The Dish on Fish from Mark Bittman with Recipes

Farmed or wild caught? Sustainable or overfished? Deciding which seafood to eat is a treacherous business. Mark Bittman guides us through the shoals with his favorite recipes

by Mark Bittman
fish image
SARDINES Compared with the ones that come in a tin, these Pacific specimens, grilled or broiled, are a taste revelation.
Photograph: Christopher Testani
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  • 3 or 4 large cloves garlic, cut into slivers
  • About 1½ pounds shrimp, 20 to 30 per pound, peeled, rinsed and patted dry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons hot paprika
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Warm the oil in a large skillet over low heat; there should be enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic, and cook until it turns golden, a few minutes. Raise the heat to medium high, and add the shrimp, about ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, the cumin and paprika. Stir to blend, and continue to cook, shaking the pan once or twice and turning the shrimp once or twice, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.

Slow-Grilled Sardines

Fishing method: wild caught. Avoid Atlantic sardines.

MBA rating: Best Choice

Prep time: 17 minutes
Cooking time: 13 minutes (in broiler)
Serves 4

  • 12 to 24 large sardines, gutted, with heads on (about 2 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
  • 2 lemons, quartered

1. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill until moderately hot, or heat a broiler until quite hot. Place the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. If you are using the broiler, put a sturdy ovenproof pan or skillet on the rack, and heat it for about 5 minutes.

2. If you use a grill: Brush the fish inside and out with the oil; sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Put the sardines on the cool side of the grill, side by side, without crowding; cover, and cook for about 10 minutesbefore checking. If the sardines are opaque and firmed up a bit, carefullymove them directly over the heat to crisp the skin on both sides, about a minute on each side. If they’re not quite ready, cover, and cook for a few more minutes. If you use the broiler: Put the sardines in the hot pan, and broil on each side for 4 or 5 minutes; it’s OK if the skin blisters and chars a bit. If your pan won’t hold all the fish, work in batches, transferring the first sardines to warmed plates. Garnish with the parsley, and serve with lemon wedges.

Pasta With Dungeness Crab

Fishing method: trap.

MBA rating: Best Choice

Prep time: 18 minutes
Cooking time: 27 minutes
Serves 4

  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 12 ounces orecchiette
  • 2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 head Bibb or Boston lettuc (about 6 ounces), cored, leaves cut into ¾-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon minced red habanero chiles
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat picked over
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt it. Meanwhile, melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper; cook until the shallot begins to soften, about 5 minutes. When the water boils, add the orecchiette, and cook, following package directions, until they are just tender.

2. While the pasta is cooking, add to the skillet the peas, lettuce, chiles and white wine, and cook until the peas turn bright green and the lettuce is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the crabmeat, mint and lemon peel to the pan, and stir well.

3. When the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving some water. Add the pasta to the skillet, and continue cooking and stirring until everything is just heated through, adding pasta water if needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with the mint, and serve.

Longfin-Squid Stir-Fry

Fishing method: trawl.

MBA rating: Best Choice

Prep time: 26 minutes
Cooking time: 9 minutes
Serves 4

First published in the September 2012 issue

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