Most people agree we should eat less red meat and eat more fish. But questions arise: What’s good for you? The species? And the environment? Farmed? Wild caught? What fish fits into a tight budget when a pound of hamburger costs less than many varieties of fish? What fish is mild enough to appeal to those who don’t like that fishy taste? Get to know someone at your local fish counter and ask them what’s fresh and where does it come from.
I suggest cod, tilapia and salmon are always good choices. Sustainable, mild tasting, and nutritious varieties one and all. Consider these quick fish preparations that everyone should feel good about preparing and enjoy eating. Some are recipes originated in Christopher Kimball’s “Cooks” enterprise. Kimball presents foods and food preparations that make sense for today’s kitchens: tasty, fun, and easy to fix. I have made these dishes many times and I am always delighted with the results. But before I present the recipes here’s something that will make many fish dishes even better, tartar sauce.
Tartar Sauce: Either you like it or you don’t. I do. Tartar sauce is readily available in the grocery stores but it is usually bland and full of odd sounding ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, mustard flour, artificial flavors, potassium sorbate etc. Make your own, it takes fifteen minutes, is brimming with flavor, and it keeps well for a few weeks in the fridge. There’s nothing quite like it for a savory, lemony pop for your favorite fish dish.
Salmon Cakes – While fresh King Salmon can cost $25 a pound or more, and is worth every penny when grilled on a cedar plank with some lemon slices or dill, there are far cheaper cuts of salmon out there that will deliver excellent flavor, vitamins, and omega-3s. Coho salmon or Steelhead trout work well with this recipe. I do not recommend farmed salmon – I am not sure that it’s sustainable and they sometimes feed the fish colored food to give their ordinarily pale flesh that salmony glow. The recipe calls for 1-1/4 pounds of salmon. If buying skin-on salmon buy 1-1/3 pounds and ask the fish seller to remove the skin. I sometimes remove the skin myself but it is a painstaking process for what is otherwise a very quick and easy dish. Also, feel for bones and remove them with a clean pair of needle-nose pliers.
Here then is the recipe for Salmon Cakes. They cook quickly with a crunchy outside and a rich, tasty interior.
Crunchy Oven Fried Fish – This is a great way to serve any mild, moist fish such as halibut, catfish, or tilapia but since cod is often on sale this is a good variety to stock up on. The recipe suggests buying thick fillets so that they don’t overcook. I guarantee that this dish will be a hit. If you have any left over it’s tasty warmed in a sandwich the next day. I have successfully substituted panko for the homemade bread crumbs they recommend. Oven-Fried Fish
Tilapia – Tilapia may well help solve world hunger. These hardy little fish are easily and sustainably farmed in large quantities but please check their country of origin – I don’t trust fish from just anywhere. I have even seen backyard ponds stocked with tilapia for year-round consumption. What’s more they are tender, mild, and delicious. They remind me of flounder, and like flounder they pan fry or poach almost instantly so be careful when cooking them. This recipe has the added flavor component of a wonderful compound butter made with lime and chiles. I have successfully used lemon in place of lime and despite what the recipes says, I always stem and seed the peppers. This is incredibly easy to prepare and is, in my opinion, company worthy. Tilapia & Chile Lime Butter