The front section of the cookbook, which calls the lionfish “The Caribbean’s New Delicacy,” gives useful tips on collecting, handling and preparing the colourful species, as well as providing expert background on its ecological impact.
Akins says the fish, which lives among coral, can be netted, speared or caught by rod and reel, but he recommends handling them with puncture-proof gloves to avoid a painful prick from the mantle of venomous spines.
“They can be quick over a short distance, but they’re not a free-swimming ocean fish like a tuna or a mackerel,” he said.
Unlike the toxic Fugu pufferfish or blowfish, which is an expensive delicacy in Japan but requires careful expert preparation to avoid potentially fatal poisoning, Akins says lionfish meat is safe to eat and contains no venom.
“The venom is only in the spines. Cooking the fish would denature the venom, even if you left the spines on. It’s simple enough just to cut the spines off,” he said.
Akins said he hoped the cookbook could help create a commercial market for lionfish that would speed their eradication. But he wasn’t sure whether the brightly coloured invader would appear on the menus of Miami Beach eateries.
“It certainly is on the menu in many other countries — the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Mexico,” he said, adding that orders for the recipe book, which can be purchased online at www.reef.org, were coming in fast.