Sandy beaches and fruity cocktails all but beg for a certain cuisine – one that can only be found under the sea! Seafood is incredibly fresh this time of year, adding lightness and variety to winter menus filled with heavier dishes like steak and potatoes. With a wide selection of flavors and preparation techniques, seafood is no longer the fishy afterthought on the menu. Creative restaurant offerings include cajun shrimp tacos, panko-crusted tilapia, and smoked salmon dishes with BBQ. Grab a bottle of your favorite white wine and dive into the must have dishes of the summer. Here’s what to look for on the menu!
Seafood is enjoyed by many cultures all over the world and is a leading provider of essential nutrients to over one billion people each year. Rich in omega-3’s and zinc, seafood can prevent heart disease, as well as help develop strong bones, teeth, and hair. Healthy and delicious year round, seafood is split into three main categories and includes fish, shellfish (crustaceans), and even seaweed!
Pelagic fish (Shark, Tuna, Marlin, Anchovies, Sardines): These colorful fish live and feed near the surface of the sea and are made up of two large and separate groups; Predator fish (sharks, tuna, marlin, swordfish, salmon) and smaller Forage fish (herring, sardines, anchovies). The consumption of predator fish, namely sharks, has decreased over the years as a result of new protection laws that have prevented the capture and consumption of these important animals. However, in many parts of the world, eating some predator fish is considered a risky delicacy, as they tend to carry high levels of toxins that are potentially harmful to humans. Eat at your own risk when traveling!
On the Menu:
Predator fish, like Tuna, are safe to eat and provide a thick, steak-like shape, allowing flavor to be trapped within the meat while grilling or searing. Order a tuna steak with tartar sauce for a heartier dinner option, or try a spicy tuna roll for a light, lunchtime dish.
Don’t be fooled, Forage Fish, like sardines and anchovies, are considered a superfood and are brimming with vitamin A and potassium. While most people are turned off by the stereotypical saltiness and fishy aroma, it is possible to enjoy the benefits of these tiny fish. The key? Find anchovy dishes that distract from their seafood qualities and order tapas, flatbreads, sandwiches, pasta, and salads that add bites of flavor, not a fishy aftertaste.
Diadromous fish (Salmon, Eel, Lampreys): These groups of fish tend to migrate between the sea and fresh water giving them a unique, musky aroma when smoked. On the Menu: Salmon, usually thicker than tilapia, is a common dish and can be swapped as an alternative in many popular dishes including kabobs, wraps, and burgers. Order a salmon burger as a healthy alternative to beef and request a lemon wedge and spicy mayo for an extra punch of flavor.
Fresh fish (Tilapia, catfish, trout): These lake, river, and pond dwellers usually carry a fishy flavor when cooked but with the right seasoning and sauces, fresh fish can be enjoyed as easily as their sea swimming relatives. Since these fish are usually farmed locally, they are available year round.
On the Menu: Tilapia is tasty when baked with butter, Panko bread crumbs, and served alongside a pile of fluffy white rice. Add a squeeze of lemon, lime and a dash of pepper for some seasoning.
Shrimp and prawns: These small and slender swimmers and can be found near the seafloor of most coasts, rivers, and lakes. They are an extensive species with a wide variety of shrimp families, making these small creatures an important link in the food chain.
On the menu: Although shrimp is small, it adds a burst of unexpected chewiness and flavor to popular dishes like salads and pasta. Order linguini with a cream sauce, and a side of garlic bread, then top it all off with lemon butter shrimp for the perfect date night meal.
Crabs: This ten-legged crustacean offers a rich, sweet, and succulent meat that makes the perfect ingredient for any meal, including sides and dips!
On the menu: Many people are familiar with crab but aren’t aware of all the delicious menu options that exist. Crab Rangoon with cream cheese, Blue cheese crab dip with Hawaiian bread, crab cakes with lime aioli sauce, and even mango crab salsa offer decadent menu choices for enjoying this tasty crustacean.
Clawed lobsters and spiny lobsters: Lobsters’ long bodies and large asymmetrical claws define this popular seafood entrée. Their tough crustacean shells are often challenging to break through and tools are usually used to crack through their protective layer. Once cooked, a lobsters’ shell can prove to be a challenge to break through, but once broken, the challenger is rewarded with some incredibly soft meat that melts like butter on the tongue.
On the Menu: Lobster can be served alone and with a side of melted butter, or it can be sliced, minced, and mashed into dips, ravioli, soups, and an east coast favorite, the lobster roll sandwich. Next time you’re in Maine, order their famous lobster roll-warm lobster tossed in melted tarragon-lemon butter.
Other Sea life
Seaweed, Jellyfish, Sea urchins, Sea Cucumbers : Did you know Seaweed is considered a superfood and is one of the best-kept secrets in the ocean? Many of its’ health benefits include natural forming nutrients like B12, Iron, Magnesium, zinc, and 14 times more calcium (by weight) than milk. Seaweed also reduces blood pressure, is high in protein, low in fat, and contains little to no carbs, making it the perfect snack or meal!
On the menu: Order this healthy dish at most Sushi restaurants and look for seaweed miso soup, seaweed garnishes, and seaweed-wrapped sushi for a healthy, system-boosting meal.
With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming, but not impossible. Slowly add seafood like shrimp and tilapia to your favorite pastas, sandwiches, soups, and salads for a quick introduction into seafood flavors.
We covered seafood basics and healthy unknown sea dwellers. If you think we missed a tasty favorite, let us know in the comments below!