Reel in the benefits of delicious baked cod

March 28, 2007|By Kathy Manweiler | Kathy Manweiler,McClatchy-Tribune

Raise your hand if you eat fish twice a week.

That's what the government and dietitians recommend, but most people consume only about 3 ounces of fish a week, according to a report by the NPD Group, a research firm.

If you're trying to lose weight, you might want to start taking that expert advice because the scale probably will reward you if you eat fish more often.

Not only is fish a great source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3s, it packs fewer calories and less fat than beef or chicken.

A 6-ounce serving of cod contains 138 calories and 1 gram of fat, while a 6-ounce skinless chicken breast has 186 calories and 2 grams of fat. The same amount of 90 percent lean ground beef has 294 calories and 18 grams of fat.

Even if you don't like your food to taste "fishy," you're not off the hook. Some varieties of fish, including flounder, tilapia and halibut, have mild flavors, so they can make good options for people who aren't fans of tuna or salmon.

Thinking about warming up your frying pan? Don't. Experts say frying fish appears to cancel out any health benefits, but that doesn't mean you have to give up crunch and flavor.

This recipe features cod, another fish with a very mild flavor, and tops it with a tasty sauce and buttery crackers.

I lightened this dish by using reduced-fat crackers and light mayonnaise. Your taste buds won't know the difference, but you'll trim 198 calories and 28 grams of fat from the original recipe.

One serving contains 251 calories and 6 grams of fat. If you eat this fish instead of a similar-size serving of battered fish from Long John Silver's, you'll save about 270 calories and 26 grams of fat - enough to have a 2-ounce Snickers bar for dessert.

Baked Cod With Crunchy Lemon-Herb Topping

Serves 5

nonstick spray oil

24 reduced-fat Ritz crackers, broken into crumbs about the size of peas (see note)

2 tablespoons minced parsley, dill or basil, or a combination (divided use)

3 tablespoons light mayonnaise

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 pounds skinless cod fillets, 1/2 inch thick, pin bones removed, patted dry

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

lemon wedges, for serving

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray oil.

In a medium bowl, combine the cracker crumbs and 1 tablespoon of the parsley, dill or basil. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley, dill or basil with the light mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Set aside.

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper to taste. Place on the baking sheet, spacing the pieces about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the tops and sides of the fish with the mayonnaise mixture, then press the cracker crumbs into the mayonnaise.

Bake for 8 to 15 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden brown and the fish flakes apart when gently prodded with a paring knife. If the cracker crumbs brown before the fish is done cooking, cover the fish with aluminum foil. Serve hot with the lemon wedges.

Note: If the cracker crumbs are smaller than the size of peas, they will not become crunchy in the oven.

Adapted from "The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2007"

Per serving: 251 calories, 6 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrate, 33 grams protein, 0 grams fiber, 320 milligrams sodium

Recipe analysis provided by The Wichita Eagle.

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