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Seafood: The Good and the Bad

Most of us are aware of the chemicals and polutants found in the flesh of many of the sea foods we are offered at the store.  But do you know that there are still many “super green” fish and shellfish that we should and can be eating?

Green

What do I mean by “Super Green”?  First of all a SG food must be healthy, and sustainable.  “Farming” or raising these food sources must also be good for the environment and not add to the problems we already face with depletion of our natural resources.

 

Good Fish and Shellfish and Why

  • Albacore Tuna that is Troll or Pole Caught in the U.S. or British Columbia – This fish is only SG if it is troll or pole caught because these methods catch fish smaller than 20 lbs which have a lower continent of mercury and are caught in the colder waters of the US or British Columbia making them higher in omega 3.  The hard part is how to determine if the fish you are looking at meets those standards.  Read the labels or look for Blue Eco Label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). 
  • Mussels and Oysters that are farm raised – These shellfish pack a large amount of omega-3s and oysters are high in iron.  But what makes these SG are that they both feed off the natural nutrients and algae in the water, filtering the water, thus improving water quality.  It is more healthy to eat these shellfish cooked as the raw shellfish, especially from warm waters may contain harmful bacteria.
  •  Pink Shrimp ( wild-caught in Oregon) and Spot Prawns (wild-caught in British Columbia) – Again, look for the MSC-certified  Blue Label sticker.  The U.S. has strict regulations about net caught anything.  The reason being is that nets drag the ocean floors and damage the coral ref which are the habitats of most of the oceans fish.  The best source of shrimp would be from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest where the shrimp are caught in traps  Avoid imported shrimp, farmed or wild net caught.
  • Rainbow Trout (Farmed) – I know it is hard to remember that one farmed fish is bad and another good but again, look for the blue label.  Lake trout are available in some parts of the country but they are very high in contaminants.  Almost all trout you’ll find in stores will be rainbow trout which are raised in freshwater ponds and protected from contaminants being fed a fishmeal diet designed to conserve resources.
  • Salmon (wild-caught in Alaska) – Salmon in Alaska are very well managed.  Their numbers are tracked and monitored to keep from over fishing during a particular season.  Also the natural streams the fish spawn in are checked regularly.  These fish are a great source of omega-3s and have very few contaminants.  Avoid at all costs the farm raised salmon because the pens they are raised in are full of parasites that threaten the entire salmon population, wild and raised.
  • Sardines (Pacific – wild caught) – Here is one you might not have thought of.  Sardines have more omega-3s than salmon or tuna and are high in vitamin D.  They reproduce quickly and therefore are sustainable with the new regulations.

 Fish to Avoid

  • Bluefin Tuna – This fish is threatened.  Because it is still prized for culinary uses it still can sell for over $150,000 per fish.  Bluefins are high in mercury and also carry an EDF health alert. (Environmental Defense Fund)
  • Chilean Sea Bass (also marketed as Patagonian Toothfish) –the sea bass has been prized on menus for years.  That is one of the problems.  These fish can live over 50 years but are very slow to reproduce, thus making them easy to over fish.  There is only one well-managed fishery the is MSC-certified.  Look for the blue sticker.
  • Grouper – These are huge, delicious fish that live to be very old.  Because they live so long they are high in mercury and are also on the EDF health advisory list.
  • Monkfish – this is one of my favorite fish.  It used to be cheap and was marketed as imatation crab and lobster because its texture resembles lobster.  Alas, it too became popular and is now over fished.  Monkfish is making a come back because of strict netting regulation, so look for the MSC label.
  • Orange Roughy – Now here is a fish that, like the grouper, is very long lived but reproduces slowly making it vulnerable to over fishing.  The Roughy can live to be over 100 years old, so it has high levels of mercury and is also on the EDF health advisory list
  • Salmon (Farmed) – as I explained before, the farm raised salmon are raised in pens in the ocean and are tightly packed.  These pens are treated with antibiotics and full of salmon threatening parasites.  Farmed raised salmon are on the EDF list also.
These are all fish that are either over fished are high in contaminates or both.  Go to The MSC certified “fish to eat” page to see pictures and updates on the available seafood.
How to Cook Fish

