On the first day of June I went out and bought an entire month’s worth of groceries, with the intention of spending no more than $100 and making that food last throughout the month. I was on unemployment, and that’s all my budget allowed me — I didn’t know how long that particular stretch was going to go on, and I wanted to make my savings last. So I went to the Asian grocery store in Daly City and came home with ten pounds of ground beef, 120 eggs, 16 avocados, 12 bunches of kale, a whole bunch of cheap fish and a bunch of salmon heads for the cats, to add to their regular raw diet so I could better afford to feed them.
The cats are pas, though, both of them, and after batting the first head around on the floor for an afternoon, they pushed it beneath the stove and I woke up the next morning to a godawful stench, and suddenly their late-night clamoring for more dinner made sense. I won’t tell you about the cleanup. It was horrific.
It’s mid-July now, and it turns out that I vastly overestimated the amount of food I can eat, because I’m still working my way through it. And so are the cats. Except they aren’t, because they still won’t touch the fish heads in the freezer.
So I tried them.
Fish heads are not something I would have ever thought to eat, and they do sound pretty disgusting, but if you’ve ever had salmon cheeks at a sushi restaurant, you’ll know what I’m talking about: the meat you get off of one is the most tender, delicious fish you’ve probably every tasted. They are also extremely inexpensive, and full of amazing healthy fish fat. Ha ha, cats! Your loss!
Salmon and seaweed soup
- 2 wild-caught salmon heads, or other salmon meat and skin
- 1 leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup dried wakame seaweed
- 4 medium-sized garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 Tbsp gluten-free Tamari
- ½ lemon, cut into quarters
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger, or some chunks of ginger root, whatever
- salt to taste
- red pepper flakes to taste
Clean the fish heads. My local market does this for me, but some places do not. With kitchen shears or a very large knife, split the head down the lower jaw and remove the gills (the dark brown things on the inside of the cheeks). Cut off any fins, and scrape off the scales.
Add olive oil, leeks and garlic to a pot big enough to fit both fish heads, and fry the leeks for about two minutes. Remove from heat. Add fish heads, Tamari, lemon, seaweed and ginger, and add enough water to cover completely. Bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour.
With a pair of tongs, remove the fish heads from the pot and scrape off all the meat and skin. This will be perilous, internet. You may wind up with cartilage in your soup. It is worth it. Pay special attention to the meat at the very back of the head — this is where you may get long thin fish bones that are no fun to swallow.
Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces if it isn’t already, and discard the cartilage and bones. Remove the lemon pieces and discard those, too. Heat again, and ladle into bowls.