Kale Salad with Roasted Salmon and Warm Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette. I am SO excited to share this delicious recipe inspired by my recent travels with The Feedfeed to Cascadian Farm’s home farm in Skagit County, Washington. Plus, I am sharing all of the incredible stuff I learned about their organic farming practices, from their commitment to regenerative agriculture, to the importance of crop rotation, cover crops, pollinator fields, soil health and so much more! We are also talking about this brain-boosting, nutrient-packed Kale Salad with Roasted Salmon and Warm Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette, why frozen can sometimes actually be better than fresh and lots more!
You may remember a while back in my Kimchi Cauliflower Fried Rice Post where I shared that I would be heading to the Pacific Northwest with Cascadian Farm and The Feedfeed – hopefully you caught our amazing adventures over on Instagram in real time (and if not, you can still see the trip in my Highlights).
To fill you in on that magical trip, we spent the entire day on Cascadian Farm’s home farm in Skagit County, Washington. This USDA certified organic farm, set on 90 acres of land, was the most picturesque and inspiring backdrop, perfect for learning all about their farming practices, their approach to organics, sustainability, regenerative agriculture and more. The Cascadian Farm home farm is actually a testing ground for organic and regenerative agricultural practices, the results of which help inform best practices across our partner farm network of suppliers.
We had the opportunity to get our hands dirty in the soil that they work so hard to manage, protect and improve, for us, the land, their farmers and their community, we ate wild berries we picked straight from the vines. I played with friends, old and new, making gorgeous fall-inspired wreaths from flowers we picked from the pollinator fields and we finished the day enjoying the most incredible locally-sourced and seasonally inspired meal right there in the fields on the farm, the majestic mountains towering over us.
Most importantly, I got to have the conversations that I love to have, chatting about regenerative agriculture and why it’s SO vital we nourish and give back to our land and soil, we learned more about Cascadian Farm’s commitment to these practices – that at this point, in my mind, is absolutely non-negotiable when we are talking about the future of our planet and our food!
Cascadian Farm’s home farm was the dream of Gene Kahn back in 1972 when he took over an abandoned farm next to the Skagit River in the Cascade Mountains of Washington with with a mission to feed himself and live off the land. Inspired by Silent Spring and Diet for a Small Planet, this mission was before chemical agriculture and Gene knew nothing about agriculture so with books, research and a lot of trial an error he was led by his belief that organic agriculture could make a positive impact on the health of the planet and he knew that to make a better world, we had to encourage, educate and enlighten other farmers to grow for good.
Beyond Organic // Soil Love
Organic agriculture is so much more than just not using chemical pesticides and herbacides, with nature being a main pillar of the focus, the National Organic Standards Board, require that organic farmers protect and maintain the biodiversity around their farms, this means protecting surrounding waterways, forestlands, plant and animals not just to maintain, but to also promote a healthy and well functioning ecosystem. One the main tenants of all of this, is the health of the soil. Healthy, enriched soil contains an entire system of microbes that work to breakdown organic matter into nutrients that the plants need. Using a rain simulator, we actually got to witness the differences in soil and how nutrient-dense, well cared for, healthy soil actually retains more water, helping plants to survive droughts, minimizing run off (which takes nutrients with it) and reducing the pressure put on water resources, which is beneficial to the native plants an animals who depend on them.
Of course, heathy, enriched soil is also crucial to cutting down carbon dioxide which is one of the greenhouse gasses we know to be responsible for climate change.
Spending the day on the farm with Cascadian Farm it’s easy to see that the soil is king. By focusing on creating healthier soils, they are growing healthier plants that become pest and disease resistant, without relying on chemicals, it helps to support the natural habits and ecosystems around the farm and hopefully in turn to have a positive impact on climate change. I love that their home farm isn’t simply a place to grow food and show off their roots (pun intended), but it’s also a testing ground for different farming practices and natural growing methods, where they can learn how to better enrich soil for their farms and others.
Sustainable Farming + Regenerative Agriculture
Beyond learning about the foods grown using organic approaches there on the farm, as well as their composting practices and various other soil regeneration and protection initiatives – we also learned how different crops are grown and used in crop rotation to provide the soil with necessary nutrients. By changing the location of various annual crops amongst different fields, this feeds the soil a varied diet, and while building a healthier soil it also deters pests, by moving their targets. By working with their various farmer partners to grow foods such as beans and grains, that are actually responsible for adding nutrients back to the soil, and in turn developing new products like frozen grain and bean blends from these foods, they are also helping their farmers to improve their soil and their environment. How cool is that?
Regenerative agriculture works to promote below ground soil health and carbon storage, along with above ground diversity in the ecosystems plus holistic economic success for farmers and farming communities. Repairing the damage done to our soil and our croplands, from modern farming, is possible and it is all reversible, through regenerative agriculture farmers can work to reverse and limit the the effects on the climate. When planted and cultivated in the proper ways, carbon dioxide can actually be pulled from the atmosphere and stored deep below ground. Cascadian Farm is continuously working to find ways to pioneer and support farmers in the necessary research to implement more of these practices.
Cover Crops + The Importance of Pollinator Habitats and Protecting our Pollinators
We also had the opportunity to play in the beautiful pollinators fields and learn about covers crops, both also vital to sustainable organic farming. As we talked about with crop rotation, with different plants having different benefits to the soil, cover crops work to build the fertility of the soil.
For instance, buckwheat attracts beneficial insects and pollinators with its abundant blossoms, extracts phosphorus from the soil, and suppresses weeds. Clover adds nitrogen. Field radish sends down long roots to breakup compacted soil. When ready, the cover crops are mowed down and either left on the surface as green mulch, or lightly tilled back back into the soil. These plants then quickly breakdown, adding additional nutrients and organic matter.
