this post! I’ve been reading your blog for years, partly for the recipes but mostly for your voice:-) I drooled over the baking (but never made them) and when you went to vegan I liked the creativity (but not the “fake” foods that seems to be such a large part of most vegan diets). I wholeheartedly agree that everyone’s body is different, and while some folks seem to thrive on plant-based diets, others don’t do so well. I feel that the most important aspect of eating “healthy” is to choose REAL food, not processed and packaged and convenient. I’ve found that it’s taken a bit of effort to shift my mindset to eat/cook a different way but I’ve certainly never felt deprived! I’m wondering, though, how you get your children to get on board with your healthier diet? I find it disheartening to cook a GREAT meal and then the picky eaters don’t eat a thing!

  10. 10

    addie | culicurious on October 15, 2012 at 1:54 pm Reply

    Happy to join in this journey with you. Congrats on making some big changes. Listening to your body and intuition can sometimes be difficult but it seems like you’re getting it. :) One day at a time! And this Thor sounds amazing :)

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:46 am

      SOOO happy to have you along, Addie! MWAH!

  11. 11

    Rana on October 15, 2012 at 3:08 pm Reply

    Oh, how I’ve been missing your entries. I’m glad to hear from your keyboard again. I’m just here to follow you; our whole life’s a journey, no one comes out with it all figured out my goodness, how bland would that be?! Love your style of writing and I’ll read ’til you stop. Glad to hear you’re real and working on it.

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:46 am

      Rana. Bless you. Hugs you. Thank you!

  12. 12

    Arminda on October 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm Reply

    Oh, Brooke! It’s so nice to have you back. Thank you for your candor and for your transparency. We would each do well to exercise a bit more of both in our lives. While I am living a healthy vegan life (I rarely, if ever, eat the fake substitutes), and thrive on a plant-based, whole foods, diet, I agree with so many others that we each need to listen to – and respond – to what our individual bodies need.

    And my body is practically shouting at me to make this Spicy Raspberry Kale Salad :-) As usual, I’ll let you know when I do!

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:46 am

      Arminda! THANK YOU for your kind words! And yes! Make that salad. My kids begged for it again tonight!

  13. 13

    Adriane on October 15, 2012 at 4:39 pm Reply

    Can you please share your wisdom about where to get properly raised fish and grass fed beef??? I have spent the past month trying to figure out where to get my hands on some. My grocery store is void of any good options and I don’t have the space to buy a whole cow like most farmers ask you to do. I too am transitioning from a vegetarian/sometimes vegan, and my body is ready to be re-introduced to meat. I want to make sure I give it the real stuff though. Any good reading you could link me to/suggestions regarding where to buy real meat would be super helpful.

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:45 am

      The ONLY place I can purchase it (other than buying shared in a cow from a local, organic farmer) is Whole Foods. Do you have one in your area? If so, hop on over to their meat section and talk to the super brilliant guys working behind the counter to get all the goods on their rating system. Good Luck!

  14. 14

    Danette on October 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm Reply

    Music to my ears! I love your blog and am so excited for paleo recipes as I have just gone paleo– fifth week here. Three total cheats in four weeks. I’m pretty proud of myself. That London broil recipe has me singing. I cannot wait for what’s to come. Don’t make me wait! ;)

  15. 15

    Colleen on October 15, 2012 at 7:49 pm Reply

    So glad to hear from you again! I have been doing some thinking about how our family eats lately, too. We eat a mostly vegetarian diet; some chicken and fish, no red meat. My kids are tweens and I am thinking this might be a good time to introduce a little red meat into our diets. So thankful that I live in an area with great co-ops!

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:44 am

      Just be sure you go grass-fed beef! Tastes better and sooo much better for you!

  16. 16

    Dana on October 15, 2012 at 10:29 pm Reply

    Good for you for being honest and real, although I don’t think we should expect anything less from you. This is your forum, where you write about what you are eating/cooking/loving and it is your right to change your mind! I think extremes in any direction are not healthy. It is interesting to me that you went from vegan to Paleo – just about the opposite ends of the spectrum!

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:43 am

      I know, right?! If you have a chance, you’ll have to read Weston A Price’s book on “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.” It reallly convinced me to change the way I was apporaching food! XO!

  17. 17

    Pat on October 16, 2012 at 5:46 am Reply

    Is it coconut or olive oil that you drizzle on the salmon, the ingredients and directions are conflicting.

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:43 am

      Yes! Coconut! Thanks for catching!

  18. 18

    Exhausted Mommy on October 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm Reply

    So inspiring! I know I definitely need to start taking better care of myself starting with the dood I put in my body. Thank you for sharing.

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:42 am

      Yes! Us mama’s have GOTTA let taking care of ourselves be a priority! XO!

  19. 19

    Ammie on October 16, 2012 at 8:24 pm Reply

    I just had to comment again to let you know that I made this for dinner tonight. There is not a single morsel left!! My husband declared the salmon the best he’d ever eaten and that’s really saying something! He is fortunate in his daily work to frequent some of the best restaraunts in the world. Out of this world, amazingly delicious, and so easy to put together! Thank you so much for this inspired recipe! xo

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:42 am

      Ammie! THANK YOU! It really is incredible, isn’t it?!!

  20. 20

    Dee on October 16, 2012 at 8:58 pm Reply

    For the salmon, you have 1/4 cup melted coconut oil and in the directions below, you have olive oil…which do you use or doesn’t it matter?

    • Brooke replied: — October 17th, 2012 @ 12:41 am

      Whoops! Fixed it! And thank you for the eagle eye. It’s coconut oil allllll the wayyyy!!

  21. 21

    Lisa Crockett on October 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm Reply

    YUMMO, Brooke! I’ve been eating paleo (mostly) since last January. It’s a great way to live. I’ve found some good local sources for meat, too, which is great since humanely raised meat can be hard to come by. Can’t wait to try these two beauties. :)

  22. 22

    Tarrin on October 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm Reply

    Hi, Brooke — long-time reader, first-time commenter! I followed Cheeky Kitchen for years, then “went Paleo” at about the same time you “went vegan.” Thus, I temporarily parted ways with your blog (of course, with fond associations), but I just popped in, and I’m delighted to find that you’ve discovered the benefits of Paleo-eating. My husband and I have not only lost ~20 lbs each, but our skin, energy levels, and moods have dramatically improved. Can’t recommend it enough, and I look forward to making your Paleo recipes!

  23. 23

    alexandra @ sweet betweens [blog] on October 30, 2012 at 4:28 pm Reply

    I just wanted to come out from lurking and say that I appreciate you sharing your journey[s] with us! I recently switched to a paleo-heavy diet after being mostly vegan [I couldn't give up cheese!] for about 5 years. I love your blog and your recipes are ones that are always flagged + made instantly. So all this to say, thank you. Thanks for sharing, thanks for being honest, and thanks for continuing to do it!

  24. 24

    Christian Friborg on November 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm Reply

    I’m salivating over salmon! Jesus Christ. Best paired with green salad!

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    Tasha on January 17, 2013 at 10:32 pm Reply

    I gained 30 pounds after my hysterectomy. I have not been able to get it off. Today I am wearing jeans I have not been able to wear in 2 years. I have lost 35 pounds, thanks to a paleo diet!

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