Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cheap, Healthy, Environmentally Friendly Seafood Recipes

First, there was Cheap Healthy Beef. Then came Cheap Healthy Pork. Now, just in time for the holidays, it’s …


(Tell your friends and neighbors!)

My goal with this post was to find nutritional, relatively inexpensive types of fish, crustaceans, and mollusks (henceforth referred to as “fish” or “seafood”), and comp a giant list of recipes to go with them.

Unlike the Beef and Pork posts, I also took environmental concerns into consideration, as overfishing and damages to oceanic habitats have driven innumerable underwater species to the brink of extinction. And that’s never good.

I began the process with a wide sample group (all seafood, everywhere), and started eliminating based on the environment factor. For reference, I consulted the Blue Ocean Institute’s Online Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. These two organizations bestow sustainability ratings of green (best), yellow (good), or red (bad) on all types of fish. Seafood that scored two greens (one from each site) or one green and one yellow were passed through. I rejected all other seafood. This narrowed the field down LOTS, to about 25 potential finalists.

Next, I researched nutritional value, which - hooray! In recommended portions (3 or 4 ounces), almost ALL environmentally friendly seafood is high in protein and low in fat and calories. The exceptions (with more than 50% of calories from fat) were Atlantic Mackerel, King Salmon, and Sablefish (a.k.a. Black Cod), which were dropped from consideration.

With about two dozen types of seafood still in the running, it came down to price, which was highly subjective due to seasonality, region, and good ol’ inflation. I ultimately gauged estimates based on online grocers and fisheries, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s price reports, general availability, and my own observations. This knocked out about half the remaining list, as stuff like American Lobster and Pole-and-Troll Caught Tuna were too costly for the average bear. In the end, I was left with 12 tried-and-true fish finalists.

So, here they are: ONE DOZEN comparatively cheap, healthy, environmentally friendly types of seafood in all their glorious glory! And recipes, too! Happy eating!

Alaskan Pollock (a.k.a. imitation crab, surimi, or walleye pollock)
Bush Garden: California Roll (use low-fat mayo)
Cooking Light: Veggie-Surimi Sushi
DLife: Crab Casserole with Eggs

Atlantic Herring (a.k.a sardines or kippers)
AllRecipes: Pasta de Sardine
D-Life: Carb Free -Fish Cholent (Stew)
D-Life: Sardines with Roasted Tomatoes on Focaccia
Eating Well: Spring Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette
Mario Batali: Bruschetta with Fresh Monterey Sardines

Bay Scallops
Cooking Light: Creamed Scallops, Corn, and Tomatoes
Cooking Light: Corn and Scallop Chowder
D-Life: Mexican Ceviche
Juan Carlos-Cruz: Mango Ceviche
Ming Tsai: Bay Scallop Ceviche
River Café: Taylor Bay Scallop Ceviche (go without the sea beans)
Sara Moulton: Ginger Scallops with Stir-Fried Broccoli Rabe

Catfish (U.S. farmed)
AllRecipes: Carrie’s Catfish LaRue
AllRecipes: Oven Fried Catfish
Cooking Light: Catfish Po'boy with Hoisin-Peanut Sauce
Cooking Light: Buffalo-Style Catfish Strips with Ranch Dressing
Cooking Light: Catfish with Dill Sauce
Cooking Light: Crisp-Crusted Catfish
Cooking Light: Corn-Fish Chowder
Epicurious/Bon Appetit: Catfish Tacos with Tomato and Avocado Salsa
D-Life: Baked Catfish
D-Life: Baked Catfish Parmesan
D-Life: Blackened Catfish
D-Life: Cajun Catfish
D-Life: Catfish Cakes
D-Life: Cornmeal Crusted Catfish
D-Life: Honey Mustard Catfish
D-Life: Oven Fried Catfish
D-Life: Pan-“Fried” Catfish with Southwest Tartar Sauce
Eating Well: Catfish Amandine
Mama Dip’s: Catfish Gumbo
Mike Nichols: Blackened Catfish
Sara Moulton: Southern Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish

Clams (farmed – Littlenecks, Steamers, Cockles)
AllRecipes: Scott Ure’s Clams and Garlic
AllRecipes: Clams Italiano
Cooking Light: Fettuccine with Clams and Tomato Sauce
Cooking Light: Clam Sauce
D-Life: Clam and Spinach Linguine
Eating Well: Clams Casino
Ellie Krieger: Rhode Island Style Clam Chowder

