Summer is a great time for healthy fish dishes. Here are some tips and recipes to get you cooking.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
There's something about summertime that encourages many of us to enjoy more seafood. Maybe it's the time spent at the ocean or a lake. Maybe it's the hot grill out back, and those kabob spears that have been sitting in the kitchen drawer all winter. No matter what the reason, eating more seafood in summer is something to celebrate!
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times a week. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a lower risk of death from heart disease. And fattier fish, like salmon and sardines, herring and albacore tuna, are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids -- DHA and EPA. The AHA also notes that fish is a good source of protein, and it doesn't have the high levels of saturated fat that fatty meats do.
People not known to have heart disease should eat a variety of types of fish at least twice a week, says AHA communications manager Julie Del Barto.
And people who have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease should eat about 1 gram of fish omega-3s per day, preferably from fatty fish. While fish contain varying levels of omega-3s, that might work out to around 3 ounces of salmon or tuna, or 6 ounces of pollock, flounder, or sole, according to the AHA web site.
Young children, along with women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or nursing, should avoid fish with higher levels of mercury, like shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel, according to the FDA. Everyone else can eat up to 7 ounces of high-mercury fish per week.
7 Seafood Grilling Tips
Grilling is a fun, healthy, and tasty way to cook seafood. But it can be a little tricky if you're used to flipping burgers or slapping steaks on the grate. Here are seven tips to get you grilling:
1. Give an Inch. If your fish fillets are an inch thick or less, you can grill them right over the charcoal. If they're more than an inch thick (like a whole fish), consider cooking them off to the side of the charcoal. This way, the center of the fillet is more likely to cook completely before the outside of the fish is overdone.
2. Skin Side Down. Grill fish fillets with the skin side down, and don't worry about turning them. The skin holds the delicate package together and protects the flesh from the flame. If you want to scorch the flesh side of your fish fillet, just let it grill flesh side down for one minute right at the beginning, then flip to finish cooking with the skin side down. You can remove the fish from the grill by sliding a spatula between the skin and the flesh -- the charred skin is left behind on the grate.
3. Direct or Indirect? Indirect grilling is when the heat is on either side of the food, not right beneath it. This technique is generally used for foods that require 25 minutes or more of grill time -- which generally is not the case for seafood. But indirect grilling is also used for items that are delicate in texture, like fish fillets. If using indirect heat, try not to peek while the fish is cooking. Every time you lift the lid, heat escapes and this can prolong the cooking time.
4. Is It Opaque? White-fleshed fish fillets are usually done, but still juicy, when their centers just turn opaque. (Opaque means you can't see any light through it.)
5. Keep It Dry. Be sure to pat dry any fish fillet or seafood you are about to grill or brown in a pan (use paper towels). This is important because wetness on the surface can prevent browning.
6. Add a Coat. Add a light coat of oil or cooking spray on your seafood before grilling. This will help it brown and keep it from sticking to the grill.
7. All in Due Time. The general rule for grilling fish fillets or steaks is four to five minutes per 1/2 inch of thickness, and 8-10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness. For other seafood items, here are some grilling recommendations from the Weber-Stephen Products Co.:
- Shrimp --2 to 4 minutes over direct high heat.
- Scallops -- 3 to 6 minutes over direct high heat.
- Mussels -- 5 to 6 minutes over direct high heat. Don't eat any that do not open.
- Clams -- 8 to 10 minutes over direct high heat. Don't eat any that do not open.
- Oysters -- 3 to 5 minutes over direct high heat.
Three Summer Seafood Recipes
Here are three speedy seafood recipes perfect for parties or family meals.
Grilled Shrimp Appetizer
Serve the shrimp with whatever dipping sauce or salsa you desire. You can use an indoor grill with this recipe, if you like. If your shrimp are smaller than the jumbo shrimp called for below, it may take half as long to cook each side.
1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp (about 16), peeled, deveined, and patted dry with paper towels
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
About 1/4 teaspoon salt
About 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
About 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Dipping Sauce Suggestions:
1/4 cup jalapeno jelly, warmed briefly in the microwave to soften
1/4 cup bottled chili sauce
Salsa (like peach salsa).
