This being one of the months that ends with R means that it’s shellfish season again. Yes, it’s true that some shellfish are high in cholesterol. But according to latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the type of cholesterol found in shellfish doesn’t have a negative impact on your health. In fact, it states that “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and [blood] cholesterol. … Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
Nowadays, we recognize that there are separate types of cholesterol, and new measuring techniques have indicated that cholesterol levels of many molluscan shellfish like clams, oysters, scallops and mussels are much lower than previously thought. In fact, they have a large percentage of noncholesterol sterols, which inhibit the absorption of bad cholesterol eaten in the same meal.
That said, shellfish are a great source of protein and iron, and they contain very little saturated fat. Since more recent studies have shown that eating a low-saturated fat diet is much more important than cutting cholesterol, shellfish are a welcome part of typical low-cholesterol diets.
Here then is a delicious recipe for Italian seafood stew to celebrate the season’s bounty. It takes about an hour and a half to prepare, but it’s easy to put together with most of the cooking time being hands-off.
Cioppino (Italian Seafood Stew)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 5 large shallots, chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 1/2 cup dry red or white wine (either one will work)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 lb clams, scrubbed
- 1 lb mussels, scrubbed
- 1 lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3/4 lb sea scallops
- 1 ½ lbs white fish, like halibut, cod or tilapia
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Note: You can also add Dungeness crab legs to the pot. Add it when you add the clams.
1. Cook garlic, shallots, oregano, bay leaves, dried oregano, red pepper flakes and salt in extra virgin olive oil that’s been heated in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium. Stir until shallots are softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in tomatoes and paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until reduced by half, 5 to 6 minutes. Add broth and 1 cup water and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.
5. Adjust seasoning, then add clams and mussels to stew and simmer, covered, until clams and mussels just open, 5 to 10 minutes. Check every minute after 5 minutes to avoid overcooking the bi-valves.
6. Transfer opened clams and mussels to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon. Discard any that haven’t opened after 10 minutes.
7. Lightly season fish fillets with a couple of pinches of sea salt and add them to the stew. Simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.
8. Discard bay leaves, then return clams to pot and gently stir in parsley. Serve immediately in large soup bowls with some crusty whole-wheat bread.