Something Fishy? Yes, please
October is National Seafood Month, at least in the USA. (I understand ‘seafood’ to include both shellfish and fresh fish).
Started in the 1940s by the National Fisheries Institute, National Seafood Month was originally a week-long event, but evolved into a month-long festival in the 1950s as a way of trying to encourage people to prepare more seafood.
It has long been realized that seafood is an important part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, but many people (especially in parts of the USA) seemed to have an aversion for fish, especially if it looked and tasted like fish. So, they would heavily coat it, deep fry it and serve it with highly flavored, high-calorie sauces, thereby negating most or all of the benefits. Recent studies confirm that eating fish or seafood helps lower the risk of heart disease, for example. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week as part of an overall healthy eating pattern. We are told facts such as: cold-water, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, lake trout and albacore tuna contain the highest concentration of healthful omega-3 fatty acids; and shrimp, lobster, clams, oysters and fresh water fish are another significant source. The Association is also trying to promote cooking the seafood in different, more healthy, ways. It’s important to use the best cooking methods—baking, broiling, grilling, microwaving and sautéing in just a little olive oil. Deep-frying adds calories and saturated fats, and extremely high cooking temperatures destroy omega-3s. Poaching and steaming are also good.
Many grocery stores have a special seafood feature during the month of October, with colorful informational boards, reduced prices on a lot of their seafood, and many delicious recipes. More and more restaurants around the country also offer seafood special dishes during October and some well-known chefs even hold classes, to show people how to achieve the best results using this bounty from the sea (and fresh water too). For example, you can steam fish or shrimp in beer or wine, and then add garlic and your favorite herbs. For an Asian-type dish add lemon grass, ginger and green onions. For a dish with European flair, poach the seafood in white wine and slices of lemon. These poaching or steaming methods add flavor without adding fat.
However, a relatively new issue linked with eating seafood is the question of sustainability. As more people become aware of the benefits of eating seafood, the number of species that are being over-fished and becoming endangered is increasing. So, many restaurants are trying to find the balance between offering good, healthy menu items and using sustainable species of seafood. Sometimes, they have to be creative in getting people to try other new dishes using seafood that is not endangered. I found an interesting blog about restaurants in the UK that think sustainably/or not. Go to www.fish2fork.com/blog
Our family loves seafood, so serving it two or three times a week is no problem. We find it very versatile and have discovered countless ways to prepare it. We love going to local markets that have fresh seafood, usually armed with a shopping bag and a camera. We had an especially wonderful time when we lived in Paris for 6 months, as our small neighborhood market carried a great selection of seasonal seafood. We discovered many different types of fish, all sizes of oysters (huitres), and the marvelous Coquilles St Jacques (large scallops with their sac still attached). I haven’t been able to find these scallops here in Illinois, but most recipes do fine with the sac-less scallops. I won’t give recipes here, but what about some of these ideas:
—Make fish tacos. Grill or steam your favorite fish, mix it with fresh cilantro, olives, vegetables such as green onions, sliced cucumber and tomatoes, and a light olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, then wrap it in a soft-shell tortilla;
—Use smoked salmon in sandwiches and in salads;
—Make more salads using tuna or shrimp, like the many wonderful French salads composées;
—Use leftover cooked fish in scrambled eggs, or in a quiche or a frittata for a tasty brunch.
Just Be Fishy!