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Turn Nearly Anything Into a Meal With This Simple Sauce


Next time you head to the market to restock your canned fish, here’s something to consider: Throw some salmon into your cart along with all that tuna.

According to Paul Greenberg, the expert on ocean and environmental issues who wrote “American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood,” canned salmon is better than tuna, for many reasons.

“It’s better environmentally, it’s better for your health, and you don’t see the issues of forced labor that can come up on tuna fishing boats when they’re out at sea for long periods of time,” he said.

In terms of health, salmon eat lower on the food chain than tuna and contain less mercury, and they are as high or higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. Environmentally, there is less risk of overfishing, because salmon stocks are very carefully managed, and they are fished in ways that can cause less damage.

Of all the varieties of canned salmon on the market, Mr. Greenberg said, wild sockeye from Alaska is the best choice if you can find it.

From a cook’s perspective, canned salmon can be used in pretty much any dish you’d open a can of tuna for. And its pinkness perks up salads, sandwiches and sauces — like this velvety, pungent riff on a tonnato, which I made over the weekend.

No matter what kind of canned fish you have (tuna, salmon or even sardines), making tonnato sauce is easy: You just throw everything into the blender, and whirl until smooth. For one can of fish (3 to 6 ounces), I add about 1/4 cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt for creaminess, and 2 or 3 tablespoons good olive oil to thin it out. (Do this gradually. You can add more at the end to get the right consistency.) Then, for flavor, add a tablespoon of capers or olives, a garlic clove, a couple of anchovies if you like them, and a squeeze or two of lemon juice (also to taste). That’s it. Because of the capers, it probably won’t need salt, but taste it and adjust as you like.

If your salmon is canned with the bones and skin, leave them in or take them out as you like. They will disappear in the blender, though you might need a little extra oil to smooth things out. You can also buy boneless, skinless canned salmon, but it’s more expensive.

Traditionally, tonnato is served dolloped over rosy slices of poached veal. But I love it spooned onto steamed or raw vegetables, where its richness and pungency are a great contrast to fennel or cucumbers, steamed broccoli or cauliflower, or the juicy freshness of sliced tomatoes. For a heartier dish, it’s also excellent on boiled or roasted potatoes.

This is part of a series in which Melissa Clark teaches you how to cook with pantry staples. See more.

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