JeanMarie Brownson, Dinner at Home
October 17, 2012
It's not always easy to get more fish into our diets. After all, most of us don't have fresh fish markets in the neighborhood. Mostly, I find myself at my local supermarket pondering dinner options at the seafood counter.
Admittedly, I am not a fan of most "thawed for my convenience" selections. Especially if I am not cooking the item within a few hours of my purchase. So I turn to the freezer case where, hopefully, the fish has remained solidly frozen since its harvest. Then I can transport it safely home and thaw it carefully in the refrigerator.
In addition to great taste and flavor, I want to purchase seafood that nourishes my family without harming the environment or fish populations. Fortunately, responsibly fished seafood is now available in the freezer cases of many stores. It just takes a little effort. I rely on the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch app on my mobile phone. I've given out copies of Chicago's Shedd Aquarium's Right Bite, a wallet-size guide to purchasing seafood (at sheddaquarium.org), to friends and family to help them make informed purchases.
Among the "Best Choices" recommendations is wild-caught salmon. Because farmed salmon is not produced in eco-friendly conditions, switching from farmed to wild-caught salmon makes an impact. Wild Alaskan salmon makes my heart beat faster (and healthier they say). Freshwater habitats in Alaska have remained relatively pristine, and both the fish populations and the fisheries are intensively monitored. The current abundance of Alaskan salmon reflects the success of the state's management practices.
I have purchased wild Alaskan salmon from the freezer case at the local supermarket and online. Most of it is frozen at sea, which quickly preserves the fish's buttery, firm texture and deep salmon color. Not only is the wild variety a better choice for the environment, it has a far superior flavor to farmed salmon — rich, almost sweet, not fishy.
For other seafood purchases, look for key words on the package such as sustainable, wild-caught and U.S. farmed in a fully recirculating system to make wise dinner selections. I choose shrimp and refrigerated canned crab for indulgent treats. For shrimp, read the packages: U.S. farmed and wild-caught shrimp are good choices. Avoid farmed imported shrimp. For crab, simply avoid any imported from Russia, advises the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The bistro-style salmon that follows proves suitable for entertaining. Serve it as a main course with a green salad of arugula and endive. Pass crusty bread and offer a simple fruit tart or dark chocolate treat for dessert.
Bistro-style salmon with brothy beans, spinach
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Note: Allow 24 hours to thaw frozen salmon in the refrigerator. U.S. Pacific, wild-caught Alaskan halibut makes a great substitute for the salmon.
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 large sweet onion, halved, thinly sliced
1 leek, halved, well-rinsed, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
½ cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups tightly packed baby spinach leaves or chard leaves sliced into ½-inch pieces
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can (15 ounces) white beans, drained, rinsed 1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 wild-caught Alaskan salmon fillet, about 2 pounds, cut into 6 equal portions
6 slices (each 1/2-inch thick) crusty French bread or cheesy baguette
Garlic oil or lemon oil, optional
Flat-leaf parsley leaves
1. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom of a large Dutch oven. Add onion, leek, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the wine; cook over high heat, 2 minutes. Stir in broth, reduce heat to low and simmer, partly covered, 20 minutes. (Recipe can be made ahead to this point; refrigerate covered for several days. Reheat before proceeding.)
2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Stir spinach or chard, tomatoes and beans into broth. Heat to a simmer. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
3. Generously spray or brush each fish portion on all sides with olive oil, season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste. Heat a nonstick grill pan or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray or brush pan with olive oil. Put 3 fish portions, skin side down, into the hot pan. Cook over medium-high to sear the skin, about 3 minutes. Flip; sear second side, 2 minutes. Transfer fish, skin side up, to an oiled baking sheet. Repeat to sear remaining fish portions.
4. Put seared fish into the hot oven. Cook until nearly opaque in center, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the brothy bean mixture over medium heat. Toast or grill the bread slices; keep them warm.
5. To serve, ladle hot brothy bean mixture into 6 shallow soup bowls. Set a piece of toasted bread in the center of the bowl. Top the bread with a portion of fish. Drizzle with garlic oil or lemon oil, if using. Garnish with parsley. Serve.
Per serving: 487 calories, 18 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrates, 44 g protein, 756 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.
Creamy cheesy shrimp salad
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: about 3 cups
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 pound medium-size peeled, deveined raw shrimp, patted dry
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup each: softened light cream cheese, plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as chives, dill, parsley, basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hot pepper sauce
Freshly ground pepper
Grilled toasts or small croissants
Herb sprigs for garnish
1. Heat butter or oil and shallots in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and garlic. Cook, stirring, just until shrimp is pink and cooked through, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat; cool in the pan.
2. Put cream cheese and yogurt into food processor; blend to mix. Add the cooled shrimp mixture. Pulse to coarsely chop shrimp. Transfer to a bowl; stir in herbs, salt, and hot sauce and pepper to taste.
3. Spoon into an attractive serving dish. Refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days. Serve mounded on grilled toasts or inside croissants. Garnish with herb sprig.
Per tablespoon: 17 calories, 1 g fat, 0.4 g saturated fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 97 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Salmon: One example
The Shedd Aquarium's website (sheddaquarium.org) tells us that most Atlantic salmon sold at retail stores and restaurants is probably farm-raised. And although the site reports that some farmed seafood is produced following eco-friendly practices, this is not the case with salmon.
According to the site: "Salmon are farmed in open-water netting systems in dense populations. All those fish create water pollution, eventually generating dead zones where other aquatic life cannot exist."
What producers feed farmed fish also has an impact on sustainability, according to the Shedd. "Farmers must feed (salmon) up to three pounds of wild fish to grow just one pound of farmed salmon. With more than 3 billion pounds of farmed salmon produced each year, that is a lot of weight taken from our oceans."