Longfin and shortfin squid
AllRecipes: Grammy’s Calamari Salad
AllRecipes: Calamari in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce
Alton Brown: Seaside Squid Salad
Cooking Light: Grilled Squid with Lemon Caper Sauce
D-Life: Seared Squid with Citrus Mango Salad
D-Life: Southwest Calamari Salad

Mussels (farmed)
AllRecipes: Patti’s Mussels a la Mariniere
AllRecipes: Mussels Marinara di Amore
Cooking Light: Mussels in Tomato-Wine Broth
Cooking Light: Mussels Marinara
Cooking Light: Mussels Steamed in White Wine
Cooking Light: Cider-Braised Mussels with Bacon
Cooking Light: Steamed Mussels in Garlic and Shallots
Cooking Light: Steamed Mussels with Lemon, Onion, and Wine (Mijillones al Limón)
D-Life: Mussels and Tomatoes in Wine Sauce
D-Life: Mussels Steamed in Seasoned Broth
D-Life: Mussels with Shallot/Wine Sauce
D-Life: Steamed Mussels in Coconut Milk
Eating Well: Mussels with Saffron and Leeks
Eating Well: Spanish Tapas-Inspired Mussels

Pacific Cod
Eating Well: Baked Cod Casserole
Real Simple: Roasted Pacific Cod with Olives and Lemon

Shrimp (pink or salad shrimp OR U.S. farmed brown, pink, or white shrimp)
(Note: If you peel and de-vein shrimp yourself, you can save money.)
AllRecipes: Marinated Grilled Shrimp (5-star rating from 426 reviewers)
AllRecipes: Spicy Grilled Shrimp
AllRecipes: Sesame Shrimp Stir-fryAllRecipes: Caribbean Holiday Shrimp
AllRecipes: Thai Spiced Barbecue Shrimp
AllRecipes: Tequila Shrimp
Cooking Light: Too many to list. They’re all here.
D-Life: Apricot-Glazed Shrimp Kabobs
D-Life: Broiled Marinated Shrimp
D-Life: Classic Shrimp Stir-fry
D-Life: Curry Shrimp
D-Life: Italian Shrimp (Barbecued Shrimp)
D-Life: Macaroni and Shrimp Salad
D-Life: Scampi Italian Style
D-Life: Shrimp and Spinach Skillet Surprise
D-Life: Shrimp Etoufee
D-Life: Shrimp Fajitas
D-Life: Shrimp Fettuccine
D-Life: Shrimp Topped with Tomatoes and Feta
D-Life: Spicy Shrimp Packets
D-Life: Stir-fry Shrimp Lasagna
D-Life: Sweet and Sour Shrimp
D-Life: Thai Shrimp Over Rice
Ellie Krieger: Caesar Salad with Grilled Shrimp
Ellie Krieger: Linguine with Shrimp
Ellie Krieger: Shrimp Salad with Cucumber and Mint
Epicurious/Bon Appetit: Shrimp Gazpacho
Epicurious: Shrimp in EscabecEpicurious: Penne with Spinach, Shrimp, Tomatoes and Basil
Epicurious: Shrimp in Garlic Sauce
Epicurious: Spicy Shrimp and Vegetable Stir-Fry
Real Simple: Shrimp with Arugula and Couscous
Real Simple: Shrimp with Tomato-Horseradish Salsa
Real Simple: Gingery Shrimp and Couscous
Real Simple: Jalapeno Shrimp
Real Simple: Marinated Shrimp with Mediterranean Salad
Real Simple: Moroccan Shrimp
Real Simple: Southwestern Shrimp Soup
Real Simple: Shrimp à la Grecque

Rainbow Trout (farmed)
AllRecipes: Rainbow Trout with Yogurt Sauce (use low-fat yogurt)
Bobby Flay: Rainbow Trout Roasted on a Cedar Plank
Cooking Light: Mushroom and Bacon Stuffed Trout
Cooking Light: Trout with Sour Cream-Cucumber Sauce
D-Life: Baked Whole Rainbow Trout in Ginger Sauce
D-Life: Herb-Baked Trout
D-Life: Stuffed Trout
D-Life: Trout with Sour Cream Cucumber Sauce
Eating Well: Grilled Whole Trout with Lemon-Tarragon Bean Salad

