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Start slimming down with fish

December was that time of year when food prep is at the forefront of everyone’s to do list and the concerns about cholesterol were nowhere in sight: meatballs, brisket and roasts, chips and dip and soooo many desserts that it makes my arteries start to harden just writing about it.

In January, right after you step off the scale and swear never to look at yourself in the mirror again, you just have to take a step back and say pass the fish.

Yes, for some, fish sticks might be a first thought, but I’m going to suggest that you use some fresh (or frozen) filets of white fish or salmon by cooking up these easy and healthy recipes.

White Fish with Tomatoes and Black Olives

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 bunch fresh basil, sliced thin, divided

1 red pepper, chopped

1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped (or one 14-ounce can whole tomatoes)

Salt and black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine or 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar

4 5-ounce whitefish fillets, skin and any bones removed

3/4 cup black olives, pitted and sliced

1/2 to 1 cup toasted almonds

Heat the olive oil in a skillet. When hot, add the garlic, 2/3 of the basil and red pepper. Cook, stirring often, until garlic is soft, not browned, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook, uncovered, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red wine or vinegar; cook 2 or 3 more minutes and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. When the tomato sauce is done cooking, remove it from the heat. Place the fillets on the tomato sauce. Top the two fillets with the olives and remaining 1/3 of the sliced basil leaves. Transfer skillet to the oven and cook until fish is done, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve the fillets topped with the tomato sauce and toasted almonds. Serves 4.

Parmesan Pecan Salmon

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

4 salmon fillets (1 pound), skins removed

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 cup ground pecans or almonds if you prefer

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl combine the mayonnaise, cheese and pepper until well blended. Place the salmon in foil-lined pan and drizzle the lemon juice over the top. Spread the mayonnaise mixture over the top then sprinkle the ground nuts on top of the mayonnaise mixture. Bake 12 to 15 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish) until fish flakes easily with fork. Serves 4. This recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Cod with Green Olives

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

4 stalks chopped celery

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 shredded carrots

2 cups seasoned tomato sauce (like a pasta sauce)

1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, halved

6 cod fillets

1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Mashed potatoes (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and celery, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and carrots and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce and green olives. Place the cod filets in the skillet (making sure they don’t touch) and then spoon the sauce over the filets. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 12 to 15 minutes until the fish flakes with a fork. Stir in lime or lemon juice. Arrange fish on serving platter. Stir the parsley or cilantro into sauce, then spoon the sauce over the cod. This is amazing served with mashed potatoes. Serves 6.

– Modified and submitted by Carolyn Putterman of Chicago Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.