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KITCHEN SHRINK: A fine kettle of fish

Catharine L. Kaufman
Catharine L. Kaufman

The good news is that carefully chosen fish and seafood especially wild-caught, deep sea, cold-water varieties contain a rich store of lean protein, heart and brain healthy omega-3 fatty acids, along with bone boosting calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium and body balancing potassium.

Now the bad news: Fish from other parts of the world (and even some domestically) contain a mother lode of contaminants that can cause serious short- and long-term health effects. So don’t fall hook, line and sinker for your favorite catches until you know all the facts.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters

According to University of California’s “Berkeley Wellness” letter, roughly 85 percent of seafood consumed in this country is imported, most being farm-raised or produced by aquaculture. These practices are not subject to U.S. Inspections, and many fish exported from developing countries are laced with microbes, heavy metals and formaldehyde, along with antibiotics, anti-fungals, growth hormones, and other chemicals and toxins.

They would miserably fail even the most lax drug test. Of the most worrisome of imported seafood, shrimp and prawns head the list for high toxic chemical content followed by crab, eel and tilapia. Investigators reeled in Vietnam, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, and India as top violators.

Something’s Fishy

Imported shrimp is not the only fish on the hook with a bad-for-your-health reputation. Swordfish and flounder are bottom feeders that ingest PCB’s, heavy metals and other toxins collecting on the sea floor that derail the nervous system and infect the kidneys, and therefore should not be consumed by pregnant or breastfeeding women, children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.

Tuna, shark and other big fish are also supercharged with mercury accumulated from smaller fish that they consume.

Crab Cakes

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh lump crab meat, cartilage and shells removed

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped

parsley or dill

3 scallions, finely chopped

3 to 4 tablespoons fine bread crumbs

Juice from half a Meyer lemon

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1 large egg

3 tablespoons unbleached flour

1/4 cup canola, sunflower or grapeseed oil

Method: In a large mixing bowl, combine crab, scallions, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, lemon, Worcestershire and seasonings. Gently blend. Fold in egg and stir until mixture is cohesive. Add more bread crumbs if necessary. Divide into four portions, and shape into round, thick cakes like pucks about 1 1/2 inches thick and 4 inches across. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet and chill for at least one hour. Remove from refrigerator and dust both sides with flour. Add oil to a heavy skillet, and heat on medium. Place cakes on the skillet and sauté until crispy, about 4 minutes each side.