Whether you catch your own catfish or buy farm-raised fillets from the market, you can choose from a range of cooking methods to prepare this versatile fish. Farm-raised fiddlers have a mild taste, while a big channel cat may be more "fishy." Lemon wedges or lemon juice served with catfish help to counter a fishy taste. Herbs such as tarragon, savory, thyme and dill also mellow strong-tasting catfish. In keeping with the country flair often associated with catfish, serve side dishes that are light, fresh and healthful.
Low-Fat Hush Puppies
A Southern staple served with catfish, traditional hush puppies are deep-fried balls of seasoned cornbread batter. For a low-fat alternative, change the cooking method and bake the batter in mini-muffin cups. Replace shortening or regular vegetable oil in your batter recipe with olive oil to further reduce harmful fats.
For a refreshing side dish, serve coleslaw. Creamy slaw, sweet 'n' sour slaw, red cabbage slaw, broccoli slaw, warm pan slaw -- there are so many types of this picnic favorite. Experiment with ingredients and try adding dry salad dressing mix to a basic slaw dressing to add instant zip.
In the style of an old-fashioned fish fry, place low-fat, oven-fried catfish atop a mound of steaming greens. Brush catfish fillets or nuggets with olive oil, then coat them with a mixture of bread crumbs and dry salad dressing mix. Bake them in a 375 F oven for eight to 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes with a fork. Traditional collards, turnip greens or kale are prepared with onion sautéed with chopped bacon. Try using vegetarian bacon or turkey bacon for a more healthful flavoring, with a touch of olive oil to replace the bacon fat.
Corn on the cob is easy and fast to prepare. Shuck fresh corn by opening the husks at the top of the ear into two parts, then pull down all the husks and silks at once, leaving them connected at the stem end. Break out the ear of corn, clean off the silk remnants, and the corn is ready to cook.
Bring out the ice cream freezer for a homemade delight. Put older children to work turning a hand-crank model or plug in an electric ice cream maker. Make frozen yogurt instead of ice cream for a healthier option. Either way, the dessert needs only to be topped with fresh fruit of the season -- strawberries, peaches or blackberries. Make-your-own fruit-kabobs is another idea. Provide a platter of fresh berries and chunky-cut fresh fruits and a stack of skewers and let everyone assemble a spear of their favorite fruits.