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Full of healthful fat, salmon is one of the easiest fish to grill

Tribune News Service • Updated Jul 12, 2018 at 11:09 AM

If you’re new to grilling fish, salmon is one of the best to try first. For starters, salmon can take the heat. It’s a dense fish with firm flesh that holds up well to grilling directly on a hot grate.

Choosing salmon means you’re also getting a dose of healthful fat. Think about the Mediterranean diet recommendations of eating healthful fats, fish twice a week, plenty of plant-based foods and a limited amount of unhealthful fats. In the U.S. News & World Report annual ranking of diets, the Mediterranean diet, again, was ranked a best overall diet along with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).

HOW TO GRILL SALMON

Forget lining the grate with a piece of foil. That’s not grilling. Instead, preheat the grill to medium (about 350 degrees). Once the grill is heated, oil the grate well and let it heat another 5 minutes. You’ll also want to give the salmon fillets a good brushing of oil before you apply any seasoning. The oil will prevent sticking.

HOW LONG SHOULD YOU GRILL SALMON?

The Canadians have a rule that calls for cooking fish 10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness. Once you start grilling the salmon fillets, start checking around the 6-minute mark if you plan on flipping the salmon over. You’re looking for an internal temperature of about 130 degrees.

DO YOU NEED TO FLIP THE SALMON?

You can, but it’s not necessary. The beauty of salmon is it releases itself from the grates when it’s ready to turn over. Once you put the salmon on the hot grate, be it skin side up or down, it immediately clings to the grates. It continues to cling more and more as it cooks. Once it is cooked enough, it naturally begins to release, making it easier to turn over or remove from the grill.

WHAT ABOUT THE NICE GRILL MARKS?

Although nice grill marks make a nice presentation, it’s OK not to have them with fish. You are better off erring on the side of not overcooking salmon than having great grill marks.

SKIN ON OR OFF?

Leaving the skin on, especially on the grill, helps protect the flesh. The skin protects the flesh and helps hold it together. And yes, you can eat the skin, which contains many of salmon’s healthy fats. But the skin tastes best cooked crispy.

WHAT’S WITH THE WHITE STUFF?

That’s the coagulated proteins called albumin oozing out. Don’t confuse it with albumen, or egg white protein. This white stuff, which looks unappealing, is harmless. You can just brush it off. But what it does signal is the heat is too high or the salmon is cooking too fast. Turn the heat down and cook it slow.

Today’s recipe features grilled salmon served with a nice summer salsa that includes another healthful fat: avocados. It’s adapted from a recipe found in the June issue of Cooking Light magazine. The issue is dedicated to gut health. In the recipe, the avocado provides a good amount of fiber, which the magazine says is good for your digestive tract. Round out the meal with a crisp salad and grilled vegetables.

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GRILLED SALMON WITH AVOCADO AND MIXED TOMATO SALSA

Serve: 4 / Prep time: 25 minutes / Total time: 45 minutes

2 avocados, halved, peeled and diced

1 cup halved grape tomatoes or yellow cherry tomatoes or mix of heirloom tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 small jalapeno or serrano chili pepper, minced

2 tablespoons diced red onion

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

3/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

4 skin-on salmon fillets (about 5 to 6 ounces each)

Canola oil for the grill

Preheat grill to medium-high. In a small bowl combine avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, serrano chili and onion in a medium bowl; set aside. In small bowl, whisk together lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl; drizzle over avocado mixture, and stir to coat.

Brush olive oil on both sides of salmon; sprinkle with remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Clean the grates using a grill brush. Place some canola oil in a small bowl. Wad up or fold several pieces of paper towels. Hold the paper towels with long tongs and dip them into the canola oil. Rub the grates with the oil-soaked paper towels. Close lid and what 5 minutes. This will help the salmon skin crisp and not stick to the grates.

Place salmon, skin side down, on grill. Cook about 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Carefully loosen salmon from the grates and flip. Continue grilling until salmon is opaque and cooked through. about another 3 minutes. Serve salmon topped with salsa.

Adapted from Cooking Light magazine June issue.

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

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