Hot summer, cool fish
Fish satisfies consumers’ desire for lighter, more healthful fare in the summer months.
When temperatures rise, the craving for lighter, healthier fare goes up, too.
Fish, recognized as being among the healthiest proteins on the planet, is a versatile and easy item to add to menus to satisfy health-conscious consumers’ cravings. In fact, according to research firm Datassential’s 2017 Seafood Keynote, 96 percent of all restaurant operators offer fish at some point during the year.
“Fish is a food with multiple health benefits,” says Amy von Sydow Green, a Philadelphia-based dietitian and restaurant nutrition consultant. “It is super nutritious — rich in high-quality protein as well as several vitamins and minerals.”
Among the many nutrients found in fish are heart- and brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, which play a role in brain development and have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel have the most omega-3s, but there’s also a healthy dose in leaner species, such as catfish and tilapia — considered to be among the best-selling and most profitable species of fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish high in omega-3s at least twice each week.
Many species are also loaded with Vitamin D, a nutrient that von Sydow Green says an estimated 40 percent of Americans aren’t getting enough of in their diets.
“Regular fish eaters have a lower risk of heart disease, reduced decline in brain function as they get older, and are even less likely to suffer from depression,” she says. “I often advise my clients to add seafood to their diet.”
All that protein, heart- and brain-boosting nutrients and few calories make fish an appealing choice for consumers looking for a healthy and light, yet energizing, meal in the warmer months. But use the wrong preparation — like deep frying or heavily breading — and those benefits disappear. Grilling, Americans’ favorite food preparation method, according to Datassential, is a surefire method for keeping fish dishes healthy, light and delicious.
The following are three easy and flavorful grilling techniques suitable for almost any fish species, and a variety of serving suggestions that are sure to appeal to health-conscious, fish-loving guests:
- Basic grill: Simple, flavorful and fast. Just season the fish and brush with oil, and then grill for a few minutes on each side. This preparation works with all manner of fish species — from tilapia to tuna and everything in between.
- Cedar planked: An easy and elegant cooking technique. Placing a filet on a cedar plank on the grill steams the fish, keeps it moist and tender and adds a smoky, woodsy flavor. Serve the fish to guests on the plank or remove and plate with flavorful side dishes.
- Foil steamed. Creating a tinfoil packet with seasoned fish, herbs and sliced vegetables and cooking it directly on the grill allows the fish to gently steam, the vegetables to cook just right and all the flavors to combine beautifully.
Once you have grilled your fish, the sky’s the limit on how to serve it, but here are some variations to try:
Fish tacos. For a light, yet satisfying globally inspired option that’s also portable — read: great for take-out — fill small tortillas with grilled fish like tilapia, and top with a flavorful and fat-free sauce such as salsa verde or pico de gallo.
Seafood salads. A green salad is a favorite light warm-weather meal, but it often lacks protein. One way chefs and restaurateurs are addressing this problem is by serving green salads topped with the grilled catch of the day. According to Datassential, “grilled” is the fastest growing term used on menus with salads and seafood.
Fish bowls. Bowls are rapidly gaining popularity everywhere. Let guests choose their base (rice, noodles, quinoa, field greens, etc.) and a selection of vegetables, and then top it all with a tasty grilled fish filet. This allows guests to choose how healthy and light (or indulgent) they want to be on any particular visit, giving them more reasons to come back again and again.
Filet of fish ‘wich. For a lighter and better-for-you alternative to the ever-popular fried fish sandwich, swap out the breaded and fried filet for a piece of grilled white flaky fish. Serve the fish with a colorful, crunchy and healthy vegetable slaw instead of the classic mayonnaise-based tartar sauce.
Whatever preparation technique or recipe you choose to follow, just remember that fish remains a great way to offer guests a flavorful and healthful menu alternative.