By Linda Gabris
When I was growing up in the rural woods, Grandpa and I did a lot of fishing from spring through fall so fresh catch was always on the menu. But come winter freeze-up, fish were much harder to catch so every morning Grandma would give us all a dose of cod liver oil, vouching it was good for “warding off” cold and flu. In spite of my protests, I must admit, thanks to the nasty tasting fish oil, I don’t remember ever suffering from a seasonal ailment that gave me a “good” enough excuse for not crossing the frozen fields to school.
Modern day research backs Grandma’s old claims, showing that fish oil (rich in Vitamin D) is, indeed, a powerful immune system booster. Like Grandma, I still have a lot of faith in it. These days I find it much more agreeable to get my “boost” by enjoying fish in its natural form on my plate rather than holding my nose and swallowing the distasteful supplement from a spoon.
Fish is also hailed by experts as being a number one “heart-smart” food which is another good reason for maintaining a fish-rich diet. Supermarkets today (unlike in Grandma’s time) carry a wide variety of fresh, frozen, and canned fish available year round at affordable prices. It’s easy to “fish up” your family’s diet even when fun fishing expeditions aren’t on the bucket list due to the pandemic and the “stay at home” advisories which we are all striving so hard to obey.
You can take comfort, as I do, in knowing that serving more fish to your loved ones helps them maintain a strong immune system and a healthy heart which are the body’s two best defenses for fighting and winning the war against coronavirus. There’s no better time than now to land some tasty fish dishes on the table.
Below are a few of my family’s favorite recipes, specially geared for oily species that weigh-in heavy on the healthy side of the scale.
Napoli pizza with anchovies:
Even kids who don’t fancy fish will eagerly tackle this loaded pizza that’s crowned with just enough anchovies to give it a distinctively wonderful briny flavor. This makes one large pizza — 10 slices.
- 1 envelope (1 Tbsp.) dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- ½ tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cups (more or less) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup of pizza or tomato sauce
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- Thin onion slices
- Thin sweet pepper slices
- Thin jalapeño slices (optional)
- Sliced ripe black olives
- 2 cups shredded well-aged cheddar or other hard cheese (You can use traditional mozzarella but hard cheeses are reputed as being more beneficial to good health.)
- ¼ cup shredded hard Parmesan cheese
- 10 small anchovies (There should be about 10 in a typical small tin.)
Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and let stand until foamy. Stir in the salt, sugar, and oil. Slowly stir in enough of the flour to make a non-sticky dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about three minutes. Put in a greased bowl, turn to grease all sides, cover and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. Punch down, press dough into a greased pizza pan. Spread sauce over top, sprinkle with oregano, scatter on toppings in any amount you please, top with cheese, arrange anchovies so each slice gets one. Bake in a preheated 450° F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden and top is bubbly.
Napoli pizza ready for the oven and serving — this is a dish even kids love.
Shrimp and anchovy Caesar kale salad:
Here’s a delectable salad that dishes up a triple-dose of goodness! Serves 4
- 1 salad bowl of washed kale, tough stems removed, cut into ribbons (save stalks for stockpot)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves mashed garlic (another immune booster)
- 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 soft boiled egg (Boil about two minutes then immediately plung into cold water. In the old days raw eggs were used in Caesar dressing but it is safer to boil them gently before using.)
- 2 Tbsp. anchovy paste
- Shake of black pepper
- ¼ cup (plus extra for garnishing) shredded hard Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup garlic croutons
- 20 large cooked shrimp
- 2 cloves mashed garlic
- Juice of half a lemon
- Extra shredded Parmesan
- Lemon slices
In a small bowl, mix dressing ingredients and put in the fridge until ready to toss. Put the cooked shrimp into a bowl with the garlic and lemon juice. Marinate in the fridge for at least an hour. To serve, pour dressing over kale and croutons and toss. Divvy up into salad bowls, top with the shrimp, sprinkle on some extra shredded Parmesan, and garnish with a lemon slice.
Shrimp and anchovie Caesar kale salad, a triple dose of goodness
Crispy fried sardines (herring smelts, silversides, or other small panfish of choice):
Even those who turn up their nose at canned sardines can easily get hooked on these tasty fried fish. No exact measures here, just fry as many fish as you wish — with the only rule being not to crowd the pan. Work in batches if you must.
- Pan-ready fresh (or frozen and thawed) sardines
- Lemon juice
- Lemon salt and black pepper
- All-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil
- Lemon wedges
Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the fish to moisten. Season with lemon, salt, and black pepper. Dredge the fish in flour and place on waxed paper. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed skillet that will accommodate the fish laying flat. Slip the floured fish into the hot oil and fry until crispy and golden on each side, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on size and thickness of the fish. Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges and a seafood or tartar dipping sauce if desired.
You don’t need to coax anybody to eat these crispy fried sardines.
Open-face sardine sandwich:
Canned sardines are a super handy pantry food. For such a little fish they really do reel in big raves, especially on this hefty open-faced sandwich. There are lots of flavors of canned sardines to choose from such as jalapeño, lemon pepper, those packed in tomato sauce, to name a few — and they all are delicious! This makes a lunch for one or two but you can increase the recipe as needed. Serve with dill pickles on the side.
- 1 hefty slice of bread (sourdough is nice and sturdy for loading up)
- 1 clove garlic
- Thin slices of sweet onion
- 1 tin of sardines
- Black pepper
- Shake of hot pepper sauce
- Crumbled blue cheese
Toast the bread and rub well with the clove of garlic and then butter it. Place onion slices on the bread and top with the sardines, sprinkle with black pepper, and drizzle on a little hot pepper sauce. Top with crumbled blue cheese and pop under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Open faced sardine sandwich out of the oven
Baked herb-stuffed herring:
Here is a tasty recipe for herring, especially for those who wish to eat baked rather than fried fish. Serves 4 as a first course or 2 as the main dish which goes great with boiled baby potatoes and steamed broccoli.
- 4 whole dressed pan-ready herring
- 6 Tbsp. butter, divided
- 2 minced green onions
- 1 clove mashed garlic
- 3 Tbsp. fresh chopped dill
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley
- ½ cup fine breadcrumbs
- Lemon slices for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Season fish inside and out with salt, set aside. Melt butter in the microwave and mix 4 tablespoons of the butter with the onions, garlic, herbs, and breadcrumbs. Stuff the fish with the mixture. Lay fish in a greased flat baking dish. Brush remaining butter over top. Sprinkle the fish with pepper. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes.
Baked herb-stuffed herring
Chunky oyster chowder:
Years ago I received a jar of oysters in a gift basket. Up until that point, I had never cooked or even eaten oysters before so I adapted this recipe from an old seafood cookbook and have stuck with it ever since, buying jarred oysters whenever the craving strikes. Serve with crusty bread and butter for a full meal deal. Serves 8
- 6 Tbsp. butter
- 1 minced onion
- 1 minced sweet red pepper
- 5 cloves minced garlic
- 4 Tbsp. flour
- 3 cups boiling chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 cups chopped broccoli
- 1 diced carrot
- 1 stick diced celery
- 4 diced potatoes
- 1 (12-ounce) container of shucked oysters, drained and chopped into bite-sized pieces (liquid reserved)
- 1 cup cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sprig or two of fresh chopped dill
Heat butter in saucepan. Sauté onion, pepper, and garlic until soft. Sprinkle with the flour, cook until absorbed. Whisk in the boiling stock and cook until smooth. Add the vegetables and reserved oyster liquid. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Add the oysters and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with dill upon serving.
Chunky oyster chowder