If you're watching your budget, you may not be eating as much fish or shellfish as you once did.
And, according to a recent report from The Nielsen Company, you're not alone. Spending on fresh seafood is down.
Fortunately, you can still find bargains in the frozen fish aisle, and you don't have to sacrifice flavor or texture.
Commercially frozen fish can taste every bit as good as fresh if you take the appropriate steps handling and thawing it, according to experts at the University of Delaware.
Make frozen seafood the last purchase before you head home, especially during warm weather months, so the product doesn't begin to thaw. Place the package in the coldest part of the freezer, but don't bury it so deep in the peas and carrots you'll forget it's there.
Depending on the recipe, you might not have to thaw fish and seafood before using it.
For example, cut individual cod or halibut fillets into chunks and add to chowder. The fish thaws as the soup simmers. If you're steaming shrimp for a salad, start with the frozen state. If you weren't able to plan ahead, cooking frozen seafood is a great convenience.
However, some fish and seafood items should be thawed first. Scallops, for instance, can easily overcook and toughen when prepared frozen.
To thaw, measure out the amount of scallops you want for an entree for two (eight ounces is a healthful serving for two) in the evening. Place in a shallow bowl; cover and refrigerate. The scallops will be thawed for the next night's dinner of sauteed scallops over fresh tomato sauce.
Sauteed Scallops on Bed of Fresh Tomato Sauce
Makes 2 servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1⁄4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon capers
Salt and pepper to taste
1⁄4 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces bay scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cooked rice
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in medium skillet. Add shallot, garlic and tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until tomatoes are pulpy and shallot is tender. Pour in wine and capers. Cook for 1 minute or until wine is reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in basil. Cover and set aside off heat to keep warm.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon butter and oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Combine scallops, flour, salt and pepper to taste in a bag. Shake well to coat scallops. Place scallops in skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until scallops are browned.
To serve, spoon rice onto 2 plates. Divide tomato sauce and spoon over the rice. Top with scallops and any skillet juices.
Each serving (without added salt) has 450 calories; 20 grams total fat; 22.5 grams protein; 69 grams carbohydrates; 70 milligrams cholesterol; 270 milligrams sodium and 2.5 grams dietary fiber.
• Bev Bennett is the author of "30 Minute Meals for Dummies."