Growing up, my family never had turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.. or ham, or stuffing, or green bean casserole, or sweet potato pie. Man, you were deprived, you’re probably thinking. On the contrary, I think my family’s tradition of having seafood on Thanksgiving beat any turkey dinner by a long shot. You see, I grew up with parents that didn’t eat red meat or pork, therefore, we ate a lot of seafood, chicken, and you guessed it, turkey. Turkey wasn’t necessarily a “special” meal for us. Our Thanksgiving dinner instead included delicious lobsters steamed to perfection, colossal stone crab claws as fresh as you can get, and all the clams you could eat. Over the years, the meal morphed with new additions to the menu, like king crab claws, my mom and younger brother’s favorite.
I’ve always said that my “last meal” would be stone crab. You know, like if I was ever on death row or something. This is a scenario you’ve thought about too, right? I can’t be sure if I love stone crab so much because it reminds me of childhood, the holidays, or if it’s just really that damn delicious that it brings such fond memories to my mind and drool to my lips. I also think my parents used it as a bribery technique to get me to come home for the holidays when I was in college.
To me, seafood says family, it says holidays, it says special. It doesn’t matter if you’re making it on a mundane Monday night or for Thanksgiving dinner, incorporating seafood into your meal gives it that extra touch of love. People often tell me that they’d like to eat more seafood, but they just don’t know where to start. It seems that most people realize that seafood has numerous health benefits, but might not know exactly what those benefits are. Let’s discuss:
Benefits of Eating Seafood
- Omega-3 fatty acids aka healthy fats
- Vitamin D
- Low in saturated fat
- Adds variety to your diet
When Searching for Seafood in your Grocery Store, Choose:
Frozen Varieties: Whether you’re buying shrimp, a fish filet, or scallops, frozen varieties are usually a less expensive option than fresh, and just as delicious. You can also buy a larger quantity of frozen and keep it in your freezer at home, whereas fresh seafood should be cooked as soon as possible. I have frozen scallops, shrimp, and salmon in my freezer at all times. Not to mention they thaw super fast! Canned varieties of seafood are also a nutritious and budget-friendly option, like chunk light tuna or anchovies.
US Seafood: The United States has strict guidelines on raising fish including antibiotic use, which is why I would recommend US seafood over all others. International fish farms may not be held to the high standards that we would expect here. You can read Consumer Reports research on the contamination rates of foreign and domestic seafood and about certain labels that might help you make better choices of shrimp.
Wild Varieties: It’s a debatable topic on whether to choose wild or farm-raised seafood. Issues of cost, contamination, nutrition, and sustainability are at the forefront of this topic. If however, budget isn’t a concern for you or perhaps you eat seafood more than twice weekly, choose the wild varieties, like “Wild Alaskan Salmon.” Wild fish eat food that nature intended them to eat, while it can be a mystery as to what farm-raised fish are eating. There are, however, places like Whole Foods Market who pride themselves on sourcing only high quality farm-raised seafood, verified by a third-party.
Low Mercury Varieties: It’s important to choose low-mercury seafood due to the damaging effects mercury has on the nervous system. This is especially important for children, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. Some of the fish to avoid include: shark, tilefish, swordfish, Ahi and Albacore tuna, and king mackerel. High mercury fish tend to be large fish, which spend most of their lives eating smaller fish and accumulating mercury in the process. Low mercury options of seafood include: salmon, catfish, shrimp, tilapia, cod, light or skipjack tuna, oysters, sardines, crab, and trout.
Seafood for Children, Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women
These guidelines come from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) concurs:
- Eat 2-3 servings a week (8 to 12 ounces in total) of a variety of fish.
- Do not eat raw or under-cooked seafood.
- Avoid high mercury fish.
Where To Start
Start with something easy, a piece of salmon. Already feeling intimidated? Don’t! The salmon I buy is Wild Alaskan, boned, frozen, individually-wrapped center-cut filets with the skin on. If you prefer to go to the fish counter and get it fresh, ask for a center cut filet. They’ll even remove the skin for you if you’d like. While I don’t eat the skin, I like to cook my salmon skin-side-down, as I find it keeps the salmon moist by locking in the juices, (and the skin is very easy to remove after it’s cooked anyways).
I’m about to share with you my absolute favorite way to eat salmon. This is a recipe you can make for your family time and time again throughout the year, or you can save it for special occasions. It’s both simple and fancy, perfect for kids and company alike.
Pistachio & Goat Cheese Salmon
- 4 salmon filets, about 4-6 ounces each
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped pistachios, plus more as desired
- 1- 5oz package of goat cheese
- Pinch of fresh or dried dill
- Drizzle (about 1 Tbsp) of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Thaw salmon, if frozen, under running room temperature water or in the fridge overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Drizzle olive oil over salmon to coat evenly, on all sides.
- Season salmon generously with salt and pepper, as well as any other seasonings you like, such as garlic powder, paprika, etc.
- In a bowl, add goat cheese and dill then use a fork to combine.
- Add half of the pistachios to goat cheese mixture and stir (save the other half for later).
- Place your salmon filets, skin-side-down in a baking dish, with at least 1/2 inch space between pieces.
- Evenly distribute goat cheese mixture to the top of each salmon filet.
- Sprinkle the remaining pistachios on top. (Don’t worry if some pistachios fall onto the edges of the dish, these will roast and become crispy and delicious).
- Bake salmon for about 15-18 minutes, until fish flakes with fork. (If you did not thaw salmon and are cooking frozen, cook for 28-32 minutes).