Fish and seafood aren’t just for summer vacation on the seashore (although it’s great right now). You should strive to eat it regularly year-round, as it’s packed with health benefits. So today — I’ll give you some shopping tips and recipes that will help you keep fish and seafood on the menu more often.
Today, you can find a wide variety of shellfish like clams, scallops and shrimp, as well as many different kinds of finned fish, at your local grocer. This was not always the case.
The first rule of thumb is that fresh fish should not actually smell “fishy.” That fishy smell is a sign that the rich nitrogen sources of amino acids, nucleic acids and proteins in the fish have begun to break down, signaling the first signs of decomposition and “spoiling.” In addition, live clams and oysters should have closed, not open, shells. If they’re open, give them a tap. If they don’t close, do not buy them, or just discard.
Dry-packed sea scallops (not bay scallops) should be sized U/10 or U/15 (ask at the fish counter).
Buy shrimp in the shell with heads off. Shrimp are sized by the number of shrimp in one pound. A smaller number means bigger shrimp. With heads off, you won’t be paying for the inedible portion. Plus, it will keep fresh longer without the head, which spoils quicker. Remember, “fish rots from the head down.”
There is nothing wrong with freezing fish to keep it fresh. Freezing preserves the nutrient content and flavor. In fact, most “fresh” fish and seafood at the grocer has already been frozen at some point along the way (unless you get it on ice at the dock or open fish markets). So you can often find seafood in the frozen case at lower prices to save some costs. Avoid any fish or seafood that appears to have “freezer burn.”
Flash freezing preserves nutrients
As I mentioned last time, I am writing from Gloucester, MA, near where I grew up and still visit every summer. A century ago in this very town, Clarence Birdseye first developed flash-freezing of fish for the catches that were brought into the harbor every day. Before that time, fishermen relied only on ice, which was cut and harvested from the local fresh water ponds during winter and kept in large, cold storage warehouses over the summer.
Of course, the Birdseye flash-freezing process was adopted for vegetables. It’s a great way to preserve produce for later consumption. Here’s how you can flash freeze seafood, meats, berries, or veggies at home:
- Place food on a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer. Be sure none of the food touches, so it won’t fuse together when frozen.
- Freeze overnight then remove the frozen food from the baking sheet.
- Transfer food to resealable freezer bags, freezer-safe containers (make sure the lid is tight), or package in plaster freezer wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- Label the package with a wax crayon or permanent marker, indicating the name of the food, quantity/size, and date it was frozen.
- Return to freezer so that you may enjoy a nutrient-rich meal at a later time!
I also recommend talking to the people behind the counter in the seafood section. They will welcome the conversation. The fish, on the other hand, are not so conversational. (There is an old Italian saying, “muto come un bacala,” which means “silent as a codfish.” You may have heard it in connection with the mafia code of omerta, when people literally “clam up.”)
They will prep your fish the way you like it as well as perform any cleaning. Also, it’s important to ask how long your purchase is expected to stay fresh.
Summertime is for seafood
When you’re ready to put your seafood together, here are some of my favorite recipes, perfect for the beach or a backyard cookout.
Classic New England Seafood Boil
Yields 8 Servings
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups white wine
- 2 bulbs of garlic, cut in half, horizontally
- 1 large white onion, quartered
- 2 lemons, halved
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 4 ears of corn, cut into thirds (Try to find organic varieties, since most corn grown today in the U.S. is genetically modified.)
- 3 yellow squash, cubed
- 3 cups, lima beans
- 1 lb. shrimp, unpeeled
- 1 lb. clams
- 3 petite lobster tails
Note:Don’t peel the shrimp or de-shell any seafood before cooking. Shells deepen the flavor and the colors with concentrated carotenoids.
- In a large stock pot, bring water, wine, garlic, onions, lemon, and paprika to a boil.
- Lower heat to medium. Add corn and other vegetables of your choice. I recommend cubed squash and beans (the other two siblings of New England native Americans’ “three sisters,” together with corn, known as succotash).
- Cover with lid and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in assorted clams, Maine crabs or lobsters, and other seafood in the shells.
- Cover with lid and steam for 5 to 8 minutes until shrimp are pink and fully cooked, lobster shells turn bright red, and clam shells open.
- Season to taste as needed.
- When ready, strain the broth and spread food onto parchment paper or newspaper. (With most of today’s “news,” that’s about all the paper’s good for anymore.)
- Provide individual bowls to discard shells for easier après-boil bowl clean-up.
Finally, here are the ingredients for the healthy “fish and chips” that I mentioned last time:
Healthy Fish and Chips
Yields 4 servings
- 1 lb. sweet potatoes, cubed
- 4 – 4 oz. fresh or thawed frozen whitefish fillets
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cups crushed gluten-free bread crumbs (Aleia’s Gluten Free Foods)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tbsp. water
- ¼ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 cup plain, sugar-free yogurt
- 1/4 cup sliced green onions
- 2 tsp. lime juice
- 3 cups shredded coleslaw (no dressing)
- Arrange oven rack to top third of the oven. Place baking sheet on rack to preheat. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
- In a shallow dish combine egg and one tbsp. of water.
- In a second shallow dish, combine crushed bread crumbs, 1/4 tsp. sea salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper.
- Dip fish in egg mixture, then in breading, turning over to coat filets entirely.
- In a 10-inch oven skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil.
- Add fish and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown.
- In medium bowl, combine remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil and toss with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Spread in an even layer on preheated baking sheet and place in oven’s lower rack. Bake until golden and crisp, about 20 to 30 minutes — flip over halfway through baking.
- Combine the other shredded coleslaw, lime juice, green onions, and yogurt for side slaw, cover and keep chilled.
Enjoy the rest of your summer. I hope you make time for some delicious, nutritious seafood!