What Oysters Reveal About Sea Change

This is kind of the good news/bad news department, as so many things are: The good news is that terrific oysters are being farmed in several locations in California; the bad news is that ocean acidification — the absorption of carbon dioxide into the sea, a direct result of high levels of carbon in the atmosphere — is a direct threat to that industry.

I saw both when I visited Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall, an operation north of San Francisco on Tomales Bay. (Actually, I’ve eaten at and of Hog Island dozens of times, and even shot video there for a PBS series more than 10 years ago.)

I went with Tessa Hill, who’s been researching ocean acidification at Bodega Marine Laboratory for eight years. Hill studies how changes in marine chemistry impact a variety of marine animals, including oysters, whose shells are getting thinner, smaller and more susceptible to predators. Her research looks at current conditions and develop a baseline for tracking the effects of climate change going forward.

Read the rest of this column here.

The Ultimate (for now) Pasta with Clams

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TIME: 30 minutes
MAKES: 2 servings

I’ve made many pasta-with-clams recipes. This is the current, simplest, and I believe best version. My mouth waters just thinking about it; I’d say three of the best meals I’ve had in the last six months were just this. Is that too hard a sell? Try it.

Salt
Good olive oil as needed
24* hardshell (“littleneck”) clams, the smaller the better, scrubbed and dried in a salad spinner or a towel
¼ cup (a little splash) of good white wine (or use water)
6 to 8 ounces linguine or other long pasta
1 tablespoon, more or less, minced garlic
Dried red chile flakes to taste
½ cup chopped parsley

1. Salt a pot of water for pasta and bring it to a boil.

2. Put olive oil in a pan large enough to hold the clams in one layer; be generous – the oil should thickly coat the bottom. Heat until shimmery, then add the clams and, quickly, the white wine. There may be some spattering but it’s worth it; don’t cover the pan; keep the heat medium-high to high, depending on your stove.

3. Start cooking the pasta.

4. The clams will open one by one, and exude a lot of liquid. (You probably will not need to salt this dish but you’ll see later.) Keep cooking until the pasta is nearly done. When the clams are all, or mostly open, add the garlic and chile. Stir a few times, drain the pasta, and toss it with the clam mixture and the parsley. Cook if necessary, tossing, until the pasta is perfect.

5. Add salt if necessary — you might also add a little splash of olive oil — and serve. Do not fall for the trap of discarding clams that appear not to have opened; just open them with a butter knife. If the clams were unbroken and tightly sealed to begin with, they are fine.

*: You can use 36 if they’re real small or you just want more. Or you can use cockles, which are tiny, and use 48. Your call. All should be firmly closed – any that you can pry open with your fingers are dead and should be discarded. And don’t buy any with broken shells.

Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Every Last Bit

Photo by Grant Cornett

Photo by Grant Cornett

“What’s this?” I asked on my first visit to Seki, an unassuming izakaya — a Japanese bar with food — in a quiet corner of Washington. The menu was typically simple, listing sashimi, fried octopus, grilled eel, tempura, pickles, skewered chicken hearts and monkfish livers. And something I’d never seen before: ara yaki.

“Oh,” said Cizuka Seki, who runs the restaurant with her father, Hiroshi, a short, stout, gruff but pleasant man who trained in washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, in Tokyo. “We roast fish scraps, the leftovers from butchering the best fish.”

“And you serve it with . . . ?”

“Nothing.”

Read the rest of this column and get the recipe here.

Posted in Japanese, Recipes, Seafood

HTCE Fast: Recipe-Free Steamed Fish

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Here’s how to make steamed fish without a recipe, with any vegetables you like or have on hand—a foolproof, versatile technique with a built-in side dish.

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Produce, Recipes, Seafood

HTCE Fast: Shrimp and Tomato Paella

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Paella need not be a huge ordeal; if it were called baked rice and shrimp in a skillet, you’d think it was a piece of cake—which it is.

3 1/2 cups shrimp or vegetable stock or water, plus more if needed
Pinch of saffron
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
Salt and pepper
1 pound peeled shrimp
3 large ripe tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
2 cups short- or medium-grain white rice, preferably paella or Arborio rice
Several sprigs fresh parsley for garnish

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Posted in Mark Bittman Books, Recipes, Seafood, Spanish

Shrimp Is Having Its 15 Minutes

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 4.34.02 PMShrimp is now the most popular seafood in America, and there is no wrong way to eat it. Wild shrimp from the Pacific or the Gulf of Mexico is a treat if you can find it. Fresh local shrimp from Maine or the Carolinas is an even rarer gem. (These are all preferable from a sustainability perspective.) A vast majority, of course, is farmed and frozen, but you might as well buy it frozen and thaw it yourself to get the freshest shrimp possible. If you buy it ‘‘individually quick frozen’’ in resealable bags, you can take out only as many as you want and thaw them by leaving the shrimp in the fridge for 24 hours or running them under cool water for an hour or less.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Seafood

Rescuing Tartare From the Stuffy, Old Power-Lunchers

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 10.04.11 AMIn the go-go ’80s, “tartare” pretty much meant a pile of raw, well-seasoned chopped beef topped with a raw egg yolk. It was seen as food for the carnivorous power-lunch crowd — tartare even had a cameo as a status symbol in “Wall Street”— and for old-fashioned people who ate at old-fashioned restaurants.

I’m not sure what the first nonbeef tartare was, but I do remember getting a chuckle when my friend and co-author Jean-Georges Vongerichten introduced me to beet tartare sometime around 1990. In any case, tuna tartare has far surpassed beef in popularity, lamb tartare is fashionable and carrot tartare is expensive. In short, the field is wide open, and it’s time for home cooks to forge ahead.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Recipes, Seafood

A Dozen Simple Ways to Serve the Perfect Scallop

Screen Shot 2013-06-19 at 9.17.27 AMCreamy, sweet, briny and meaty at the same time, scallops are the most user-friendly of mollusks, and the recipes here won’t unnecessarily complicate things. Half call for grilling, the remainder leave the scallops raw.

Much more difficult than cooking scallops is buying scallops. As with most seafood these days, unless you’re on the boat yourself — or have a trustworthy source — it’s hard to know exactly what you’re getting. Because scallops are often soaked in a phosphate solution that plumps them up with water (therefore making added water part of the selling price), it’s important to look for scallops that are labeled “dry” or “dry-packed.” A waterlogged scallop doesn’t sear well, and a phosphate-marinated scallop may taste like soap, especially when it’s raw, so make sure to ask for dry.

Read the rest of this article, here.

Posted in Seafood