Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: A superfood from the sea

Fish is a superfood. Packed with vitamins and minerals, and a major source of omega-3 fatty acids, fish can help to protect against a range of diseases, from cancer to heart disease, depression to arthritis, eye problems to brain disorders.

It is recommended we eat at least two portions a week of fresh, frozen or tinned seafood (one of them oily fish). White fish like cod are a good source of low-fat protein and minerals. Oily fish such as sardines, pilchards, salmon and mackerel have the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids and shellfish containing selenium are thought to have cancer-fighting properties.

Eating fish is good for your health, but there are downsides, mostly involving farm-raised seafood. Since eating fish helps prevent heart disease, stroke and cancer, reduces hypertension and aids brain development, it’s not advised to eliminate it from our diet. Instead look for fish and seafood that is harvested in a way that protects surrounding sea creatures and the ecosystems they depend on. David Suzuki has a good guide to follow; look it up online.

Today I offer a baked fish that allows us to choose any fish we favour, and a seafood pasta casserole that can be prepared ahead of time if you wish.

Crispy Baked Fish

1/4 cup cooking oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. seasoning salt

1-1/2 lbs fish fillets (your choice)

Grated Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle

1/2 -1 cup crushed corn flakes

Combine cooking oil, salt, pepper and seasoning salt in small bowl. Brush both sides of fillets with oil mixture. Place fillets in shallow bowl. Pour remaining oil mixture over top. Marinate for 15 minutes.

Remove fillets from marinade. Sprinkle lightly with Parmesan cheese. Dip in crushed cornflakes.  Arrange in single layer in greased baking pan. (If you use greased foil or parchment paper it will help with clean-up.) Bake in pre-heated 450 F oven for 12 to 15 minutes until fish flakes when tested with a fork. Serves 4.

Seafood Pasta Bake

5 tbsp. butter, divided

2 cups sliced white mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

1 lb. imitation crabmeat, cut into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Pinch of ground nutmeg

2 cups milk

8 oz. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 25)

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

3 cups penne or small shell-shaped pasta

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Grease an 8-cup (2 L) baking dish.

In a medium skillet, melt 2 tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms, garlic and shallot for about 5 minutes or until softened and any liquid has evaporated.  Stir in crabmeat and wine. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt 2 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and nutmeg; cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes or until grainy-looking.  Gradually whisk in milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until thickened. Fold in mushroom mixture, shrimp and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and add to sauce, stirring well to combine.

Spoon half the pasta mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with half the mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Make another layer with remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Dot with the remaining butter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until bubbling and brown on top. Well worth the effort.

Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star's longtime food columnist, appearing every Wednesday and one Sunday per month.

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