August is National Catfish Month and an expert explains the benefits of the fish and ways to serve it.


“If you are from the south or if you have visited the south, more than likely you have been served catfish,” said Easter H. Tucker, interim family and consumer sciences program leader for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.


“It probably was fried, the most common way to prepare it, but it can also be grilled, baked, broiled or used in combination dishes like stews and casseroles,” she said in a news release.


Catfish is high in protein and low in calories and fat, especially when not fried. Catfish isn’t a fatty fish like salmon, but it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for the brain, eyes, heart and immune system, Tucker said.


The American Heart Association recommends two servings per week. Catfish is a good source of vitamin B12, a nutrient that is usually only found in animal products. Vitamin B12 helps the body make DNA and keeps the nerve and blood cells functioning properly.


“Look for firm flesh with no strong odor, blood or discolorations when buying fish,” Tucker said. “Fish is available fresh or frozen. Frozen is a good option when fresh is not available and is just as good in terms of flavor, nutrition and appearance.”


“Do not thaw catfish before you are ready to cook it. Thaw the fish in the refrigerator overnight or cook it frozen but be sure to allow extra time,” she said.


The most common way to serve catfish is by breading it with cornmeal and seasonings and frying it; either pan or deep fried. Always use a healthy oil that is suitable for frying such as soybean, safflower, sunflower, canola, extra light olive oil or peanut oil (if nobody eating it has peanut allergies), she said.


“Remember, you can bake, grill, broil, steam or sauté catfish for less calories and fat,” she said.


Tucker suggests catching catfish.


“During the COVID-19 pandemic, plan a fun family outing,” Tucker said. “Just make sure all adults have their fishing license that can be purchased through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.”


However one gets their catfish, the should enjoy two healthy servings a week, she said. Below is a healthy recipe to try.


FISH WITH SPINACH


Makes: 4 Servings


Cook Time: 30 minutes


Ingredients


1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1-pound skinless catfish fillets, 1 yellow onion (peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces), 2 cloves garlic (peeled and minced), 2 cups canned low sodium diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes), 1/2 cup water, 2 cups frozen spinach (coarsely chopped), 1/4 cup Kalamata olives (or other Greek olives pitted and coarsely chopped.)


Directions


1. Put the skillet on the stove over high heat. When it is hot, add 1½ teaspoons oil. 2. Add fish. Cook about 5 minutes per side, until deeply browned. Remove the fish to the plate and cover. 3. Reheat the skillet to medium heat. Add the remaining 1½ teaspoons oil, onion and garlic. Cook about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and water. Cook about 10 minutes, until the mixture thickens and turns from bright red to an orange color. 4. Return fish to skillet with the tomato mixture. Cover with spinach and sprinkle with olives. Cover skillet. Cook about 2 minutes over low heat until the spinach is steamed. Serve right away.


Notes: Try this recipe with another white fish such as tilapia, haddock or cod. See how to make this recipe and more on USDA’s What’s Cooking? YouTube site.


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.


— Debbie Archer is an Extension associate-communications at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.