October is National Seafood Month, the time that we honor eating from the sea. American fish harvesting hit a record 17-year high last year. Despite a larger catch, the wide range of delicious varieties to choose from, and the messages on seafood's role in supporting our health, we still aren't making seafood our protein of choice as frequently as we should. A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed that the average American ate the equivalent of about 15 pounds of uncooked fish and shellfish in 2011. That translates to dining on just a little over 4.5 ounces of seafood or one lonely seafood meal per week—half of what the experts at the USDA and the American Heart Association recommend. A true seafood lover, I had to find out why seafood isn't on our plates more frequently.
An interesting conversation with a spokesperson for the National Fisheries Institute revealed that part of the challenge is that many cooks just aren't fully comfortable preparing seafood at home. It seems that skittishness at the stove is standing between us and fully exploring the sea's bounty. In fact, we actually eat most of our seafood and shellfish meals in restaurants. Low in calories and loaded with great taste, brain and heart-boosting Omega-3 fatty acids along with a laundry-list of vitamins and minerals, we forfeit quite a bit when we pass on homecooked seafood. With so many fish varieties and cooking methods to choose from, any cook can find seafood dishes that suit their skill and fancy. From a sophisticated bouillabaisse to a simple grilled trout, there's something for everyone.
Cooking more seafood is like getting into a cold pool. You just have to jump right in! Start with a fish and flavors you like, a recipe source you trust, and branch out from there. I created my Tropical Salmon and Mango in Foil to capture my love of both salmon and mango. It's easy enough for everyday yet just different enough to be enticing. Making the effort to put seafood on your home menu and keeping track of your favorites will give you a reservoir of dishes you can turn to for that one more seafood meal a week your body is yearning for.