Believe it or not, according to Cook’s Bible there are 9 ways to cook fish.  I’m going to give you the short course on all 9 today.  Selecting and storing fish is another story all together and we’ll tackle that another day.  I will only tell you that the best way to select a fresh fish is to stick your finger into the meat.  If the flesh does not spring back to its original shape or if it exudes water, that fish has been out of the water too long or was not properly handled.  Fresh fish are like “Friday Night Lights” in that they should have “clear eyes” also.

1. Braising – Braising is a method of cooking in a liquid.  For fish the proper cut to braise is a steak.  Saute the fish steak on both sides with olive oil in an oven safe skillet or Dutch-oven.  Remove the fish and reserve it for later.  Add onion, garlic, shallots or similar ingredients to the pan and saute them for about 5 mins, separately from the fish.  Then add to the pan about 1/2 cup of your braising liquid of choice, which could be anything from water, stock, vinegar, or olive juice to wine.  Bring to a simmer and improve the mix with capers, anchovies, olives or other such stuff.  Return the fish to the pan and put the whole pan in a 400 deg oven for 8-10 minutes per inch of fish thickness.

 

 

2. Steaming – Stove top steaming can be accomplished in a “steamer” purchased for just that purpose or in any deep Dutch-oven or pot that can handle the size of the fish.  Into the deep pot add about 1 inch of water and arrange along the bottom something like cookie cutters or cooking rings or anything heat safe that will hold your fish above the water.  We are trying to steam the fish not poach it (see #3).  You can then put your fish on a plate or pan that will fit in the pot and let it rest on the cookie cutters above the water.  Bring the water to a slow boil and put the lid on the pot.  Steam the fish for roughly 10 mins per  inch of fish.  Most whole fishes will cook in under 15 mins. The picture to the left shows a couple of nice slices of fish in a bamboo steamer.  The cook has placed ginger and herbs on the fish while steaming.

 

 

Oven steaming can be even easier to do.  Place you cut of fish on a large sheet of heavy aluminum foil.  Season fish with salt, pepper or other spices or peppers and herbs.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon or lime, or wine on the fish (about 2 tablespoons).  Then fold the foil together over and over from the top, then both ends to create an air tight package, leaving a little space above the fish for steam.  Put the foil fish package on a cookie sheet and into a hot oven, 400-425 deg, for roughly 12-14 mins or until the package puffs up.  Carefully open the foil and serve.  This method is good for fillet or small fish steaks.

 

 

 

3. Poaching – Poaching as opposed to steaming cooks the fish in the liquid but more gently than braising and in more liquid.  While braising is good for fish that has a stronger texture, like swordfish, poaching is great for light flesh or flaky fish such as salmon.  For this reason, the poached fish is more easily handled if you wrap it in cheese-cloth for the poaching.  Place your fish in a large pot capable of holding the fish and liquid.  Cover the fish with your poaching liquid, which could be water, stock, wine or any combination.  Add your flavorings, such as, lemon, lime, bay leaves, parsley, salt, pepper, celery, cilantro etc, etc. Bring the liquid to a rolling boil then turn the heat off, cover the pot and let the fish poach in the hot liquid for 10-15 minutes.  Then remove and serve.  (This is where you thank me for the tip about the cheese-cloth.)

 

 

4. Pan-frying – Pan frying fish is just what it sounds like.  I fry everything in olive oil, both for health and flavor reasons.  Put 1/2 cup of oil in a frying pan.  Bring to a med-high heat (about 375 deg).  Meanwhile dredge the fish in beaten egg then in a combination of flour and cornmeal or Panko breadcrumbs.  Some people use cream of wheat.  Then fry in the hot oil for a few minutes per side or until nicely browned.

