Healthy Cook: Serving up fresh fish that the whole family will enjoy

GETTING MY FAMILY to like fish was a hard sell. The youngsters were not too bad, but the adults … My wife used to say (and I quoted her in a review) … “ ‘Fish’ and ‘good’ don’t belong in the same sentence.” Her dad pronounced it “Fishhhhh” with a lilt of disdain.

My father, on the other hand, was from many generations of fishermen in Newfoundland. If it swam, he liked it. That’s probably where my love of seafood came from. Plain (as in raw), poached, pan-fried, or pickled — makes no difference to me.

No matter how you choose to cook it, you have to have fresh fish. If you buy it on Tuesday and something comes up and it won’t be cooked until Thursday, a semi-short soak in milk will freshen the fillet.

Poaching is a good way to get the family interested and it has many advantages over frying. First: It doesn’t splatter oil all over. Second: It’s forgiving if you are a little late in getting the fish to the table — within reason. Third: There is very little shrink. Fourth (and the most important reason if you’re having company): It doesn’t smell up the house.

Start with a good-sized piece of fish — five or six ounces per person should be enough with a starch and two vegetables. You need a long pan if you have a whole fish or long fillet. (Fillets, not whole fish, are favorites in our house.) The liquid doesn’t need to be deep. Just above the middle of the fillet. Cooking in a little liquid is called braising.

Flavor the liquid with something if you have bland fish and want more punch for your buck. Simmer citrus slices in the water for ten minutes or so. Or onions and pepper corns. Whole garlic cloves add flavor. If you can get them, simmer fish heads or trimmings for a while then take them out before the fillets go in. Reduce the cooking liquid to intensify the flavor and add a cup or so of white wine, if you have it.

The liquid should stay about 150 degrees, minimum. If you don’t have a thermometer keep the liquid just quivering. Lower the fish into the liquid and time it about six minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. It’s done when it flakes easily.

Serving the fish in the cooking liquid could be called a soup. Add a bunch of vegetables, one of which is okra, and it could be called gumbo. Here’s a simple gumbo recipe you serve from the pan over rice:


2 tablespoons oil
1/2 pound fresh okra, sliced (can used frozen and drained)
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini or yellow squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
28-ounce can tomatoes
1 1/2 cups corn, canned or thawed
Pinch of black and cayenne pepper or to taste
Pinch salt
1 1/2 pounds solid white fish fillets (cod is good; mahi will work)
Hot cooked rice

Sauté the okra in the oil a couple of minutes. Add onion and garlic, reduce heat, and cook 5 minutes. Add zucchini or yellow squash and tomatoes with juice. Simmer 5 minutes. Add corn and peppers. Put fish on vegetables and nestle fillets into the mixture. Add water if needed.

Poach 5 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness, until done. Serve over white rice.

Yields four servings.

~ Adapted from The Black Family Reunion Cookbook


1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2/3 cup drained and coarsely chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
1/2 cup coarsely chopped drained pimientos
2/3 cup sour orange juice or 1/2 cup sweet juice with 1/4 cup each lemon and lime juices
One 4 to 6-pound snapper or striped bass or 4 to 6 one-pound fish, gutted
Salt and pepper
Lime wedges for garnish

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Fry the onion in the oil until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the olives, pimientos, and juice. Cook 5 minutes, stirring.

Line a roasting pan with oiled foil. Place the fish in the roaster. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and pour the onion mixture over the fish. Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack until fish flakes easily, about an hour. Garnish with lime wedges.

Yields 4 to 6 servings.

~ Adapted from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen

Baking fish is as easy as poaching, and is just as tasty. But it does smell up the house more. Whole fish are easy for the cook to do but if bones put your family off, then stick with fillets.

Sliced potatoes can go in the bottom of the roaster to make a whole meal.

If you really don’t want to smell up the house, fire up the grill and take your finny friend outside.


The most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines (released in January 2016) recommend “strategies to increase the variety of protein foods (by) incorporating seafood as the protein foods choice in meals twice per week in place of meat, poultry, or eggs.” reports that Americans do not currently consume the recommended weekly amount of seafood in their diet.

If you’re looking for more ways to incorporate seafood into the weekly family diet, try this recipe, courtesy of the National Fisheries Institute:


The key to these scrumptious tacos is the mega-flavorful chipotle sauce, a mix of yogurt, light mayo and chipotle pepper. Pair with griddled shrimp and a nutritious, crunchy slaw on warm corn tortillas for a hearty, healthy meal.

3 tbsp. nonfat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 chipotle pepper en adobo, minced into a puree*
1 lb. medium peeled and deveined shrimp
2 limes, divided
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 medium green cabbage, finely shredded
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
3/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
8 corn tortillas
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, mayonnaise and chipotle pepper; set aside. In a medium bowl, toss together shrimp, juice of 1 lime and chili powder; set aside. In a large bowl, combine shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro and the juice of the remaining lime; toss well. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high. Lay shrimp in the pan and cook on one side until lightly brown, about 1-2 minutes. Turn shrimp over and cook on second side until done, for about 1-2 additional minutes. The shrimp are cooked thoroughly when pinkish and opaque in color. Warm tortillas, as desired.

To assemble, spread a few teaspoons of the chipotle mayo along the center of a warmed corn tortilla. Lay 3 or 4 shrimp across the mayo. Top with a generous spoonful of the cabbage slaw. Serve additional slaw as a side salad.

Makes 4 servings (2 tacos each). Nutrition per serving: 306 calories, 10 g total fat (1.5 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated, 3.7 g polyunsaturated), 146 mg cholesterol, 987 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrate, 8 g dietary fiber, 21 g protein

*Chipotle peppers en adobo are sold in small cans in the Mexican food section of most supermarkets. One-half of a minced chipotle pepper measures about half of a tablespoon.


article by TRENT ROWE, Central Florida Health News food editor

Posted March 11, 2016

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