Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Seafood Recipes?

Even though I mostly eat food provided by the local food bank and food pantry, I actually purchase food for my parrots (alas, food banks/pantries don’t provide pet foods). So I went shopping today at my local 99 cent store (which should be renamed the local $2.50 store) looking for frozen fruits and vegetables for my birds but instead, found a real treat for me: canned Jack Mackerel and canned Sardines, and frozen Alaskan Pollock fillets and frozen Tilapia fillets. Being a seafood lover who has not had the pleasure of eating seafood in a long, long, long time, I couldn’t resist the promise of fish (which is an almost unimaginable improvement over a steady diet of oatmeal and elbow macaroni in canned tomato sauce!) so I bought several packages of the frozen fillets. But I’ve never eaten Tilapia (well, since it’s a freshwater fish, it’s not really seafood, after all!), and I’ve only eaten pollock in the form of fish and chips, and I’ve never prepared either of them. All of these are environmentally friendly seafoods and they are healthy: high in omega-3 oils. So how should I prepare these fillets? Here are a few restrictions;

First, the recipe has to be microwave-able (instead of stir-fried or baked, broiled, grilled or whatever else) because that’s all I have! Second, I have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, but can seek them out especially for this purpose. Third, I prefer my seafood raw and prepared with fresh ingredients, I am nor sue this will work with frozen fillets. I also enjoy spicy and hot foods (Thai, Vietnamese and “Indonesian” cuisines) so I can instead prepare them with lots of spices (my 99 cent store has a wide variety of those, at least), and hot spices and curries. I also like coconut milk and am able to purchase canned coconut milk at my “99 cent” store. So, any suggestions for how to prepare them?

Additionally, if anyone has ideas for how to prepare canned Sardines or canned Jack Mackerel, please let me know! I am not a big fan of canned oily fishes, and have never eaten either Sardines or Mackerel, but I miss seafood terribly, and want to learn how to prepare this unexpected seafood bonanza while it lasts.

And I will photograph any recipe that I prepare and post those images here.

Comments

  1. #1 stephenk
    November 8, 2008

    I’m not a great seafood eater, but sardines on toast with finely sliced onion is a good one.

    Stephenk

  2. #2 Barn Owl
    November 8, 2008

    Sometimes when I’m too lazy or tired to prepare something more elaborate, I’ll bake a fish filet or chicken breast with some salsa verde or picante sauce on top. Your 99 cent store probably has small cans or jars of salsa verde and picante sauce (Herdez and La Costena are decent inexpensive brands here). I always bake the fish, but you could probably use the microwave on the tilapia filets topped with salsa; just don’t overcook, or the fish will be rubbery.

  3. #3 "GrrlScientist"
    November 8, 2008

    how do i know i’ve overcooked tilapia? back in the day when i had an actual stove (Seattle), i would bake “whitefish” fillets for roughly 10-15 minutes, if i remember correctly, but what does that translate into when microwaving? these fillets are rather thin, no more than a quarter of an inch thick (i think — i can’t really tell, actually). so i imagine they shouldn’t be zapped for more than 3-5 minutes, right?

    the salsa picante is a great idea, by the way.

  4. #4 mus
    November 8, 2008

    I have no idea how to prepare them, but I just ate a fish sandwhich yesterday (hot) and one today (cold), and they were incredibly good both times. (it was breaded and fried fish on burger bread, with american cheese)

  5. #5 "GrrlScientist"
    November 8, 2008

    mus — is there any way you can find out the answers to these questions: (1) what species of fish was in the sandwich? (2) where was it caught? and (3) how was it caught? i’d really love to know!

  6. #6 Anon
    November 8, 2008

    Too late to be first to say it, but I second the salsa on the tilapia. Any salsa is good for this, but my family preferred fruit salsas, like a mango salsa, on tilapia.

  7. #7 "GrrlScientist"
    November 8, 2008

    mango salsa sounds superb! do you have a recipe to share?

  8. #8 Barn Owl
    November 8, 2008

    Baked tilapia flakes easily when done; same should apply in the microwave, so it won’t take long.

    If you can find one of those inexpensive microwave egg-poachers, and packets of microwaveable rice, you could probably make a decent kedgeree with the mackerel, or even the sardines. It’s typically seasoned with curry powder or turmeric.

  9. #9 mus
    November 8, 2008

    Sorry Grrl… I’ve tried to find out before (to see whether it’s a species that I can feel good about eating, conservation/sustainability-wise), but my school doesn’t provide the information about what it is they’re feeding us.

