Fish, like everything else we eat, is seasonal. I generally don’t eat tomatoes or peppers out of season. Similarly, I prefer to wait for salmon season, which usually runs from late spring through late summer. Call me a snob, but farmed salmon doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing. Consider it an annual splurge.
Wild salmon simply tastes better. It makes sense given that wild salmon eat live prey and have a varied diet, whereas farmed eat the equivalent of kibble. The wild kind is like free-range chicken: It gets exercise, so it is meaty and firm. The farmed lives in a pen, like a battery cage chicken, so its flesh is bland and flabby. Which tastes better? Guess.
The year’s first wild salmon has brilliant red flesh, a mild sweet flavor and a velvety texture because it feeds on shrimp and krill. As the season progresses and a diet of anchovies and sardines begins, the meat is a paler pink, and the taste is a bit stronger, but still absolutely delicious.
Brilliant-green chive oil adds bright flavor to the fish.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Iah Pinkney
There are many ways to cook your wild salmon. You can sizzle it in a cast-iron pan, skin-side down, until the skin becomes crisp. You can poach it in a seasoned broth enhanced with wine, or you can steam it. The easiest method is to bake it briefly, just until the juices start to appear on the surface. You want to keep it ever so slightly undercooked, since it will continue to cook when it is removed from the oven.
An elegant way to serve it also happens to be very easy. When the fish emerges from the oven, give it a dollop of lime-scented crème fraîche and a drizzle of homemade chive oil. These simple flourishes allow the salmon’s sweet flavor to dominate, adding richness and tang.
Then, dress it up with a scattering of chive blossoms (but pull the blossoms apart into tiny florets and use restraint — the pretty violet flowers are more powerfully oniony than you might imagine).
Make it a special occasion. Invite only the friends you know who will truly appreciate its delicacy. Open a really good bottle of white wine or Champagne. It is wild salmon season, after all.