Fish is an essential part of the human diet. Aside from being an excellent source of protein, fish is easy to digest and has a yard-long list of healthy attributes. Fish, particularly fatty fish like wild salmon and mackerel, contains high levels of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, known as EPA and DHA. Countless studies indicate that omega-3s promote optimal health by strengthening the immune system, lowering blood pressure, and positively affecting the nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Fish is also a rich source of vitamin D with its anti-cancer and bone-building benefits; astaxanthin, a carotenoid-class antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory qualities; and selenium, an essential mineral.
A common misconception is that it can be difficult to cook fish well, so home cooks tend to play it safe and stick to the more familiar fare of red meat and poultry. Fish, however, is actually easier to cook than its walking and flying protein counterparts, needing just a brief period of heat to cook it to perfection. If you’ve been turned off by overcooked, rubbery fish, or undercooked, watery flesh, don’t give up. All it takes is a little practice to walk that fine line.
The goal of this article is to provide you with simple recipes and preparations for healthy, easy fish: easy to source — salmon, cod, halibut, shrimp and scallops — and easy to prepare. With these types, there aren’t a lot of bones to contend with, and they are readily available both in the frozen-food section of the market, as well as at the fish counter in larger grocery stores when they’re in season. Numerous mail-order companies also supply sustainable, wild and responsibly caught seafood if you’re willing to pay for that convenience (an excellent source is Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics).
Read more about cooking fish and learn how to successfully catch and can it:
— Rinse fish in cold, clean water. Pat dry with paper towels.
— Combine herbs and spices with a little extra-virgin olive oil and marinate the fish, refrigerated, for 30 to 60 minutes, or overnight. Or, brush the fish with olive oil and dust with seasonings just before cooking.
— Cook in a medium-hot pan with butter or olive oil, under a broiler, or on the grill for 7 to 8 minutes, until only the center is just undercooked and slightly translucent.
— Remove fish from heat and let it rest for another 2 to 3 minutes (it will continue cooking) before serving.
— When cooking skin-on fish like salmon (in the oven or on the grill), place it on a sheet of aluminum foil and do not grease. Once cooked, the skin will stick to the foil and the flesh will separate easily from the skin, making cleanup a snap.
If you love lobster macaroni and cheese, which can sometimes be found on restaurant menus, make a version of it at home. Just add a few chopped raw scallops to your favorite homemade macaroni and cheese recipe for an indulgent, protein-packed dish. While you’re at it, why not also add some chopped spinach or chard for a healthy dose of greens?
Karen K. Will is editor of Heirloom Gardener magazine, and co-author, along with Editor-in-Chief Oscar H. Will III, of Plowing With Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions (New Society Publishers, 2013).
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