By Nancy Sweet, director, culinary programs and operations at LLCC
I’ve been cooking more fish recently. I’m not sure if this has happened for more health-conscious reasons or if it’s just because I really like fish. But, I think cooking fish often can be something people shy away from. Maybe because they think it’s too hard to choose what kind or maybe because they are not sure of proper cooking methods or maybe they think it leaves an odor in the house. However, I have several tips and recipes that might help overcome these hesitations.
Salmon, flounder, tilapia, cod and catfish are all popular fish choices that can easily be found in the Springfield area. Normally, being completely land-locked, most fish we see here is or has been frozen. But, with consumers’ knowledge and palates demanding more fresh fish, along with improvements in supply side efficiencies, we are seeing more and more fish available here. Fish labeled fresh at the store can be anywhere from one day to two weeks old. To make them stay fresh this long, large fishing boats that are out to sea for two weeks keep the fish on ice to sell fresh. However, frozen-at-sea fish (FAS) is a great option. This fish is flash-frozen while still at sea and when thawed can be almost as good as fresh fish.
There are also considerations in terms of sustainability. Because the demand for seafood has risen and because the technologies that allow us to harvest it have improved so much, the rate at which fish are depleting from waters is growing more quickly. To combat this, consumers need to be knowledgeable of sustainable fishing practices when purchasing their fish. Certain types of harvesting methods such as dredging, trawling, longlining and purse seining can be very destructive to habitats such as the sea floor and can catch unwanted fish and marine life that end up dying needlessly. More environmentally friendly harvesting methods include pole catching, harpooning, traps and trolling.
In terms of farm raised or wild fish, the difference is just as you might imagine: farm fish are grown in an enclosed, underwater, controlled “farm” whereas wild fish are caught in their natural habitats by fishermen. Interestingly, by 2030, estimates suggest that two thirds of seafood will be farm-raised. But, both have pros and cons. Farm fishing combats overfishing of wild seafood and usually leaves a smaller carbon footprint in terms of transportation costs. However, disease or pollution can spread from certain types of farmed seafood and some fish, like salmon, are fed ground up smaller fish, which does not promote sustainability. The best way to determine what is best for you is to keep reading to learn more on the subject, including the most recent concerns, and ask questions at the fish counter.
“Grilled” Salmon with Salsa Verde
This recipe cooks the salmon in a cast iron skillet. You can cook it on your stove top or just put the pan right on your grill outside over high heat.
*4, 5 ounce salmon filets
*1 tablespoon olive oil
*salt and pepper for seasoning
To cook salmon, heat a pan over high heat, either on the stovetop or outside on a grill. Add oil and let oil heat up. Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper. Add salmon to pan and let sear on one side about 2 minutes. Turn and let sear another 2 minutes. Carefully squeeze lemon juice on top of fish. If cooking indoors, put into a 400 degree oven and let cook another 2-3 minutes or until almost cooked through. Otherwise just close the grill lid and finish the cooking there.
This is the Italian version of salsa verde, or simply translated, “green sauce.” Fresh and acidic, it is great to cut the richness of salmon.
*2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
*4 cups fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley (from about 2 large bunches)
*1 garlic clove
*3 anchovy fillets
*1 TBS drained capers
*2 tsp Dijon mustard
*1 to 1 and 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
*Salt and Pepper to taste
Add vinegar, parsley, garlic, anchovy fillets, capers and mustard to a food processor. Process until fairly broken down. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while processor is running. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
Baked Flounder with Lemon Curry Butter
Adapted from The New York Times
*4 tablespoons butter
*4 garlic cloves, minced
*1 ½ teaspoons thyme leaves, minced
*1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
*1 ½ teaspoons ginger, minced
*1 teaspoon lemon zest,
*1 teaspoons salt
*1/2 teaspoon black pepper
*4, 5-6 ounces flounder fillets
*lemon wedges from above lemon
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in garlic, thyme, curry powder, ginger and ¼ teaspoon salt and let cook about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest.
Season fish with remaining salt and pepper and place on rimmed baking sheet. Pour sauce over fish and cook is flaky and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve with lemon.
Cod with Tomatoes, Olives, and Capers
Adapted from The Food Network
*4 teaspoons olive oil
*4, 5-6 ounce portions of cod
*1 small onion, diced
*2 garlic cloves,
*1/2 cup white wine
*1 cup diced tomatoes with juice
*1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
*1 tablespoon capers
*1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
*2 cups spinach
*salt and pepper
*2/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil over medium high heat. Season fish with salt and pepper and sear in pan about 2 – 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan, place on a plate, and tent with foil to keep warm.
Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in the same pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers and crushed red pepper and cook on medium for about 3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 more minutes. Nestle fish back into sauce just to rewarm and serve fish with sauce. Top with crumbled feta cheese and serve.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts/