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What should I have in my kitchen?
For the last few weeks I have been writing about the healthiest choices for you to make at the grocery store.
Today I am continuing with fish -- specifically shellfish -- and will move on to fin fish next week. A lot of Ask Dr. Gourmet questions are about whether shellfish can be part of a healthy diet because many of them contain a lot of cholesterol. This is another area of confusion for a lot of folks but all fish is good for you and has been shown time and again in research to prevent (and even reverse) heart disease.
Mussels are a fantastic choice. They are quick and easy to cook. They are inexpensive and you can use them in almost any recipe that you might use clams. Mussels are low in fat, calories and cholesterol and oh, so tasty. One pound of mussels in the shell is about 3.5 ounces of edible fish and there’s less than 100 calories with under 2 grams of fat (so eat a couple pounds if you like).
Most mussels that you will find in the grocery are grown on farms. They are cultivated on long ropes along coastlines and in tidal pools or bays. The most common variety is the blue mussel, which has a dark blue to almost black shell.
Mussels, like all live shellfish, need to be kept ice cold. I buy mussels only at fish counters where the other fish looks fresh. Look for clean mussels with tightly closed shells – open shells indicate that the mussel might be dead. Don’t buy mussels with chipped or broken shells.
Speaking of clams... These are also a great choice. Like mussels, they are low in fat and calories and are widely available now. They are great simply steamed but also wonderful in any fish soup, chowder or fish stew. Also like mussels you want to purchase clams as close to the time that you are going to cook them as possible. Keeping them sitting on top of a bed of ice will keep them fresh a lot longer.
I love crab but I don’t much like fighting with my food, so I don’t have whole crabs or crab legs very often. It’s so easy to purchase crabmeat and let someone else do the work. You’ll find it sold in a variety of forms, but crabmeat will keep for only a few days in your refrigerator.
Lump crab is whole pieces of crab claws and the white body meat. Flaked crab is the smaller bits of both dark and light meat from both the claws and the body of the crab. The former is tastier and makes the best crab cakes. Pasteurized crabmeat is packed in cans and will keep much longer – about 12 to 18 months. The flavor of pasteurized crabmeat is not fresh tasting at all, so it’s best to simply avoid buying it.
As with other crustaceans like shrimp and lobster, crabs do have a moderate amount of cholesterol, but they are very low in calories and saturated fat. The key is to pair crabs in recipes with good fats like olive oil. Try my Crab and Corn Salad for a good example.
Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
May 21, 2007