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Published April 08, 2009, 12:00 AM

EAT FOR LIFE: Farm-raised catfish offers healthy option

Asian-style sauce adds a touch of citrus.

By: Jill Wendholt Silva, McClatchy Newspapers

Fried catfish with hush puppies.

Mouthwatering? Sure, but not exactly low-fat fare.

Iron Chef Cat Cora grew up in a Greek community in Mississippi, a state known for its farm-raised catfish. She’s also the spokeswoman for the Catfish Institute and offers an eclectic array of ethnic-inspired recipes for the “colorful, flavorful and sustainable” firm-textured fillet at www.uscatfish.com.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium (www.seafoodwatch.org) gives U.S. farm-raised channel catfish the green light. Raised in closed ponds to avoid spreading disease to wild stock and fed on a mostly vegetarian diet, catfish is one of the most sustainable fish species.

The Star’s Pan-Seared Catfish With Steamed Vegetables and Citrus Sauce is a healthy way to prepare the fish. Red pepper, asparagus and sugar snap peas add vitamins and phytonutrients. The Asian-style sauce adds a touch of citrus accented with soy and ginger.

Pan-Sear Catfish and Steamed Veggies

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 pound skinless catfish fillets

¼ teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

12 asparagus spears, trimmed

1 cup sugar-snap peas

½ red bell pepper, cut into pieces about 1½ by ½ inches

¼ cup water

½ cup orange juice

¼ cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon light soy sauce

½ teaspoon ground ginger

Pour oil into a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Arrange fish in a single layer in pan and season with salt and pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until lightly browned and fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Remove fish to a serving platter and keep warm.

Add vegetables and water to the same pan. Cover and cook over medium-high heat, allowing vegetables to steam 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender. Remove cover and allow any excess liquid to evaporate. Remove vegetables and arrange on platter around fish.

Combine orange juice, lemon juice, cornstarch, soy sauce and ginger. Pour orange juice mixture into pan and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Spoon citrus sauce over fish and vegetables.

Yield: Serves 4.

Approximate nutritional analysis per serving (includes 3 ounces cooked fish, about ¾ cup cooked vegetables and 3 tablespoons sauce): 181 calories (28 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 66 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, 21 grams protein, 170 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

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