Although most backyard chefs can grill a steak without a second thought, preparing fresh fish is quite another matter.
"People are still intimidated by cooking fish," says home economist Anne Steirer. "They don't know how to handle it or what to do with it."
But new emphasis on fish as a healthful alternative to meat is putting fresh fish in the spotlight.
Here are some facts and cooking tips about some favorite fresh fish varieties:
Flounder and sole, both of the flatfish family, look and taste so similar that they are interchangeable. The best flounder and sole boast a fine texture that is both tender and firm with a delicate, sweet and nutty flavor. All contain less than 1 percent fat by weight.
* Preparation ideas: Flounder/sole is at its best baked, microwaved and/or served with a sauce. Because it is such a delicate fish, it doesn't stand up well to grilling or broiling, but it can be pan-fried.
* To bake: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place the fish in a flat baking dish; spread fillets with equal parts mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese and sprinkle with chopped green onion. Bake about 10 minutes (as fillets are usually less than 1/2 -inch thick).
Cod was the first fish commercially harvested in the Northern Atlantic. A number of fish, including haddock and pollack, are members of the cod family.
* Preparation ideas: Cod is best baked, microwaved or used in soups and stews. Because of its flakiness, it's a poor choice for the grill.
* To bake: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Dip fillets in oil or melted butter and place in a flat baking dish. Sprinkle with crushed crackers or bread crumbs. Drizzle with a little more butter. Cover and bake 10 minutes per inch (about 10 to 15 minutes) until fish flakes. * Alternate suggestion: Bake with tomatoes and onions.
Scary in the water, shark has become a favorite American fish. It's a mild-flavored fish.
* Preparation ideas: Because of its mild flavor, shark takes to marinades. Any bottled preparation will do; some cooks use Italian salad dressing or a mixture of equal parts barbecue sauce and liquid margarine. Unlike other fish, shark must be marinated at least 2 hours and as long as 24. It is best grilled, broiled, baked or pan-fried, but its firm flesh makes it a poor choice for the microwave.