Eating more seafood can be a key to a healthful diet. But it also can seem easier said than done. The hurdles? The people you cook for, and with, might not like fish. You might not know how to cook it. The cost can be daunting, and environmental questions can be confusing. Thankfully, each obstacle can be overcome.
For the fish-phobic: Start with mild, white-fleshed fish, such as tilapia, cod and sole. Avoid the oily choices with darker flesh, such as mackerel and bluefish. Dark-fleshed fish have more healthful omega-3 fatty acids, but they’re an acquired taste. Mild fish, meanwhile, can take on the flavor of whatever spices, seasonings and sauces you desire, and they absorb marinades in minutes.
For the novice: Overcooking can render a delicate fillet tough and unappealingly fishy, and it can happen in a flash because fish cooks so quickly – but that’s also one of its best qualities. Your job is to keep an eye on it. Quickly pan-fry thin fillets, browning them on each side until just opaque. Finish larger, thicker pieces in the oven or on the stove top in a vibrant broth or stew.
For the budget-minded: Shop wisely, control portion sizes and extend the seafood with other ingredients. Mix a handful of shrimp with vegetables, pastas, grains, beans. If the fish is particularly pricey, remember: A mere pound can yield four servings. Shop for sales, get to know your fishmonger and don’t forget cold storage. Mild fish takes particularly well to freezing, so you can buy when the price is right, with no pressure to cook it right away.
For the environmentally conscious: Turn to such sources as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and the Blue Ocean Institute, both of which use color-coded rankings online to help you make smart choices. (The Natural Resources Defense Council, meanwhile, can help you identify fish that are low in mercury.)
Keep those strategies in mind, and you can make the most important change of all: no more excuses.
Shrimp, Fennel, Pea and Pancetta Rigatoni
8 ounces dried mezze rigatoni (may substitute any shell-shaped pasta)
8 ounces fennel bulb, stems and fronds attached
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for optional garnish
5 ounces peeled, deveined shrimp, preferably 31-40 count, each cut into four pieces
2 ounces diced pancetta (1/2 cup; see headnote)
6 ounces sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup dry white wine
Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain in a colander.
Meanwhile, trim off the fennel stalks; reserve them for another use, if desired. Finely chop enough of the feathery fronds to yield 2 tablespoons. Core the fennel bulb, then cut the bulb into 1/4-inch dice.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the shrimp and cook, stirring, just until they are pink and barely opaque. Transfer to a plate.
Add the pancetta to the pan; cook over medium-high heat just until the pancetta pieces start to crisp.
Add the diced fennel and onion, stirring to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to medium; cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often, until the onion and fennel soften. Add the peas and the wine; cover and cook for about 4 minutes, until the peas are heated through.
Uncover; return the shrimp to the pan. Toss to incorporate and heat through.
Remove from the heat; add the pasta and chopped fennel fronds. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Serve warm. If desired, drizzle each portion with oil.
Nutrition Per serving: 420 calories, 20 g protein, 59 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 440 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar.
Chili-Crusted Tilapia With Corn-Jalapeño Sauté
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch scallions, white and light-green parts, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large or 2 small jalapeño peppers, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups fresh or frozen/defrosted corn kernels
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 pound tilapia fillets, each cut into four pieces
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the scallions and jalapeño, stirring to coat.
Season lightly with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring every minute or so, until the jalapeño is soft.
Add the corn and butter, stirring to melt the butter and coat; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the corn is heated through. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Remove from the heat; stir in the cilantro.
Meanwhile, place the chili powder in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper (to taste), stirring to blend well.
Lay the fish pieces out on a large sheet of aluminum foil or a platter. Sprinkle the fish generously with the chili powder mixture.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thicker pieces of fish; cook, flipping each piece to brown both sides evenly, until cooked through, about 4 minutes for the thinner pieces and about 8 minutes for the thicker pieces.
Divide among individual plates. Serve right away, with the corn saute alongside each portion.
Nutrition Per serving: 280 calories, 26 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar.
Panko-Crusted Teriyaki Fish Strips
Not quite chicken fingers, these soy-marinated fish strips have their own appeal and are a great alternative to boxed fish sticks. They are egg-free and are quickly sautéed instead of deep-fried. The coating is lighter than the traditional flour-egg-bread crumb approach.
