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The Dish on Fish

My fondest memories of my childhood summers center around our family vacations. Every year, in early August we would spend a week at my grandparents condo in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. It is here I learned all my open water know how-skiing, how to drive a boat, and most importantly, how to fish! I was an excellent fisherman-baiting and hooking crappie like a pro! And then learning how to flay them. On a good year, we would take several Zip-lock bags of frozen fish home to eat all year long.

As a youngster I didn't know just how much good I was doing for myself when I learned to love this food. Last week I posted on my Facebook page, that diets high in protein, specifically that from fish, may be less likely to have a stroke than those with diets lower in protein

To echo that great news, I have learned some more fish facts pertaining to fresh water fish. As a landlocked state, Illinois ,like most of the country, rely on regional lakes, rivers and streams for "local" seafood. Freshwater and salt water fish differ in only a few nutrients. Freshwater fish are generally higher in calcium and have slightly higher levels of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Freshwater salmon and bass contain a higher proportion of vitamin A and folate compared to their salty brothers of the ocean.

One major consideration when choosing freshwater fish it is origin. While the EPA has released pointed mercury advisories fro some saltwater fish, advisories are as cut and dry for freshwater fish. Recommendations regarding local contamination levels provide the most important information about fish safety, including recommendations about how much it's safe to consume. Local advisories can be found through state departments of health or department of environmental conservation website.

No matter how great fish is for you, some people are just averted to it. Freshwater fish isn't as "fishy" as that of saltwater, so this may be an in for those not sold on the seafood yet. Thin, delicate freshwater perch tastes great when cooked over medium heat with lemon.

Here are some varieties and suggested preparation methods:

Walleye- everyone's favorite fish fry guest

Bass-very rich taste; baked with a thick glaze, sauce or crusting of bread crumbs

Salmon- best source of omega fats; grilling, backing or other dry heat cooking methods Trout-flaky fish; grilled with black pepper rub or other grill rub

Smelt- small and oily; eaten whole (bones and all); battered and pan fried

Catfish- most commonly consumed freshwater fish in the United States. Cornmeal breaded and deep fried is the standards of Southern cooking, though there are other ways to prepare this guy.

FACT: Catfish is not considered a kosher fish because it lacks scales. Rather, it has a thick, smooth/slimy, scale free skin.

While, my favorite fish dish has always been fried crappie served with mac and cheese (my mom's go to dinner for Lenten Fridays), this recipe is a close second. Give it a try and discover the delicious and nutritious yield this age old summer activity can bring!

Adapted from Food and Nutrition, March/April 2010

Coconut Crusted Whitefish


  • 6 Pieces of whitefish of choice, thawed
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup Italian Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 cup Whole Wheat Ritz Crackers, crushed
  • 1/3 cup egg whites
  • olive oil spray


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Place foil on a cookie sheet and spray with non stick spray.

Combine coconut flakes, Italian crumbs, and crackers in a bowl. Put egg whites in another bowl.

Dip the fish in the egg, then in the coconut crumb mixture. Then place them on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until fish is done. (Check fish at about 15 minutes and watch it so it won't burn)