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Recipes Using Sustainable Fish

fresh fish

If you've resolved to eat with more awareness this year, a great place to start is at the fish counter. Downloadable guides (like those by the Monterey Bay Aquarium) make researching easy. But you can also keep the following fish in mind, all of which are plentiful, sustainably caught, and have relatively low levels of mercury. Cook up one of the fish in these recipes and you'll be eating well and with peace of mind.

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Arctic Char

A distant cousin of salmon and trout, char has a mild salmon-like flavor and a beautiful pink color. Caught in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, char was never threatened because it is a fast-reproducing fish that was largely ignored during the heyday of salmon. Char takes well to virtually any cooking method and is hard to overcook, thanks to its fatty texture. Lean more.

Arctic Char with Olives and Potatoes

Poached Arctic Char with Brown Butter Shiitake

Nutty brown butter and tart fresh lemon complement arctic char’s rich flavor, and the accompanying shiitake and sugar snap peas add texture and earthy sweetness.

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Pacific Halibut

Pacific halibut, unlike Atlantic halibut, comes from well-managed fisheries that have not suffered the steep population decline affecting Atlantic halibut. With its delicate flavor and texture, halibut gives its best performance when barely cooked through. It has a smooth, buttery texture, almost like firm custard. Learn more.

Braised Pacific Halibut with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Clams

Jerked Cedar-Plank Halibut

Jerk seasoning, a traditional Caribbean spice rub made with allspice berries, Scotch bonnet chiles, and a host of other herbs and spices, gets a Northwest twist in a Canadian chef’s hands. This recipe, which utilizes plank cooking on cedar, is a method commonly used on the West Coast; halibut is plentiful in neighboring Alaskan waters.

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Black Cod

Unlike the similarly textured Chilean sea bass, black cod is harvested from well-managed Alaskan fisheries, which impose strict catch limits to protect the species from depletion. (It’s different, though, for other types of cod, like Atlantic cod.) Called sablefish in Europe, black cod is buttery and luxurious. While it can stand up to spicy flavors, its flavor may be best appreciated in delicate preparations. Learn more.

Steamed Black Cod with Scallions and Rice Wine

Miso-Marinated Sablefish

Sablefish, which is also known as black cod or butterfish, is a sustainably caught fish that comes mostly from Alaska, though it is also abundant in parts of the Pacific Northwest. Marinating it in miso, is a traditional preparation, but the marinade is also wonderful slathered on other kinds of fish, chicken, and pork.

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Striped Bass

Striped bass has begun to rebound from overfishing in the 1980s. As a result, its population is increasing. (If you can’t find it wild, farmed striped bass is a good alternative because it’s raised sustainably.) Striped bass has a delicate, almost grassy flavor that’s similar to snapper but cleaner and less oily.  It requires care at the stove because it can quickly cross the line from juicy to overcooked, so pay close attention when cooking it. Lean more.

Striped Bass with Preserved Lemon, Chickpeas, and Couscous

Striped Bass with Horta

The combination of sweet tomatoes and slightly pungent greens in the Greek horta harmonizes nicely with the smoky, grilled flavors of the striped bass.

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Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout farmed in the United States is a best choice because it's farmed in an ecologically responsible way. A relative of salmon, it has a mild, somewhat nutty flavor and a very tender flesh. Easy to find, rainbow trout is usually sold whole, boned and butterflied. Learn more.

Salt-Crusted Trout with Lemon-Dill Beurre Blanc

Atlantic Mackerel

Atlantic mackerel is a diamond in the rough. Prized by the Japanese for the robust flavor it delivers in sushi preparations, it has been often overlooked by American cooks, who favor milder-tasting fish. But with its high omega-3 oil content, mackerel is a heart-healthy choice that’s growing in popularity. Plus, the methods used to catch it don’t damage the ocean’s ecosystem, so it’s a good sustainable choice. Learn more

Miso-Roasted Atlantic Mackerel

Tialpia

Tilapia, a mild white fish similar to cod or flounder, is a best choice when farm-raised in the U.S., where environmentally friendly systems are used. Widely available, it does not have a lot of flavor, but its mild character means it can take on all sorts of flavorings. Learn more

Baked Tilapia with Tarragon-Scallion Stuffing and Butter Sauce

Sardines

If you’ve not tried them, fresh sardines are wonderful, a completely different animal than canned. This particular preparation of briny sardines shows them in their best light.

Sardines Veracruz with Roasted Tomato Confit

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