Learning to Love Seafood
There's no food that's quite as polarizing as seafood. For some, it's a whole rainbow of delicious options, and for others it means off-putting smells, tastes, and flavours (not to mention, a sad-looking can of watery tuna). However, fish can be an incredibly nutritious and valuable addition to your list of dinner options if prepared correctly. For example, 3 ounces of either halibut, cod, or sole has a value of 1 SmartPoint and while salmon comes in at a slightly higher 3 SmartPoints per 3 ounces, it includes a large amount of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Generally, people who dislike fish have had the unpleasant experience of eating it when it's not fresh and when it hasn't been prepared properly which are all good reasons to declare a dislike of seafood. The following tips will walk you through selecting fish so that you can cook it with confidence, knowing that it will be a boon for your healthy eating plan as well as a pleasant experience for your senses.
The key to selecting great seafood lies in visiting a fishmonger who has a good reputation for fresh products that are also environmentally sustainable (ask your fishmonger about when they get their fish and look for the OceanWise symbol when making your selection). Lela McMurray, a fishmonger at Vancouver's Fresh Ideas Start Here says that generally speaking, fish that are in-season will be much fresher than those caught out of season. For example, she says that "white fish seems to be less fishy, but because you need to buy local and sustainable that limits the options on the West coast to black cod, ling cod and halibut ... but halibut fishing takes 3 days, so by the time the fish gets to the store it may already start to smell." She also adds that you can always ask to smell the fish before buying if you're unsure!
Use citrus to combat fishy smells and flavours
To reduce that fishy smell and taste when preparing fish Lela suggests offsetting them with citrus; she explains "the smell comes from warring amines in the fish... the best way to neutralize that is with acids." Try cooking your fish with lemons, oranges, or limes, experimenting with different kinds of citrus fruit as they're seasonally available. Lela's favourite way to prepare fish is to cook it en papillote (French for "in parchment"), cut out a large circle of parchment paper and place the fish of your choice on a bed of sliced lemons, drizzle some olive oil over the fish, top with some more lemon slices, fresh sprigs of thyme, finishing with salt and pepper. Fold the parchment over and tightly roll up the edges to form a seal then bake in a hot oven for 8-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Fish poached in white wine with lemon slices and grilled fish with orange and lime are also excellent ways to undercut the fishy smell without adding any extra fat to your meal.
Don't be afraid to get fatty
When it comes to fish and fat, the fattier the fish the higher in naturally occurring Omega-3s, essential fatty acids that are hugely important for brain and heart health. Since fat is a large carrier of flavour, these are the types of fish that tend to have a fishier smell and taste. For those on the West coast looking for sustainable options, Lela recommends sockeye salmon. Alternately, farmed steelhead trout is also recognized in the OceanWise program as being a sustainable choice. Try cooking salmon or trout with other big flavours; a marinade made of soy sauce, orange juice, honey and chili paste will distract from any overly fishy flavours. Odd as though it may seem, raw salmon in the form of sashimi has a clean flavour and odor as long as its extremely fresh and has been previously frozen to destroy bacteria. You'll never notice any traces of an oily fishiness when your mouth is also full of wasabi paste and pickled ginger!
Change your mind about shellfish
Shellfish is another great option for those looking to broaden their cooking repertoire. Shrimp, scallops, crab and lobster all have a value of 1 SmartPoint for every 3 ounces of lump meat and contain high amounts of protein and low amounts of fat. As with fish, freshness is key. Shellfish should have a slightly sweet and briny smell, it’s important to avoid any shellfish with a strong fishy smell. Shrimp can be added to everything from pad thai to salads to pasta, while scallops are wonderful pan-seared or in ceviche (when making ceviche insist on buying nothing but the freshest shellfish). If the thought of buying and taking apart entire crabs and lobsters doesn't appeal, buy good quality lump meat and make Cajun Crab Cakes for an appetizer or entree that's guaranteed to make everyone happy.