LIVING WELL: Go fish! Tips for storing, cooking
by Cecelia Hostilo, Columnist
Apr 18, 2013 | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fried catfish, grilled tilapia, or baked salmon sound good to you? There are many reasons to eat fish. It’s high in protein, low in fat, and an excellent source of B-vitamins and trace minerals. Certain fish can also be an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. The USDA recommends that you choose fish and seafood two times per week as a healthy alternative to other meat and poultry. Many people are fearful of fish, mainly because their knowledge about this great food source is limited. Let’s see if we can alleviate some of those fears!

Selecting the right fish to begin with helps to insure successful preparation. Only buy fish that is refrigerated or displayed on a thick bed of ice in a covered compartment. Look for these characteristics:

• Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or ammonia-like.

• A fish’s eyes should be clear and bulge just a little.

• Whole fish and filets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from milky slime.

• The flesh should spring back when pressed.

• Fish fillets should display no darkening or drying around the edges. They should have no green or yellowish discolorations, and should not appear dry or mushy in any area.

If the fish is to be used within one or two days, store it in the refrigerator. Otherwise wrap it tightly in plastic, foil, or moisture-proof paper and store it in the freezer.

Frozen fish has its own set of safety rules:

• Package should be intact, not torn or crushed

• Avoid packages that are positioned about the “frost line” or top of the store’s freezer case

• No sign of ice crystals which means fish was thawed and refrozen

• “Fresh Frozen” means the fish was frozen while fresh

• “Previously Frozen” means was frozen fresh and thawed for retail sale

When thawing frozen fish, it is best to thaw it in the refrigerator, allowing 1 day per pound. Frozen fish packed in a container can also be thawed in cold water until thawed (1-2 hours). NEVER REFREEZE FISH!

As a general rule, fish is cooked 10 minutes for every inch of thickness. This does not apply to microwave cooking. Fish is done when the flesh has just begun to turn from translucent to opaque

or white and is firm but still moist, or cook to 145oF as measured by a food thermometer. This is the temperature at which any harmful bacteria or parasites that might be in the fish are destroyed. Cooking fish at too high a temperature or for too long a time toughens it, dries it out, and destroys the flavor.

Remove skin and trim fat. Broil, bake or grill fish to reduce chemicals like PCB’s. Do not eat raw fish unless it has been frozen for 48 hours to destroy parasites. Improper smoking methods may result in undercooked, unsafe fish. Lightly marinated or salted raw fish recipes may be unsafe unless the fish has been frozen.

Some people are at greater risk for food-borne illness than others and should not eat raw or partially cooked fish. These groups include pregnant women, young children, older adults, persons who immune systems are compromised, and persons who have reduced stomach acidity.

If you are pregnant or nursing, or thinking about becoming pregnant, it is important that you avoid consuming too much methylmercury. This substance is found in certain fish, and can be harmful to an unborn child’s developing nervous system if eaten regularly. Fish to avoid would be shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. However, don’t deny your unborn child the benefits of fish. You can eat up to 12 ounces of other fish, as long as you eat a variety of kinds that are low in mercury. These include canned tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

Be sure and check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.

The Trigg County Homemakers will be hosting a training on fish preparation on Tuesday, May 1st at 10:00 AM at the Trigg County Extension Office. While this is a training for the monthly Homemaker educational lesson, the public is invited to attend. Please call the Trigg County Extension Office at 270-522-3269 by April 29th to register so that enough supplies can be purchased. The training is free. Come and learn more about fish!

Information for this article was obtained from the Southern Aquaculture Center, Louisiana State University Ag Center Research and Extension, Guide to Good Food,, Clemson University, and University of Minnesota Extension Service

For more information, contact Cecelia Hostilo at the Trigg County Extension Office by calling 522-3269.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

Fish Tacos

1⁄2 cup light ranch-style dressing

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon chili powder

1⁄4 teaspoon pepper

1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped fine (optional)

4 cups coleslaw mix or broccoli slaw

10 (6-inch) tortillas

3 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1 pound firm white fish (tilapia, swai, domestic mahi-mahi, or halibut), cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tomato, chopped (optional)

Stir together the dressing, lime juice, chili powder, pepper, and jalapeño (if desired). Pour over coleslaw mix and stir well. Cover and place in the refrigerator until serving time.

Warm the tortillas according to package directions.

Heat the oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. While the oil heats, spread the cornmeal on a plate. Pat the fish pieces in the cornmeal to coat on all sides. Fry the fish in hot oil until the cornmeal is lightly browned, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Top each tortilla with some of the fish and some of the coleslaw mixture. Fold in half and serve with the chopped tomato.

Yield: 5 servings (2 tacos each)

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 390 calories; 18 g total fat; 2 g saturated fat; 60 mg cholesterol; 330 mg sodium; 31 mg total carbohydrate; 5 g dietary fiber; 3 g sugar; 28 g protein; 4% Daily Value vitamin A; 36% Daily Value vitamin C; 8% Daily Value calcium; 10% Daily Value iron.

Source: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Parmesan Catfish

1⁄2 cup Italian bread crumbs

1⁄2 cup fine plain bread crumbs

1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1⁄2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

6 (8-ounce) catfish fillets

1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted

Mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, paprika, parsley, and oregano in a shallow dish. Dip the fish in the butter and dredge in the bread crumb mixture. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 ̊F for 25 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Yield: 6 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 500 calories; 29 g fat; 15 g saturated fat; 185 mg cholesterol; 860 mg sodium; 14 g total carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; 43 g protein; 15% Daily Value vitamin A; 6% Daily Value vitamin C; 20% Daily Value calcium; 10% Daily Value iron

Source: Pride of Kentucky Cookbook

Lemon Dill Salmon

4 sheets (12x18-inch) heavy duty aluminum foil

4 (4–6 ounce) salmon fillets/steaks, thawed

4 medium carrots, diagonally sliced

1 each zucchini and yellow squash, thinly sliced

1⁄4 cup margarine/butter, melted

1⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons dried dill weed

1 teaspoon lemon pepper

Preheat oven to 450 ̊F or preheat grill to medium-high. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. Center salmon fillet or steak on each sheet of foil. Arrange carrot slices around salmon. Top with squash slices. Combine remaining ingredients; spoon over salmon and vegetables. Bring up sides of foil and double fold. Double fold ends to form a packet, leaving room for heat circulation inside packet. Repeat to make four packets. Bake 17–20 minutes on a cookie sheet, 9–11 minutes in covered grill.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 420 calories; 25 g total fat; 11 g saturated fat; 130 mg cholesterol; 220 mg sodium; 11 g total carbohydrate; 4g dietary fiber; 6 g sugar; 36 g protein; 420% Daily Value vitamin A; 25% Daily Value vitamin C; 6% Daily Value calcium; 15% Daily Value iron

Source: University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service
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