February is National Heart Month - something to do with Valentines Day - and a great chance for everyone to examine your relationship with your own "ticker." Perhaps you'll decide to treat it with a bit more care and affection.
There are many ways you can do this, beginning with a visit to your doctor for a check-up, just to see how things are pumping along. Some regular exercise may be in order, and perhaps some changes in your diet. Or maybe your doctor has already told you this, and you just cant find the time to exercise, or the will power to say 'no' to high cholesterol foods.
Well, here are my suggestions:
1) Exercise: If you don't have the time or money for fancy health clubs or classes, go for a walk, take the dog, if you have one, it's good for his/her heart, too. A good, brisk walk is great for your whole body, you can think about anything you like while you're doing it, and it's free.
2) Diet: By now you've probably read at least one article about fish and their 'omega 3 fatty acids' which help break down cholesterol. When you think about where fish live, in ice cold water, it's easy to see why their body fluids have to be special in order to keep flowing at such low temperatures. Think of what happens to animal fat when it simply cools to room temperature! Then think of that same stuff chugging through your veins. It sure doesn't make your heart's job any easier.
How you cook your seafood matters as well as what you eat. Start with preparations that are naturally healthy to begin with - poaching, steaming, braising, oven broiling and foil or parchment paper steaming are good examples of ways to cook fish that's moist and flavorful without adding calories.
POACHING: Poaching can be done either on the stove top or in the oven. Your fish must be completely submerged in liquid - a flavorful stock, jusice, wine or court bouillon - and gently cooked just below a simmer. Firm fleshed fish, such a salmon, turbot, bass, mahi mahi, opah, whitefish or lake trout, can be successfully cooked using this method. Serve poached fish either hot or cool, as part of a salad, as part of a buffet, incorporated into a pasta dish, in crepes, canapes or other appetizer recipes.
BRAISING: In seafood cookery, braising is used to keep thick or muscular cuts of fish moist and tender. Braised fish or shellfish is quickly simmered in a small amount of liquid in a covered vessel placed in a 450 degree oven or over a hot burner. The fish is served basted with it's reduced cooking juices. Meatier fish works well with this method, such as swordfish, salmon or marlin.
STEAMING: An easy way to steam fish requires a wok, a collapsible steamer and a dinner plate. Place the steamer unit inside the wok, add a cup of water, and place the dinner plate on top of the steamer so that it is suspended over the water. Place fish fillets skin side down on the plate, and season with herbs or thinly sliced vegetables. Cover the wok, bring the water to a boil over high heat, and cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness - usually 5 to 7 minutes is long enough. Fish good for steaming include sole, snapper, walleye, black sea bass, cod.
FOIL OR PARCHMENT STEAMING: Wrap your fish snugly in foil or parchment paper with your favorite vegetables and seasonings, crimping the edges to keep in the steam. Bake in a hot oven (425 degrees) for 15- 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Our papillotes come under this heading - we make them with salmon, but can make them with other fish as well - they're like a healthy delicious gift on everyone's plate.
OVEN BROILING: By substituting unsaturated oils for butter or margarine, e.g. olive oil, this cooking method can be made more healthful. You can add a bit of liquid to the pan and baste the fish to keep it from drying out. For best results, only use fish that are more than 1/2" thick, preferably with the skin left on, or whole fish.
Now that I've had this heart-to-heart with you, I hope you have one with yours! (Hope you had a happy Valentines Day).