August is National Catfish Month, and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is suggesting some nutritious recipes to take advantage of the fish.
"If you are from the South or if you have visited the South, more than likely you have been served catfish. It probably was fried, the most common way to prepare it, but it can also be grilled, baked, broiled or used in combination dishes like stews and casseroles," according to Easter H. Tucker, interim family and consumer sciences program leader at UAPB.
Catfish is high in protein and low in calories and fat, especially when not fried. Catfish isn't a fatty fish like salmon, but it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for your brain, eyes, heart and immune system, Tucker said.
The American Heart Association recommends two servings per week. Catfish is a good source of vitamin B12, a nutrient that is usually only found in animal products. Vitamin B12 helps the body make DNA and keeps nerve and blood cells functioning properly, the release said.
"Look for firm flesh with no strong odor, blood or discolorations when buying fish. Fish is available fresh or frozen. Frozen is a good option when fresh is not available and is just as good in terms of flavor, nutrition and appearance," Tucker said. "Do not thaw catfish before you are ready to cook it. Thaw the fish in the refrigerator overnight or cook it frozen but be sure to allow extra time."
The most common way to serve catfish is by breading it with cornmeal and seasonings and frying it; either pan or deep-fried. Always use a healthy oil that is suitable for frying such as soybean, safflower, sunflower, canola, extra light olive oil or peanut oil (if nobody eating it has peanut allergies), she said. Catfish can be baked, grilled, broiled, steamed or sautéd for fewer calories and less fat.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, plan a fun family outing" to catch catfish, Tucker suggests. "Just make sure all adults have their fishing license that can be purchased through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission."
However you get your catfish, enjoy two healthy servings a week, she said. Below is a healthy recipe to try.
Fish with spinach
• Makes: 4 Servings
• Cook Time: 30 minutes
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1-pound skinless catfish fillets
• 1 yellow onion (peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces)
• 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
• 2 cups canned low sodium diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes)
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 cups frozen spinach (coarsely chopped)
• 1/4 cup Kalamata olives (or other Greek olives pitted and coarsely chopped)
1. Put the skillet on the stove over high heat. When it is hot, add 1½ teaspoons oil.
2. Add fish. Cook about 5 minutes per side, until deeply browned. Remove the fish to the plate and cover.
3. Reheat the skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining 1½ teaspoons oil, onion and garlic. Cook about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and water. Cook about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens and turns from bright red to an orange color.
4. Return fish to skillet with the tomato mixture. Cover with spinach and sprinkle with olives. Cover skillet. Cook about 2 minutes over low heat until the spinach is steamed. Serve right away.
*Try this recipe with another white fish such as tilapia, haddock or cod.