Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. It is during the next 40 days that we attempt to "give up" something. My Lenten sacrifice will be chocolate. So, from now until Easter, I will try my best to stay away from the dark chocolate I love. That means no Godiva extra dark chocolate truffles, no Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies and no café mocha (I'll have to switch to café au lait for now).

Of course, what you give up for Lent certainly doesn't have to be food. But if there is one Lenten food rule, so to speak, that people do tend to follow, it is having seafood on Fridays. Since seafood and the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids contained in it are good for our bodies, this is actually a great time to add more fish into your diet.

When buying seafood, Johns Hopkins Hospital makes these recommendations:

• Make sure that the fish has a salt-and-sea odor — a smell reminiscent of the ocean. This helps guard against buying one with any spoilage.

• Examine the fish. In a fresh catch, gills should be rosy and eyes should be shiny, not cloudy or enlarged. Flesh should retain much of its original color.

• Look at how the fish are laid out by the vendor. Are they on a bed of cold, clear-colored ice?  Are the fish spread adequately apart?  If they are fresh and unfrozen, they should not be touching, even if they are displayed dockside.

• If you buy a fish that has been frozen, cook and eat it as soon as it is thawed. Fish that are bought fresh can be stored in your freezer for weeks without worry.

• Make sure that shellfish, such as oysters and clams, have shells that are clamped shut. If they are not closed, do not buy them. During cooking, the shells should unclasp as they are heated. If shells do not open during cooking, do not eat the contents.

Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes

6 large Idaho potatoes

Vegetable oil, for coating

8 T. butter

2 cups grated cheddar cheese, plus more for sprinkling

2 cups grated Monterey Jack

2 cups sour cream

Salt and pepper

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and sauteed


Preheat oven to 350°. Begin by washing potatoes, drying them and gently pricking them with a fork on the sides. Coat each potato with vegetable oil, place on foil covered pan, and bake for approximately 1 hour. Place the butter in a large bowl. Remove the potatoes from the oven and slice each potato in half. Gently scoop out the potato and place in the bowl. Using a mixer on high, mix the potatoes, butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Fold the shrimp and both cheeses into the mixture. Gently stuff the mixture back into the potato shells, making sure not to break them. Pile the mixture as high as you can on top of the potato shells. Sprinkle each potato with cheese and paprika for color. Bake in the oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes until browned on top.


Southern Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish

4 (4 to 6 oz.) catfish fillets

1/4 cup buttermilk or plain, nonfat yogurt

1/2 tsp. hot sauce

1/2 cup cornmeal

2 T. butter

1 T. olive oil

Salt and pepper

Stir together buttermilk or yogurt and hot sauce; brush on catfish and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Coat catfish lightly with cornmeal and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Melt butter and olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When skillet is hot, sauté catfish about 3 minutes on each side, turning only once, until golden and crisp. Serve immediately, garnished with lemon wedges and with tartar sauce as accompaniment.


Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup minced sweet pickle

1 hard-boiled egg, forced through a coarse sieve

2 T. minced shallot

2 T. drained bottled capers

1/2 tsp. crumbled dried tarragon

2 T. Creole or Dijon mustard

2 T. minced fresh parsley leaves

1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

In a small bowl, stir together all the ingredients until the tartar sauce is combined well. (The sauce may be made one day in advance and kept covered and chilled).



1 1/2 cups self-rising cornmeal

1/2 cup self-rising flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, lightly beaten

Using a deep pot, preheat oil for frying to 350°. Using a mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the onion. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and egg. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Drop the batter, one teaspoon at a time, into the oil. Dip the spoon in a glass of water after each hushpuppy is dropped in the oil. Fry until golden brown, turning the hushpuppies during the cooking process.


Warm Lobster Salad

2 whole lobsters (about 2 lb. each), cooked, meat removed and diced, and reserved shells

2 sticks of butter

4 cups creamed potatoes, hot

4 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese

4 cups fresh baby arugula, washed and patted dry

1 T. finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Season the lobster meat with salt and set aside. Using a sharp knife, chopped one lobster shell. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine the butter and chopped lobster shells. Melt the butter and simmer over low for about 10 minutes. Remove and strain. In a sauté pan, over medium heat, add 2 T. of the butter. When the butter is hot, add the diced lobster and sauté for 2 minutes. To assemble, form 1 cup of the potatoes into a circle, in the center of each plate. Spoon a fourth of the lobster of each circle of potatoes. Spoon 1/4 cup of the butter around each circle of potatoes. Reserve the remaining butter for a latter use. Place a fourth of the cheese on top of each plate of lobster. Mound the arugula on top of the cheese. Garnish with parsley.


Petite Crab Cakes

1 lb. lump crab meat, approximately 2 to 2 1/2 cups

2 cups Japanese bread crumbs

2 eggs, well beaten

1 T. Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce

2 T. parsley, minced

1/4 cup scallions, chopped

1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup heavy mayonnaise

Place crab meat in a mixing bowl along with 1 1/2 cups of the bread crumbs, the eggs, mustard and other remaining ingredients. Mix gently, leaving the crab lumps as large as possible. Shape the mixture into 12 to 16 equal portions, ball up and flatten into a patty shape about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Coat each patty with some of the remaining bread crumbs. Chill for at least 1 hour before cooking. Heat 1/4 cup cooking oil over medium heat. Sauté each cake 2 to 2 1/2 minutes per side in the oil.


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