    To be even more useless, I also recommend trader joe’s marinated fish tacos. The salsa comments are what reminded me about them. They are frozen fish tacos with salsa and cheese too. You just pop them in a (toaster) oven, and they’re quite good. I just tried looking up information about them, but I couldn’t find anything. It’s amazing how in this day and age, information like this is so hard to find.

    anyway, I’m not sure how they prepare them. However, I guess they first marinate the fish with a mexican salsa-type of thing (with lemon). The tortillas are also apparently fried, since they’re nice and crunchy, and I would guess the cheeze is mozzarella.

  10. #10 SimonG
    November 8, 2008

    Frozen fish should thaw out and be useable like fresh. Leave it in the fridge overnight. (Better to defrost in the fridge than at room temperature as it’s gentler.)

    Tilapia’s quite delicate, so doesn’t need much cooking. It’s got a delicate taste, too, so don’t go totally overboard on the spices. Last time, I had it unseasoned with some noodles in soy sauce.
    I normally grill or fry it, so can’t help you much with microwaving it.

    For the canned stuff, a quick and tasty option is with baked (well: nuked) potatoes. Mix the fish up with some pasata and plenty of chilli. (Even easier if the sardines are already in tomato sauce.)

  11. #11 Karen
    November 8, 2008

    I’ve cooked fish fillets in the microwave, and the secret is thaw them first, cut them in single-serving pieces or half-serving pieces, lay them flat in a pan, put your favorite seasoning on top, and turn them very frequently. If your microwave has a turntable, you can get by with rotating them from inside to outside every 30 seconds or so. Otherwise, turn them side-to-side and inside-to-outside every 15 seconds or so. This sounds like a royal pain, but thin tilapia fillets cook so quickly that it’s really no big deal. Don’t overcook!

    My favorite seasoning for mild-flavored fish is some dried citrus peel or fresh citrus zest, and a little fresh-ground pepper. On more strongly-flavored fish, I sometimes mix my favorite homemade curry powder with some light mayonnaise, and spread that over the fish. And as somebody else pointed out, you can’t go wrong with salsa or picante sauce. Your favorite Italian seasoning works well, too.

  12. #12 mikeG
    November 8, 2008

    As for the microwaving of the fish, use a fairly shallow dish, with a little liquid (see below). Nuke it in short increments, say 1 minute for the thinner fillet, and test it with a fork. Once the meat flakes away easily it’ll be done. This will also give you an idea how long your microwave takes for the next lucky find.

    The liquid: any of the salsas would work great, as would, say Mojo marinade (common here in Florida, maybe rare in NY. It’s a Cuban citrus, garlic and spice sauce), or even simple lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

    Tilapia is a very mild fish that will taste like whatever you cook it in, unless the seasoning is gentle. The stronger flavors of the salsas would pair well with the Mackerel, too. Especially if you have extra hot sauce. (I love Valentina, which our local Wal-Mart just started carrying.) The Mackerel would easily stand up to some serious currying, too. A little (or a lot, depending on you) curry powder or paste (whatever style is your fav) with the coconut milk in the microwave until it’s hot would be great over rice.

    IMHO, hot sauce with oily fish is a necessity.

  13. #13 jake
    November 8, 2008

    I’m a big fan of canned fish since the little ones are lower on the food chain and already cooked. I like to take herring or sardines and mix them into pretty much any pasta dish as a substitute for beef. Example: fettuccine + pasta sauce + diced tomatoes + chopped bell peppers + capers + feta + fish

  14. #14 Chris L
    November 8, 2008

    I’m trying to eat more canned fish as well…the microwave puts a damper on mackerel croquettes (salmon patties were common around my house when i was a kid..and strangely enuf mackeral tastes pretty similar with onions and breading and frying..LOL.)..I enjoy sardines with hot sauce and crackers…I’d prob get the plain ones at your dollar store in lieu of the ones with sauce…I cut up some cucumber green pepper red onion and threw the sardines in with them along with some soy sauce once..that was pretty tasty…

  15. #15 Phil
    November 8, 2008

    Do Not thaw overnight. You should be familiar with the thaw in lukewarm water method which takes less than an hour.
    Rule of thumb is ten minutes per inch baking.
    Poaching is a good method, similar to poaching an egg. big pot with water, container with fish in it. Boil water, steam cooks fish.

    Personally I just use garlic, lemon, salt, parsley, grapeseed oil, pan fry and use tartar sauce from Wholefoods Market.

    As for Sardines, some mayo, capers onions lemon. mix in bowl. makes great sandwich. Avoid human contact for next 12 hours or at least don’t breathe on anyone.

