A Simple Salt-Salmon Pasta Salad

… Frugal Healthy Gourmet Summer Food
with Many Possible Variations

(c) 2016, Davd

The first bargain price this year for Pacific salmon “was on” while i was last in Edmonton, and i bought two fish—pink salmon, about four pounds each, dressed1, at the lowest price for quality fish i’ve found this year. They went straight from the car into the freezer.

Two good reasons for that, at least: I wasn’t about to cook them whole or cook big, easy-to-cut portions; so getting them at least nearly frozen would make butchering them, as i described in a blog last year, much easier. This is true of meat whether the species be beef, chicken, fish, pork, venison …. nearly-frozen meat is stiffer, and that makes cutting it accurately much easier.

Second, i intended to “raw salt” some of each fish. Freezing salmon for at least a day, is said to kill any parasites that could harm humans. Since fish put in a freezer will take some time to freeze to -18 [0 Fahrenheit], i make that two days: If a piece of fish was frozen for two or more days before i raw-salt [gravlaks] it, i consider it safe, salt it (about one part salt to 10 parts fish by weight is one rule; less will do if you will eat it quickly), add dill or tarragon, and put it in the refrigerator for two days to “cure”.

If it hasn’t been frozen, i salt it, add dill or tarragon, and put it in the freezer for at least two days; when it has come back out of the freezer and been in the regular fridge ’til it thaws, it’s ready to enjoy.

When i butchered the first salmon, i did make a rectangular package of “gravlaks”, salted about 1 part salt to ten of fish, which made the finished gravlaks firmer, less watery, than if it had been salted lightly.2 It still made good sandwiches on toasted rye bread (buttered lightly, with thin slices of onion) but had the salt proportion been 5%-8% instead of 10%, those sandwiches would have been more succulent… and still salty enough.

The two standard ways to eat salt-and-dilled salmon are sandwiches on rye bread, and with boiled new potatoes. Here i had some salmon that was firmer and saltier than ideal for those uses.

I also had pasta, of course, and fresh chives in the garden. A few days ago, i took some cold cooked spaghetti, added salt-fish cut in pieces about 3-4 mm [1/8″] thick and 2 cm [3/4″] square, olive oil, and chives cut 3-8 mm [1/8″—1/3″] long. Before adding the fish, chives, and olive oil, i cut the cooked spaghetti—and cooked spaghetti is quite easy to cut with an ordinary table knife or a sharp one, if you use a fork or spoon against which to cut—to about an inch long [2-3 cm]. this made the “pasta salad” that resulted, easy to eat with a medium-sized spoon3 and not that difficult with a salad fork.

Delicious, it was. Methinks the olive oil gave it just enough olive flavour to round out the fish, chive, and pasta. I wouldn’t use canola or corn or soybean oil with this technique, though i do use them to make mayonnaise. I would try this salad with smoked salmon, kipper-smoked but not Digby hard-smoked herring, maybe even canned tuna.

This is a technique, not a recipe: Vary the cut of the pieces if fish, if you like; try sweet onion, or onion greens, instead of chives; try rotini / fusilli or short-cut linguine as the pasta. I doubt spaghettini would work as well, or penne, as pasta shapes. Elbow macaroni, i don’t know—like penne, it is hollow and the air space might affect the enjoyment of the whole.

Pink salmon has a medium-light but definitely salmon taste; Eastern brook trout, especially those that go to sea in the Atlantic or Gulf of St. Lawrence, will have a quite similar strength of flavor. Salted or smoked coho or chinook salmon should be good in this salad; sockeye might be better canned or as leftover baked fish, than smoked or salted, because it has the strongest flavor of the Pacific salmon species and much stronger than Atlantic. salmon.

Smoked meat and hard salami might also be good. Other sausages? There are very many, i won’t try to go over them. If you have been following along with these Food blogs, and trying half or more of the techniques, or if you’re an experienced “scratch cook”, you probably have the cook’s imagination to go through many variations and possibilities.

You could try adding sweet peppers in season, different kinds of pickles, olives green or ripe, … and the enjoyment will vary with what meat you use, how much olive oil, … the possibilities number at least in the thousands. A good working rule is to try any new variation in small amount and when you don’t have guests to impress.

Traditionally, salt-fish [gravlaks] is eaten with boiled new potatoes or rye bread, a film of butter or  good margarine, and onion. (If you use bulb onion rather than greens or chives, slice very thin.) This techique gives you a third quite different way to enjoy it, using ingredients you probably have around the kitchen most of the time (while many kitchens won’t routinely contain rye bread or new potatoes.)

Salmon is wonderful, healthy food. Especially wild salmon.  Even salted, it’s healthy in this salad, because the saltiness of the fish replaces the added salt pasta salads usually get.

Pasta (from durum wheat, said one M.D. quite emphatically) is also healthy food, much more so than say, white rice. It’s a good thing to have more ways to enjoy pasta, and this technique is open to thousands of possible variations.

Bon appetit!


1. “guts removed” in plain language. Go ahead and visualize a dead fish wearing doll clothes, if you like, for a laugh…

2. Light salting is OK for fish that will be eaten within a few days; 1:10 salted fish will keep longer in the ‘fridge.

3. A teaspoon is rather too small for eating pasta salad; the spoons i use for cereal and soup are about two teaspoons in size. That’s what i ate with, especially since olive oil was included.


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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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