New Year’s resolutions come and go like the river flows, and so many of us have resolved to eat better and exercise more. Two servings of fish per week is what health experts say we should try to consume.
Fish is low in calories, high in quality protein and full of omega 3s. Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, have high amounts of omega 3s, while less fatty fish such as cod, flounder and halibut, have slightly fewer omegas but tons of good minerals and vitamins.
Cod is a white fish that is firm and mild in flavor. In New England, cod is one of the freshest fish you can buy, but here in the Rocky Mountains, fresh cod is hard to come by. You can purchase fresh fish at places such as Hooked in Beaver Creek or Cut in Edwards, but on a weeknight when you’re looking for a healthy, quick meal, a frozen filet may be the way to go.
Frozen fish is tasty if you plan and prepare it properly. When purchasing fish, try to get wild caught and individually frozen. When thawing frozen fish, place the wrapped individual packages on a plate in the refrigerator overnight. If you need a quick fix, put the wrapped fish into a bowl of cool water and change the water every five minutes until thawed, which should take about 30 minutes depending on the thickness of the filet.
A thawed filet (or any seafood previously frozen) is going to be filled with water. To get a nice crust on your seafood, you’ll need to reduce the water in it. When I am working with seafood, I gently squeeze it over the sink so some of the moisture drains out, and then I place it on a stack of paper towels and pat the top with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture. Sometimes, if time allows, I will place it uncovered in the refrigerator to let the top dry out a bit, creating a nice crust when I sear it.
Cod is one of the most popular fish eaten in the United States and a 6-ounce filet has around 140 calories and about 30 grams of protein. Cod is high in B vitamins and the mineral selenium, which is a cancer fighter.
Cod is mild tasting and can handle a flavorful sauce such as a tomato and caper sauce. This sauce is similar to an Italian puttanesca, but I reduced the amount of high-calorie Kalamata olives and added extra low-calorie capers for flavor. The sauce is simple to make, and using canned tomatoes is easy in these frozen winter months. Tomatoes have lycopene, which is absorbed better when they are cooked or processed and has been proven to fight against prostate cancer. A huge handful of fresh parsley reminds you that summer will be back, and a low-calorie meal in the thick of the winter will help you feel healthy and svelte. A 1-cup serving of the sauce checks in at about 260 calories.
4 6-ounce pieces cod
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
Tomato and olive sauce
(Makes 4 cups. A 1-cup serving is approximately 263 calories.)
2 14.5-once cans diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
16 Kalamata olives, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup capers
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
For the sauce: Chop onions. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium low, add onions, and cook 10 minutes. Stir in anchovy paste until melted. Add garlic and tomatoes, and cook until warm. Mix in remaining ingredients except parsley, stir, and cook 5 minutes. Mix in parsley and warm.
For the cod: Mix the salt, pepper and parsley in a small bowl. Pat the cod dry, and season generously on each side. Heat a skillet over medium until hot. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Place fish (don’t overcrowd) in skillet, and sear for 4 minutes. Flip and cook 4 minutes more. Remove from heat, and serve with sauce.
Tracy Miller is the in-house chef at TV8 in Vail and shares recipes Sunday mornings. She also teaches cooking classes at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. For more healthy recipes, log on to www.colorfulcooking.com.