  16. #16 Mike
    November 8, 2008

    You may even be able to include pasta in the dish by presoaking it for a few hours or overnight. Though I boil on the stovetop, I always presoak to cut the boil time to about 2-3 minutes instead of the usual 10-12 minutes. I haven’t tried the microwave, but I suspect that a few experiments will reveal the way, much like rice or similar things.

  17. #17 Dr. Kate
    November 9, 2008

    My favorite way with kippers (would probably also work with your canned fish) is just plain on really crunchy crackers (preferably whole grain–I use RyKrisp or Wasa, but triscuits (or the dollar store equivalent) would also be good).

  18. #18 mackerel salad boy
    November 9, 2008

    Mix grated apple, grated carrot (one largish), tin mackerel squeeze out brine or use the oil, thinly sliced smallish onion and a lttle curry powder;
    add few drops oil if mackerel not in oil, mix thoroughly and put in fridge for a while.
    Very refreshing and tasty!

  19. #19 EyeNoU
    November 9, 2008

    While vacationing in Jamaica I had a dish called Mackerel Run-Down. It was basically coconut milk reduced down until thick,with the fish added late with green onions, tomato and some hot peppers, IIRC. I think it was served with rice.

  20. #20 "GrrlScientist"
    November 10, 2008

    mikeG — the store actually has sardines that are canned in salsa picante!

    Dr. Kate — okay, i admit that i’ve always avoided eating sardines, especially on crackers, although i am at a loss to explain why this is so. but i am going to give this a try.

    Phil, mackerel salad boy and EyeNoU — those recipes sound wonderful! i am inspired to give them a try! (and Phil, i don’t often come into contact with humans, but i will keep your advice in mind anyway)

  21. #21 Julie
    November 10, 2008

    Check out some of these recipes, and I’ve got some other ones if you are interested… drop me a line.
    http://www.mybela.com/recipes.html

  22. #22 John
    November 10, 2008

    The thought of trying to enjoy seafood without a grill or oven is a challenge!

    I am a bit spoiled because I often have access to the freshest seafood right off the boat but I do enjoy frozen pollock. The quality of some of the fish such as pollock that are flash frozen at sea is very high.

    My favorite recipe is almost too simple. I sprinkle a little seafood seasoning (mine is old bay crab seasoning) on the fillet, then coat with a mix of 3 parts mayo and 1 part Dijon mustard. I normally bake the fish in the oven but this should also work in a microwave. This method works for any mild, white fish. As others have said, a lot of fish respond well to a garnish of sauces or spices.

  23. #23 Doug k
    November 10, 2008

    I’ll eat sardines straight out of the can I fear.. also similar to Jake’s receipt, make a pasta sauce with whatever’s available and add a tin of sardines in olive oil to it. Yum.

    Tilapia are an interesting fish. I have a sentimental attachment to them based on having fished for them in their (and my) native habitat in South Africa. They’ve been extremely successful in spreading worldwide, using the same strategy as trout and carp – get humans to put a price on your head, and they’ll transplant you everywhere ;-) I knew them first as tilapia mossambica, but the name changed to Oreochromis at some point. They’re mouth breeders: the fry will take shelter in the mouth for some time after hatching too. Sorry, I ramble.

    I’d be inclined to poach the tilapia in some of the coconut milk. That sounds so good I think I’ll try it..
    Should be able to do it in the microwave too.

  24. #24 ManekiNeko
    November 19, 2008

    Veracruz style fish:

    small amount of juice and zest of a lime
    chopped fresh cilantro
    chopped scallions
    one can El Pato (Mexican Hot Style) Tomato sauce (220g)

    A little oil and flour (optional)
    fish filets

    Braise fish in the other ingredients. If preferred, dredge fish in flour
    and brown on both sides and then add other ingredients and braise.

  25. #25 Erica
    December 8, 2008

    Hi Grrl,
    I wanted to share with you and your readers a (free!) booklet of recipes my organization, Food & Water Watch, is releasing this coming January 7th. It’s called Fish & Tips, and it’s a compilation of recipes we collected by holding a recipe contest that was open to the public.

    It doesn’t address the question of recipes that are microwaveable, but it does have information about what types of fish are better for your health and the environment, which some of your readers seem interested in. All the recipes in the booklet are made using fish we recommend in our Smart Seafood Guide, which we released this year, and you can see here: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/fish/seafood/seafood-guide/national-seafood-guide

    The fish in the guide are chosen based on healthiness for people, the environment, and fishing communities. Hope this is of interest!

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