While contemplating what to make for dinner at the market a while ago, the fishmonger said to me, “This delicious halibut just came in this morning! And it is in season!” Did you catch that?
“Say again, please? In season? We’re discussing fish and you used the words “in season?”
He certainly did! And, that day I learned that fish . . . along with produce . . . can be “in season.” Maybe you were already knowledgeable of that, but I wasn’t! There are more details on what I learned about that a bit further down the post, but first, here are some other important health facts to remember when purchasing seafood as well as a healthy recipe for you to try, too.
3 BEST TIPS FOR BUYING FISH
Many of you may be near the shorelines vacationing now or perhaps another time this year and for those readers who eat fish and shellfish, you will find here a few tips on purchasing it to make those dishes turn out your best and help you avoid unnecessary toxins. I wrote about shopping at farmers markets here with tips on why and how to include them in your life. But, today, I offer additional shopping advice. I am also including some useful links as well that just may help you create the healthiest and tastiest fish or seafood dinners at your house.
1. Quality and freshness are critical!
I spoke about food quality – an important shopping and cooking tip here. Your food’s degree of freshness has a lot to do with how delicious (and even nutritious) your meals turn out. When shopping, do ask your fishmonger questions like these to make sure you are getting the best:
- When did the fish you are interested in came in and was it previously frozen?
- What would he/she recommend?
- This next question may seem odd, but fishmongers are used to this next tip: ask the fishmonger to take the fish out so that you can smell it yourself. The fresh catch should only smell like the sea, never sour or give an off-putting odor.
- If you buy whole fish, make sure the eyes are not dull or cloudy meaning it is past its better days.
- Do you have any suggestions how to best prepare it? (The people behind the counter usually have lots of great tips and recipes, too!)
2. Read the signs.
Many of the more reputable fishmongers have signs for the Marine Stewardship Council indicating sustainable sourcing. Click here for more information on sustainable fish and the better choices.
Those signs should also contain information on whether the fish is wild caught or farm raised. The differences between the wild and farm-raised fish are provided here as the nutrient values can vary as well as contaminants and sustainability issues. too. See the next section below for more information on fish to avoid due to contaminants.
3. Timing is everything.
Just like the fishmonger said: the produce at those beautiful markets or from your own garden has seasons, but fish have seasons, too. Lifespan and migration patterns can determine the optimal times to prepare certain kinds of fish. Again, just like your fruits and vegetables, consuming fish that is “in season” will always taste superior. It is usually less expensive as well. This chart tells you which fish is in season and where. For example, salmon and halibut are in season now and I see sales on them this time of year frequently.
MERCURY AND POLLUTANT LEVELS IN FISH AND WHY YOU SHOULD PAY CLOSE ATTENTION
It is a sad thing that our oceans contain chemicals and contaminants that they shouldn’t. And, of course, that trickles down to its inhabitants. Most fish contain some mercury, and some contain a lot. Generally speaking, the larger the fish, the larger the amount of mercury. Also, fish that eat other fish fit into that category as well. Here are some considerations on this topic:
1. Three questions to narrow it down.
If fish and shellfish are part of your diet, the amount of mercury you are exposed to depends on this:
- What kind of fish do you eat?
- How often do you eat it?
- How much do you eat?
2. Certain groups are of a special concern.
Pregnant and lactating women, as well as children, need to be especially careful about consuming fish. Here is more detailed information on that.
3. Highest levels should be avoided.
The fish with the highest amount of mercury or other pollutants in them are below (as well as depicted in the graphic). Note on the list a favorite of many and usually a healthy choice for omega 3s: salmon. But it is the farm-raised salmon that could potentially have high levels of PCBs with more details here on that distinction.
- tuna (Ahi and Bigeye)
- farm-raised salmon (potentially high PCBs)
- orange roughy
4. Here is an important link to click.
Unfortunately, food shopping can become a cumbersome task to make the healthiest choices, but there is lots of research to help. For more detailed and current information on which fish have the most, least and moderate amounts of mercury, click on over here.
RECIPE: GRILLED FISH IN PARCHMENT WITH LIME AND CHILI
From a New England seafood bake to a poached cod with saffron and tomato, fish recipes abound. But, grilling is one of my favorite ways to prepare it and I offer one way I like to do it here. This is quick and the sauce can be made ahead.
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 inch chunk of ginger
- 3 stalks of rough chopped fresh lemongrass, tender inner cores of the bottom third only
- 2 medium shallots
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon high smoke oil like avocado oil
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro with 3 tablespoons reserved for garnish
- 4 medium-sized white fish fillets of choice
- Pink salt
- unbleached parchment paper
- In a blender, place first 10 ingredients and pulse until chopped and blended well to make a sauce. Add more oil 1 teaspoon at a time, if needed.
- Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Create four packets each of parchment paper and tin foil that will contain each fish fillet. Make sure the foil squares are larger by at least two inches on each side than the parchment paper.
- In the center of each parchment square, place a fish piece in the center of the packet.
- Drizzle a few tablespoons of sauce over each. Sprinkle with salt.
- Fold up the parchment paper over the fish piece.
- Then place parchment square in the center of each piece of foil and crimp foil around parchment packet to create a seal.
- Grill the packets over moderately high heat until the fish is barely opaque in the center – maybe 3 minutes per side.
- When ready to serve, open packets and drizzle extra sauce over the fish and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
Do you have a favorite catch of the day and recipe to share? Please go ahead and provide a link to your food blog with one for us all to try.