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Food and Drink Features

Under the sea

I promise not to write in all ‘The Little Mermaid’ quotes. Take it from me.

Jenny Coon Peterson September 28th, 2011

I know a few people who refuse to eat anything that “swims.” I say, they’re missing out. We may be landlocked, but it’s not all fried catfish showing up on the plate. Head to local fishmongers (what a great title, right?) and restaurants for all the goodies hanging out — and yes, swimming — under those waves.

And those goodies? They’re good for you, too. There’s been a lot already said about the health benefits of adding fish to your diet, but consider this from the Mayo Clinic: Eating a couple of servings of fish a week could reduce by a third your risk of keeling over from a heart attack. Considering the obesity rate in Oklahoma, that’s a little help a lot of us could use. (Also considering the obesity rate, that serving of fish probably shouldn’t be fried.)

Fish that have a lot of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring and tuna. Other favorites, like tilapia and catfish, have less omega magic. 

At Avalon Seafood Market, 7712 N. May, wholesale manager J.R. Armstrong can walk seafood newbies through the ins and outs of buying and preparing fish.

Grilled or fried fish tacos with a homemade coleslaw are available at Chicas.

“I try to find out where they’re comfortable,” Armstrong said. “Are they comfortable with grilling or baking? I’ll gear them toward a fish … and walk them through the routine and offer recipes.”

A good starter fish, he said, is cod or tilapia, but pay attention to seasons, too. “King salmon is seasonal, halibut (as well),” Armstrong said. “(Those) are in season right now.”

And it’s not just fish: “If it’s in the sea, we sell it.”

That means shellfish, scallops, octopus, shrimp and more. Avalon also makes its own crab cakes, salads and sauces.

Whatever you decide on, you’ll know it’s fresh. Armstrong said Avalon flies in fish daily, so there’s always something new to check out.

“Fresh fish usually will not have an odor,” he said. “The nose knows, and that’s the first line of defense.” If you’re still wondering, Armstrong will pull out the fish and let you give it a sniff.

If it’s in the sea, we sell it.
—J.R. Armstrong

Avalon also runs cooking classes every Tuesday night.

“They actually watch a demonstration and I give them a recipe,” Armstrong said. “It’s very relaxed … and everyone is socializing.”

Afterward, guests gather round for a seafood dinner. “We have people who have been coming here for 12 years and come every Tuesday night,” he said.

Registration is required, and you can check out the lineup for the month at avalonseafoodsokc.com.

If you’re more comfortable dipping your toes into the wonders under the waves, head to Chicas, 6482 Avondale Drive, and order the fish tacos.

“They are incredible,” said manager Chris Lay.

Chicas fish tacos are made with fresh tilapia and topped with a homemade coleslaw, cilantro and avocado puree.

“The avocado puree that comes on it is pretty awesome,” Lay said.

The fish tacos can be ordered grilled or fried. Lay loves the fried version, but said the grilled is more popular.

“When they go for the fish, they’re trying to go a little bit healthier, but at the same time they still want something good,” he said. Pair that with Chicas potatoes or fruit that usually includes grapes, strawberries, pineapple and more.

Chicas also serves up shrimp cocktail in a goblet and ceviche on tostadas.

See? Who wants landlubbers when there’s so much going on in the water? What do they got, a lot of sand? We’ve got a hot crustacean band! (Dammit — almost made it.)

In conclusion: Try some seafood and Netflix “The Little Mermaid.”

When buying fish, it can be difficult to decide. Both have their pros and cons.

In the July 18, 2011, issue of Time magazine, writer Bryan Walsh waded through the topic of farm-raised fish — called aquaculture — versus wild-caught. Farm-raised fish can be less healthy and hard on the environment (especially offshore farms), but wild-caught fish can easily be overfished, something that has been seen in the collapse of the bluefin tuna population. In fact, according to Time, the United Nations has reported that 32 percent of fish stocks worldwide have been depleted.

Over the last 50 years, annual fish consumption has risen from about 22 pounds per person to about 38 pounds today. Aquaculture, then, is unavoidable.

Sometimes it’s just up to taste — Avalon’s J.R. Armstrong said there is a taste difference between wild-caught and farm-raised salmon. But if you’re also thinking about eating green, there are guidelines. California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium puts out a Seafood Watch selection guide that lists the best choices for seafood, determined by abundance and environmental sustainability. Here’s a sampling: —Catfish (U.S. farmed) —Pacific halibut —Salmon (U.S. farmed in inland tanks)

—Salmon (Alaska wild-caught) —Swordfish (Hawaii harpoon) —Bigeye tuna (U.S. Atlantic wildcaught, except longline-caught) For the complete guide (available by region or nationally), check out montereybayaquarium.org. —Jenny Coon Peterson

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