These are best cooked on a large pancake-style griddle, where they all can be cooked in one batch. They are very fragile, so use a large spatula to safely move the fish strips from the griddle to the serving plate. Flounder or any sole-type fillets can be substituted.
Serve with roasted pineapple, steamed broccoli tossed with toasted sesame oil, and rice.
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 pound skinless fillets of flounder or similar fish (see headnote), cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup plain panko bread crumbs
3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
Whisk together the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil in a shallow dish. Add the fish strips and gently turn them over in the marinade to thoroughly coat each piece; marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Place the panko in a shallow dish. Line a large platter with paper towels.
Heat the oil in a griddle pan over medium-high heat. Working with one piece of fish at a time, remove from the marinade and coat on both sides with the panko. Work quickly to bread all of the pieces and get them on the griddle. Cook the pieces for about 3 minutes, until browned on the first side, then turn them over and cook on the second side just until cooked through.
Use a large spatula to carefully transfer the fish to the paper-towel-lined platter to drain for a minute or two. Serve hot.
Nutrition Per serving: 200 calories, 15 g protein, 8 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 530 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar.
Cajun-Style Braised Cod
This recipe proves you can lose the butter and still produce a Cajun-style dish with plenty of flavor. Shop for a Cajun seasoning mix that contains more spice than salt, or create your own.
1-pound piece skinned cod fillet, cut into four equal pieces
2 teaspoons Cajun spice blend (see headnote)
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
3 ounces smoked, cooked andouille sausage, cut lengthwise into quarters, then thinly sliced (3/4 cup)
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/2 medium green bell pepper, seeded and cut into
1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste (may substitute 2 tablespoons regular tomato paste)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup no-salt-added chicken broth
Kosher salt (optional)
Lay the cod on a large plate or sheet of aluminum foil. Evenly coat each piece with the Cajun spice mix.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, shallow braising pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the cod fillets, skinned side up. Cook for about 2 minutes, just until lightly browned. Flip and cook for 2 minutes. Carefully transfer to a plate.
Add the andouille to the pan (over medium-high heat); cook, stirring every minute or so, for about 5 minutes, until the sausage pieces start to brown. Add the onion, green pepper and celery; if the pan seems dry, add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Reduce the heat to medium; cook, stirring every minute or so, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
Add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute, then pour in the wine. Increase the heat to medium-high; cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the wine has reduced by half. Add the broth and reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, then uncover, taste and add salt if needed.
Add the cod, skinned side down. Spoon the broth and vegetables over the fish pieces to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook just until the cod is done, 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
Nutrition Per serving: 210 calories, 25 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 470 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar.
Salmon With Lentil and Bacon Ragout
This dish is full of good-for-you ingredients, so why not walk on the bad side with a little bacon? It’s a small indulgence that packs a lot of flavor. Choose a smoky bacon to maximize its impact.
1 cup dried green lentils
2 ounces thick-sliced, smoky bacon, cut into roughly 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup finely diced onion
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large carrot, scrubbed well and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large rib celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2/3 cup homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Four 4-ounce salmon fillets, preferably center-cut (skin-on or skinned)
1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil
Extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish (optional)
Place the lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with water by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low to maintain a low boil. Partially cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat a 10-to-12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced bacon; reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the bacon starts to crisp. Add the diced onion; season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until the onion starts to soften, then stir in the diced carrot and celery; cook, stirring every minute or so, for 5 to 6 minutes, until those vegetables start to soften. Add the broth; once it starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
Uncover the skillet and stir in the cooked lentils. Increase the heat to medium-high; bring the broth to a boil and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until almost all of the broth has evaporated and the lentils are moist yet not soupy. Remove from the heat; add the vinegar. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Season the salmon fillets lightly with salt and pepper.
Heat the olive or vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the salmon fillets, skin/skinned side up; cook for about 2 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn the fillets over and brown on the second side. Transfer the fillets to the baking sheet. Bake to the desired doneness.
Place one salmon fillet, skin/skinned side down, on each plate. Top each portion with the lentil ragout, then drizzle with the extra-virgin olive oil, if using.
Nutrition Per serving: 450 calories, 37 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 16 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar.By Stephanie Witt Sedgwick - The Washington Post