- Get the grill or barbeque hot according to manufacturers instructions.
- Brush the outside of the shrimp lightly with oil. Sprinkle both sides of shrimp lightly with salt, pepper, and paprika.
- Place shrimp over direct, high heat on the grill. Grill about 2 minutes on the first side, then flip over and cook about 2 more minutes until cooked throughout.
- Serve warm with dipping sauce.
Yield: 5 servings
Per serving: 160 calories, 27 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 2 g monounsaturated fat, 1.3 g polyunsaturated fat, 200 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 308 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25%.
Easy Herb Butter Scallops
The less you fuss with scallops, the better they tend to taste. Serve these scallops on a bed of whole-wheat pasta or steamed brown rice and with a side of steamed vegetables and/or a green or fruit salad.
1 pound large sea scallops, rinsed in cold water then patted dry with paper towels
2 teaspoons olive oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon whipped butter
2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
1/4 cup dry white wine or champagne
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat for a minute or so. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and let it heat up about 30 seconds. Place scallops in the pan with plenty of room between them so they will sizzle instead of steam.
- Let the scallops sizzle until the bottom side is browned and crisp (2 to 4 minutes). Gently turn over and cook the other side until well browned (2 to 4 minutes). When you cut into a scallop, it should be barely firm to the touch and a more solid white color throughout.
- Take the pan off the heat. Move the scallops to a plate and cover with a sheet of foil to keep them warm.
- Return pan to the stove over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of whipped butter and the shallots and saute for about a minute. Add the wine and simmer until it is reduced by about half (1-2 minutes). Reduce heat to low, stir in the parsley and chives, and continue to simmer for only a minute. Turn off the heat and add the scallops. Let sit about a minute to warm the scallops and meld flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving: 141 calories, 19 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 1.6 g saturated fat, 2.3 g monounsaturated fat, 0.6 g polyunsaturated fat, 43 mg cholesterol, 0 g fiber, 203 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 33%.
Sizzling Summer Fish Tacos
1/4 cup bottled peach sauce
1/4 cup chardonnay or other white wine
1 tablespoon canola oil
About 1.4 pounds halibut fillet (preferably tail piece)
Salt and pepper as desired
4 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix (found in bags in the produce department)
1 cup salsa of your choice (try roasted tomato or peach salsa)
1 avocado, diced
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise (optional)
3 tablespoons fat-free sour cream (optional)
- Mix peach sauce, white wine, and canola oil in a 2-cup measure, then spread over both sides of the halibut fillet(s) sitting in a plastic container. You'll probably need to cut the tail piece in half lengthwise to make two good size pieces. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the fish as desired. Cover container and keep in refrigerator for a few hours.
- When grill is good and hot, brush the cooking grate clean. Grill fish fillets over direct HIGH heat (with lid closed as much as possible) until the flesh is starting to break into flakes and the color is opaque throughout, about 5 minutes per side. Break fish into 8 equal-sized pieces to fit the length of a tortilla.
- Meanwhile, add shredded cabbage, salsa and avocado, plus light mayonnaise and fat-free sour cream if desired, to a medium bowl. Toss to blend well.
- After fish comes off the grill, warm tortillas a few at a time over direct heat with the lid open for about 30 seconds per side.
- Assemble each taco by filling with about 1/2 cup of cabbage mixture and a piece of the fish.
Yield: 4 servings (2 tacos each)
Per serving (not including added salt): 450 calories, 39 g protein, 38 g carbohydrate, 14.3 g fat, 2.2 g saturated fat, 8.3 g monounsaturated fat, 4.1 g polyunsaturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 6.5 g fiber, 420 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 33%.
Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2007 Elaine Magee
Published May 28, 2007.
SOURCES: Julie Del Barto, communications manager/broadcast, American Heart Association, National Center, Dallas. Harris, W.S., et al., The American Journal of Cardiology, November 2006; vol 98: pp 1393-1395. American Heart Association web site. Weber-Stephen Products Co web site: "Fish and Seafood Grilling Time."
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