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Now that we’ve passed Memorial Day and with it, the unofficial start of summer, that means local seafood is in full swing. There is no reason for you to purchase farm-raised fish for the next few months. Save that for winter. In the northeast this not only means less expensive seafood but also fresher fish that should not have been previously frozen. So make sure you read the signs in the seafood department. If the fish has been frozen it should state it on the sign. You can also use your eyes and if a fillet looks like it frozen or defrosting at the counter then it most likely has been frozen.
Two commonly found local fish are codfish and flounder. Both are relatively mild in flavor with cod having a heartier and flakier fillet. Both fish appeal to most people and, when in doubt, are safe bets. However, one of my favorite fish, and one that is finally becoming popular, is the black seabass. As a kid fishing in Montauk this fish used to be considered a junk fish but it now can be found on the menus of many popular restaurants. It is also mild in flavor and I suggest you give it a try.
And of course striped bass is always a great summer option. Striped bass is the only locally caught fish that is also farmed raised though so make sure you are buying wild caught variety. There is an easy way to tell the difference between wild striped bass and farm-raised striped bass. Wild striped bass are much longer and slimmer than their farmed counterparts. Farmed striped bass are unnaturally football shaped and usually sold whole. Wild striped bass are most often sold in fillets.
Separately, I’m not a huge fan of bluefish or porgies. Both are very oily and have a heavy fish flavor. I would take a pass on these two.
Here’s what to look for when you’re purchasing local seafood:
A fresh fish should not smell. If you walk by a seafood department and smell fish then walk away. Either they are selling old fish or they aren’t changing the ice under the fish. Neither one is a good sign.
If there are whole fish then look at the eyes of those fish. They should run clear, not cloudy and should sit comfortably within the eye socket. They should not be bulging out or sinking in to the socket.
You can also inspect the gills of the fish. They should be bright red, not a dull shade of pink.
As for fillets, a fish should be bled properly when it is caught. This will prevent blood from running into the flesh. Do not purchase a fillet with blood running through it.
Here’s a simple striped bass recipe:
Grilled Striped Bass
two 1 lb striped bass fillets
juice of one lime
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
freshly cracked pepper to taste
2-3 sprigs cilantro
In a small bowl, mix the lime juice, and olive oil.
Spoon the bowl’s contents over the fish fillets.
Sprinkle the fillets with salt and pepper and let stand 15-20 minutes.
Heat your grill to high, add some olive oil to your grill brush and then rub the grill with the brush. This will help prevent your fillets from sticking to the grill.
Place the fillets on the center of the grill and cook on each side for 4-5 minutes.
Plate the fillets on a serving platter, finish with sea salt and garnish with cilantro. Serve.