Seafood is a major source of protein and is quick and easy to prepare. It's versatile and tastes good, too. Even canned fish has moved beyond salmon cakes and tuna salad.
If you're buying fresh fish, purchase it with a practiced eye and nose and use it within two days.
Start with a good fish store. If you shop in the supermarket, avoid fresh fish that has been packaged. You must be able to see the flesh up close. A recent issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter offers some tips for buyers:
For whole fish, look for bright red gills and clear eyes that bulge a bit. Avoid any fish that smells ''fishy'' or of ammonia. Flesh should be shiny and firm and spring back when pressed.
For frozen fish, choose packages that are below the freezer's frost line. If you see ice crystals through the packaging, pass it up. Most likely it's been frozen too long or thawed and refrozen.
Once it's home, store the seafood in the coldest area of the refrigerator and use within two days. To freeze fresh fish, wrap it tightly beforehand. Thaw it in the refrigerator, not at room temperature. Likewise, if you marinate fish, marinate it in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
Cans for fish such as crab meat, salmon and tuna should be free of dents and the lids should lie flat. Once the can is opened it should be refrigerated if the fish is not used immediately.
And remember, seafood is considered as safe as federally inspected meat because the Food and Drug Administration and Commerce Department oversee seafood inspection programs.
Now, to enjoy cooking and eating seafood. Several recipes follow in the hope that at least one will appeal in the final days of Lent.
Rozanne Gold, prize-winning cookbook author, including ''Recipes 1-2-3,'' has made an art of simple cooking. For Red Snapper in Burnt Orange Oil, she says she uses every edible part of the orange. The juice emulsifies into a sauce, the segments add texture, and the peel creates a heady aroma. These flavors, she says, enliven the sweet, fresh red snapper fillets with dazzling results. And only 3 ingredients!
Red Snapper in Burnt Orange Oil
5 medium juice oranges, or blood oranges if available
1/2 cup olive oil or herb-flavored oil (basil, rosemary, sage)
4 red snapper fillets, 6 ounces each, skin removed
Wash the oranges. With a vegetable peeler, remove 8 long strips of orange zest and reserve. Make sure to remove any white pith. Cut the rind off four oranges. Cut the oranges between the membranes to make segments, being careful to remove all the membrane. Reserve.
Heat oil in large nonstick skillet. Add the strips of orange zest. Just as they become dark brown, remove and reserve.
Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on both sides of the fish. Add fish to the hot oil and saute on both sides until crisp and lightly browned (you may need to do this in 2 batches). Remove the cooked fish to a warm platter.
Add the orange segments and the juice of the remaining orange (just cut in half and squeeze) to the oil in the pan. Cook over high heat for 1 minute, add salt and pepper to taste, and pour over the fish. Garnish with the burnt orange peel.
Makes 4 servings
Another recipe for fillets -- such as catfish, snapper and flounder -- is crisped with cornmeal and served with a spicy butter sauce and chopped pecans.
1 1/2 pounds fish fillets
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Wash fish fillets under cold running water and place in a bowl with milk, Tabasco sauce and salt. Set aside for 15 minutes. Drain fillets and dredge in cornmeal. In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons each of butter and vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Fry fillets until crispy and brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet with slotted spatula and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all fish is fried. Place the fillets on a platter and keep warm. Drain the skillet, add remaining butter and heat over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the pecans and stir constantly until pecans are brown. Add parsley and lemon juice and stir. Pour sauce over fillets and serve immediately.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
(Recipe from: National Pecan Shellers Association)
Succulent scallops and tender snow peas seem a natural welcome to spring. Add al dente pasta and a honey-mustard sauce for a one-dish meal that tastes refreshing and is quick to prepare.
Scallops with Honey Mustard and Pasta
10 ounces mostaccioli, penne or bow ties or other medium-size pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin slices
12 ounces fresh snow peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
1 pound sea scallops or bay scallops
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet. Add bell pepper and snow peas. Saute 5 minutes, or until crisp tender. Transfer vegetables to a large serving bowl and keep warm.
If using sea scallops, slice them crosswise into thirds. Bay scallops can be used whole. Add them to the skillet, cook, turning once, until just opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Combine honey and mustard and stir into the scallops. Add to the vegetables in the serving bowl.
When pasta is done, drain and add to the vegetables and scallops. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and salt and pepper to taste and toss well. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.
(Recipe from: National Pasta Association.)
Fresh sweet corn worth its salt isn't available until late summer. Until now. A hybrid is grown in Florida, Georgia and Alabama on a rotating basis so it's available most of the year. It tastes good, and it's at its peak in April and May. So boil some up with shrimp and cabbage for a special Lenten treat.
Boiled Shrimp and Fresh Corn Dinner
6 cups water
1 bottle (12 ounces) ale or beer
1 medium onion, cut in 8 wedges
2 tablespoons ground seafood seasoning blend, such as Old Bay
4 small thin-skinned potatoes, quartered (about 1 1/4 pounds)
4 ears fresh corn, husked and cut in 2-inch pieces
1/2 small cabbage, cut in 4 wedges
1 pound large shrimp, in the shell
In a large saucepan, combine 6 cups water, beer or ale, onion and seafood seasoning. Bring to a boil, add the potatoes and cover. Cook until barely tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in corn, cabbage and shrimp; return to a boil; cook until cabbage is tender and shrimp turns pink, about 5 minutes.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutritional information per serving: 389 calories, 30.8 g pro, 3.5 g fat, 57.2 g carbo, 199 mg sodium.
(Recipe from: Southern Supersweet Corn Council)
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.