Is Something Fishy Going On? I Hope So!

When I’m visiting a Weight Watchers meeting room or conducting a  cooking class, and the topic is about “fish,” the conversation always is funny.  We laugh about the fact that they are always cooking the same kind of fish over and over; if it’s not salmon, it’s tilapia. Now I’m not dissing either of these two types of fish. Obviously salmon is great for you! (Florine will vouch for that. She loves it so much that I will make it for her a couple times a week for a meal or use it for in her salad). With that said, she also loves scallops, cod, swordfish, tuna, perch, trout, and whitefish,  just to name a few.

I get it and really understand the fear behind preparing fish.  We sometimes get stuck with the “stick with what I know” kind of mentality. As safe and secure as that is, that kind of thinking doesn’t hold a lot of water.  There are all kinds of fish in the sea (and in the lake), so why stick to only one or two kinds? C’mon, that’s B-o-r-i-n-g with a capital “B”.

Here’s what I do: Whenever I want to prepare fish, I make sure I buy it from a store where I know I can trust the quality and freshness Just like with meat, there can be a big difference in what you buy. I find that speciality meat and fish markets offer more variety and their product is usually superior than that of a typical grocery store. Sure quality fresh meat and fish might cost a little more (unless you catch it yourself), but it’s worth it. Knowing this, I always include this cost when I’m figuring out my grocery budget. If I have to, I’ll slash other non-essentials off my grocery list, so I can fit good meat and fish in.

During my very first visit to the market, I establish a good relationship with the guy or girl behind the counter because all kinds of information is swimming around in their brains. Better yet, they’re willing to share what they know.They’ll answer questions, offer cooking suggestions and tell you what they know about the fish that’s on ice. You can get a lot of good ideas from these people.

Once I pick out what I want and get home, I usually prepare the fish that day or the next. I want it fresh and I want it to be safe to eat. (I know, I’m so demanding!) Now the really easy part is next. Forget what you thought you knew; preparing a great fish dish is really easy. Just remember, no matter how you prepare it (on a grill, in the broiler, in a pan), don’t overcook it. You’ll figuratively kill it if you do and after tasting it,  you’ll never want to work with fish again. So what’s the right amount of time to make sure it’s prepared to perfection? A good rule of thumb is that fresh fish takes about 10 minutes of cooking time for each inch of thickness. This mean a ½-inch thick filet takes only about 5 minutes to cook. Easy, schmeasy, right? Right!

I usually cook fish in the broiler or on the grill. Both ways bring about quick and delicious results. When preparing flaky fish on the grill, I always wrap it in aluminum foil so it doesn’t dry out or fall apart while cooking.  For other types of fish, I usually use a grill basket because I hate clean-up.

Making a good, healthy fish dinner won’t require you to prepare time-consuming sauces and marinades, either. A simple marinade made up of olive oil, tomatoes and lemon juice really brings out the flavor. Three ingredients, that’s all –C’mon, it’s no more difficult than putting together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you really want to show off your culinary skills and awaken those taste buds though, add some hot pepper, parsley or thyme to the marinade.

I also like to encrust fish fillets with a nutty topping. All I do is grind my favorite nuts in a food processor. Then I hand mix the ground nuts with some parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, a bit of olive oil, and maybe some garlic and parsley.  Shake and grill (or broil.) Once the fish is cooked through (remember what I said about overcooking), I plate it and serve it with some pineapple salsa or a smoky, fat-free mayo sauce

Seriously, work with me and with fish. The possibilities are endless and the results can be amazing. Fish sticks are out….fearlessness and tastefulness are in!

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