 

 

 

 

5. Sauteing – Sauteing is best accomplished with a fish fillet in a hot pan of butter and olive oil.  A small amount of olive oil is added to the butter to raise the smoke point of the butter.  Coat the fillet with seasoned flour or breadcrumbs or some combination of coatings, then saute in a about 1/4 inch of the butter/oil until brown and crispy.  Cook quickly and hot.

 

6. Broiling – This is by far the simplest method of cooking fish.  Just brush the fish with oil or butter and cook the fish in a oven safe pan in the broiler of your oven for 8-10 mins.  You don’t even have to turn over a thin piece of fish.

 

 

 

 

7. Grilling – This is the hardest method of cooking fish.  With sticking a problem, fish can fall apart, so select a nice firm fish such as swordfish or use a grilling basket to hold the fish.  Sea foods are nice to grill.  Shrimp is easy in the shell and lobster is amazing.  The problem with grilling is the heat.  You need a med heat to cook fish, which is hard to accomplish on the grill.  Remember to remove the fish when it is slightly under-cooked to allow the residual heat to finish it off.  Tuna is nice on the grill (see the picture on the left).

 

 

 

8. Roasting – Roasting is the best way to cook a whole fish.  Place the fish on a roasting pan in a hot (450 deg) oven and cook until done, basting with hot oil or butter during the roasting process.  The fish is done when the skin easily peals off or the tip of a sharp knife can easily pierce to the bone.

 

 

 

 

9. Marinating (Ceviche) – Yes, this is a cooking method.  Marinating fish in a acidic liquid for a period of time actually cooks the flesh.  Because no heat is used, you should only try this method with very fresh fish and shell fish.  Cut the fish into small 1/4 -3/8 inch cubes and marinate in the refrigerator covered in vinegar, lime or lemon juice for 4 to 24 hours.  Combine with other flavors and serve.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your new skills.  Let me know what you’re doing – Jughandle

Refrigerator items to stock 6-10

Refrigerator items to stock 6-10

These are food items that will keep in the refrigerator for a week or more. The only exception might be the fresh meats and fish that should either be eaten or frozen within 3 days.

milk
eggs
butter
cheese
yogurt
cottage cheese
cream cheese
sour cream
meats/fish
deli meats
bacon
juices
carrots
celery
lemon
mushroom
lettuce

 

6. cottage cheese – Wikipedia defines it as

“a cheese curd product with a mild flavor. It is drained, but not pressed, so some whey remains and the individual curds remain loose. The curd is usually washed to remove acidity, giving sweet curd cheese. It is not aged or colored. Different styles of cottage cheese are made from milks with different fat levels and in small curd or large curd preparations. Cottage cheese which is pressed becomes hoop cheese, farmer cheese, pot cheese or queso blanco.”

via Cottage cheese – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jughandle uses it for dips in place of sour cream and it makes a great creamy cheese to add to lasagna.  I buy the low fat, low sodium kind even though the regular tastes a little better.  It also make a great healthy snack.

 

7. cream cheese – Most of us are familiar with the silver packages of Philadelphia brand cream cheese.  I my opinion nothing else touches it for flavor.  I’ll give you my recipe later for Cheese cake made with 6 packages of the stuff.  Cream cheese is very spreadable and it great on crackers and can be softened even more to combine with other stuff by putting it in the microwave for 30 sec on high.
8. sour cream – believe it or not, sour cream is exactly that.  Cream that has soured by the introduction of certain kinds of lactic acid bacteria.  Sour Cream is high in fat and is fabulous for dips and dressings.

9. meats/fish – A well stocked refrigerator will have the meat or fish that you intend to cook with in 2 to no more than 3 days, unless you are aging beef. (that is another story for another day).  Keep the meat or fish covered and cool.  Bring to room temperature before cooking.
10. deli meats – such as smoked or cured, turkey, ham, or sausages like baloney, salami, pastrami are great to have on hand to make sandwiches or hors d’oeuvres.  These will keep for at least a week well packaged.  Remember, deli meats are usually high in sodium and fat.

 

More tomorrow farmers,

Jug