Tilapia (U.S. Farmed)
AllRecipes: Broiled Tilapia Parmesan (5-star recipe from 2,459 reviewers)
AllRecipes: Lemon Garlic Tilapia
AllRecipes: Easy Baked Tilapia
AllRecipes: Easy Tilapia with Wine and Tomatoes
AllRecipes: Simple Rancy Breaded Fish Fillets
AllRecipes: Fiery Fish Tacos with Crunchy Corn Salsa
Cooking Light: Sautéed Tilapia with Lemon-Peppercorn Pan Sauce Dressing
D-Life: Breaded Tilapia
D-Life: Grilled Tilapia With Zesty Mustard Sauce
D-Life: Lemon and Parsley Fish Fillets with Potatoes
D-Life: Tilapia with Cilantro Butter
D-Life: Tilapia with Fresh Herbs and Lime
D-Life: Tilapia with Olives and Tomatoes
D-Life: Tilapia With Roasted Red Bell Peppers and Olives
Eating Well: Chili-Rubbed Tilapia with Asparagus & Lemon
Eating Well: Tilapia Corn Chowder
Ellie Krieger: Fish Tacos with Chipotle Cream
Robin Miller: Moroccan-Style Tilapia with Cumin, Mango and Cilantro

White Sea Bass (aka Weakfish or Croaker) OR Hybrid Striped Bass (farmed)
Cooking Light: Broiled Sea Bass with Pineapple-Chili-Basil Glaze
Cooking Light: Sea Bass and Braised Leeks with Mustard Sauce
Cooking Light: Sea Bass and Confetti Vegetables with Lemon-Butter Sauce
Eating Well: Ginger-Steamed Fish with Troy's Hana-Style Sauce
Ellie Krieger: Fish with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers
Epicurious/SELF: Steamed Sea Bass with Ginger and Shiitakes
Kathleen Daelemans: Pan-fried White Fish
Mayo Clinic: Broiled White Sea Bass
Mayo Clinic: White Sea Bass with Dill Relish

Note #1: There are more light healthy recipes at the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately, there’s no reviewing mechanism, or I would have posted them here.

Note #2: I would love to recommend more expensive, environmentally cool seafood, but can’t justify spending $4 on a 7.75oz can of tuna for this particular blog. However, if money is no object, please save a fish and consider purchasing these items.

Note #3: Pregnant women should not eat raw fish, and everyone should be aware of mercury warnings, which go hand in hand with quite a lot of seafood. Check back with the Monterey Bay Aquarium for info.

Note #4: Canned tuna companies have improved their regulations immensely, and landed a yellow rating on both sites, which isn’t terrible. However, tuna is still VERY heavily fished and the catching methods endanger other ocean life. Purchase in moderation.

(Photos courtesy of

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Meags said...

No Salmon?

Kris said...

Hi Meags,

Wild-caught Alaskan Salmon is the only salmon to receive two green ratings from the Blue Ocean Institute and the Monterey Aquarium, which is great. Though it's a little higher in fat, it's also very healthy with all those Omega-3s and such.

Unfortunately, it costs a minimum $10/lb in most places I've seen, which makes it a bit pricy for this blog.

Daniel Koontz said...

Holy cow Kris, this is your finest hour. Great post!

Casual Kitchen

Tanya said...

*hopeful face* cheap healthy vegetarian?

Meredith said...


These recipes look great! I'm glad that you took the time to bring attention to environmentally-friendly seafood.

However, I just wanted to emphasize how important it is to ASK where your shrimp is coming from at restaurants and stores before you purchase it. Most shrimp (especially pre-packaged/prepared frozen shrimp) is imported from extremely unsustainable, harmful tropical fishery industries. These practices destroy tropical mangrove forests, often result in the dumping of pesticides into tropical watersheds (which poison local people), produce large bycatch of sea turtles, and are so commercially competitive that armed gunman often stand guard around the shrimp farms (I know an Ecuadorian that grew up on a shrimp farm like this). So, consumers should know that it is actually fairly difficult to find US farm-raised shrimp, so they should never assume what they are buying is local. Always ASK.

For more details, this article sums it up very well...

BTW- Like Tanya, I'd love to see a vegetarian addition too!