In addition, pollinators such as bees, flies, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, beetles and more, work in pollinating the crops at the farm, and the predators like wasps, spiders, mites, lady bugs and more, attack crop pests – these beneficials play a very important role in the process, so having a safe and enticing place for them to live is important for them to do their work and be protected. Cascadian Farm’s home farm has a 1/4 acres of habitat filled with 24 species of native wildflowers and grasses loaded with dazzling nectar and pollen resources to attract and foster these beneficial insects and animals. Cascadian Farm has committed to planting these pollinator habitats on all of their supplier farms by 2020
But Isn’t Fresh Better than Frozen?
Finally, since a majority of Cascadian Farm’s produce products are frozen and I myself keep a freezer full of them, I wanted to briefly touch on a question that I hear often from my nutrient clients and readers, and that’s the common misconception that frozen produce contains less nutrients than fresh.
Produce that is flash-frozen is most often picked and preserved right at peak ripeness, this is when the produce will have the most nutrients. When frozen immediately, this keeps the vitamins and minerals in tact, right where you want them.
In a study conditioned by Scientists from the University of Chester, they confirmed higher levels of beneficial nutrients in frozen produce when they measured nutrient levels in various equivalent fresh produce that had been sitting in a fridge for three days (Cascadian Farm frozen produce was not specifically tested in this study). In two out of three cases, frozen fruits and veggies packed higher levels of antioxidants, including polyphenols, anthocyanins, lutein, and beta-carotene. Produce picked for fresh, is often picked prior to full ripeness, to account for travel time, and therefore they often have fewer nutrients. P.S. The bonus, with frozen fruits, especially, is these fruits are always in season for you and you aren’t at the mercy of the weather and where you live. Talk about convenience.
Organic frozen blueberries for me, are one of my favorites to always have on hand. Blueberries are such a wonderful brain-boosting superfood, loaded with compounds called anthocyanins which have been shown to protect the brain against aging (equating to up to 2.5 years for the highest level of berry consumption) in human observational studies. 1http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ana.23594/abstract
This salad is basically a superfood masterpiece, between the blueberries and the salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA, along with astaxanthin, a powerful carotenoid antioxidant that has been shown to enhance cognitive function while working to protect neuronal cell membranes from oxidative stress. It can also promote neurogenesis.
Finally with the kale (or other dark leafy greens like spinach) you are getting loaded up with lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that have been shown to increase processing speed 2http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0108178, working memory 3https://www.cambridge.org/core/product/identifier/S1355617716000850/type/journal_article and overall cognitive performance 4https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2016.00297/full.
This delicious salad was inspired by the main event at our farm dinner at Cascadian Farm, a gorgeous Cedar Planked Wild King Salmon from Limmu Island Wild, that was grilled over blueberry wood and searching with a smoky Lapsang souchong tea and Cascadian Farm Blueberry BBQ Sauce. To simplify these incredible flavors for an easy weeknight meal we could all make at home, I did a quick roast on the salmon in the oven (though you can also make my 6-Minute Cast Iron Crispy Skin Salmon, too) and I made a quick Warm Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette that brought a hint of smoke from the smoked paprika, a gentle nod at that amazing blueberry BBQ sauce.
To finish the salad, since we still have berries in season here in California, I added a small handful of fresh berries to garnish, along with diced avocado (because that’s always a good idea), a little red onion (shallots would be incredible, too) and some lemon wedges.
I opted for baby kale, but regular kale that has been massaged with a little olive oil would also be nice. As would spinach, arugula or any other greens, you prefer.
As always, if you have any questions about Cascadian Farm, my visit to their home farm, my partnership with them or this recipe, please leave your comments below.
- 1- 1.5 lbs wild caught salmon filet(s) (skin on)
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil or ghee
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 cup(s) frozen Cascadian Farm Organic Blueberries, thawed (you can also use fresh)
- 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- black pepper, to taste
- 5-6 cups organic baby kale (regular kale or other greens)
- ½ cup red onion, thinly sliced (or shallot)
- 1 avocado, diced
- additional fresh organic blueberries, if desired
- fresh herbs, chives, parsley or thyme
- lemon wedges
- Preheat oven to 425ºF. Lightly grease a baking sheet or roasting pan with a little olive oil. Remove the salmon filet from the fridge and pat it dry on both sides with a paper towel. While the oven preheats, start the Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette.
- In a small pan over medium-high heat add the olive oil and shallot. Cook, stirring often until the shallot is softened, about 1–2 minutes. Add the thawed blueberries, vinegar, water, honey (or maple syrup), mustard, paprika, sea salt and black pepper. Cook the vinaigrette, stirring occasionally and gently pressing on the berries with back of spatula to crush them, cook until mixture is thickened, about 5-7 minutes.
- Once the oven preheats and while the vinaigrette cooks, place the salmon in the center of the lightly greased pan, skin side down, drizzle a little olive oil over top, just enough to lightly coat the salmon, gently brush or rub all over with your fingers and season evenly and generously with salt and pepper.
- Place the pan with the fish on a rack in the center of the oven. Bake approximately 4-6 minutes per ½ inch of thickness on the salmon filet. 4 meaning it will be a lil rare, 6 minutes being more cooked. Your preference. Your salmon is done when it easily flakes.
- Assemble the salad, flake the salmon and arrange on top, garnish with any extras and spoon the Warm Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette over top evenly. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and a little additional sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately.
This post was created in partnership with Cascadian Farm and the Feedfeed. I’m proud to work with brands that care about the health of its consumers and the planet. As always, all opinions and text are my own.
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