Canned salmon, sardines a convenient source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats


Main dish

Salmon-Spinach Pie With Couscous Crust

The crust is tasty but crumbly; next time I’ll beat an egg (and perhaps the liquid drained from the salmon) into the couscous to bind it. The best way I’ve found to squeeze out thawed spinach is to press it in a potato ricer. Save the liquid to add to a soup broth.

Vegetable-oil spray

1 cup whole wheat couscous

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (14- to 15-ounce) can wild Alaskan salmon, drained

1 (6.5-ounce) container reduced-fat herbed cream cheese, such as Alouette, at room temperature

1 (9- to 10-ounce) box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a 9-inch pie pan with oil.

Combine couscous and salt with 1 cup boiling water; cover and set aside 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. When cool enough to handle, spread couscous on bottom and up sides of prepared pan.

Flake salmon with a fork, crushing bone with your fingers. Mix in the cream cheese just until blended. Transfer to the pie pan.

Spread the spinach over the salmon mixture, and sprinkle with the mozzarella.

Place pan on baking sheet, and tent with foil. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until cheese melts. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more, until cheese is lightly browned. Set aside 5 minutes before cutting. Makes 4 servings.

Source: Adapted from

Per serving: 430 calories, 20g fat, 125mg cholesterol, 650mg sodium, 29g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, 34g protein.

Lists of heart-healthy foods invariably include fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Though they are excellent sources of lean protein, our local snapper and grouper don’t qualify – balmy South Florida waters don’t require them to bulk up with fat in order to stay warm. It’s coldwater fish such as salmon, sardines and herring that fit this particular bill.

Fresh salmon is widely available, but most of it is farmed, and frankly, I’m not a fan. I don’t think it tastes as good as wild-caught, and I’m uncomfortable with the relatively high levels of PCBs and other contaminants reported in farmed salmon. The environmental issues associated with raising them are another concern.

In a “Health Food Face-Off” between the two types of fish, Prevention magazine’s website gives the advantage to wild salmon by a wide margin. The article points out that while farmed salmon contains slightly more omega-3s than wild, it also has more than three times the saturated fat – just what the doctor did not order.

Wild salmon from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska is seasonal and expensive, especially here in the far corner of the continent, so it’s a fairly rare treat in our house. Instead, I keep canned salmon on my pantry shelf. It has the nutritional advantages of fresh, plus a calcium bonus if you crush and mix in the soft bones. It’s great in salads, casseroles, burgers and this delicious salmon pie recipe.

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