I wish I’d been in La Jolla a couple of weeks ago to see the green inflatable airship flying overhead with a cartoon mermaid on one side. She was curvy and blonde, with a cigarette in her mouth and a bloody fish impaled on her trident. Around her was text that read, “Chicken of the Sea: Carnage in a Tuna Can.”
Are we looking at another tuna boycott? Many readers will remember 1988, when biologist Sam LaBudde went to work as a cook on a Panamanian tuna boat and secretly shot film that showed dolphins dying in nets and being crushed in winches, as many as 20 for every tuna. The video was shown to a Senate subcommittee and sparked a consumer boycott of canned tuna. Two years later, Starkist — then owned by Heinz — announced it would no longer buy any tuna caught by methods that threatened dolphins. Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea quickly followed suit, and “dolphin-safe tuna” was born. (Strangely enough, the World Trade Organization just ruled against dolphin-safe tuna labels, but that’s another story.)
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Photo: Greenpeace via Flickr
The pleasure of eating lobster is intense, and the reward-to-work ratio is unsurpassed, all of which is fun to talk about. What’s not so fun to talk about is lobsters and pain, which is why I’m going to avoid it. All of us lobster eaters do. (If you want a full consideration of the lobster/pain issue — one that resolves absolutely nothing but grapples with it beautifully — read David Foster Wallace’s hilarious essay “Consider the Lobster.”)
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By Alaina Sullivan
This unique salmon preparation involves a cut of fish that falls somewhere between razor-thin smoked salmon and a robust wild Alaskan filet. I rarely think to slice fresh salmon filets horizontally, but one of the beauties of preparing it this way is the speed of its execution – it can go from pan to plate to palate in a matter of minutes. (Shorter if you skip step two like me). The most time-consuming part was removing the tiny bones from my fresh Coho, but speed bump aside, a swift slice down the middle, a generous seasoning and the fish is ready to go. The cooking, as the name suggests, is over in a flash: a brief touchdown in the hot skillet and the salmon slivers are cooked to perfection with a rosy hint of rareness in the middle.
Though robed in curry powder and delicious on its own, pairing the salmon with a creamy chickpea raita rounds out its Middle Eastern flavors. I rarely pass up an opportunity to use yogurt as a condiment – I love that its subtle tang adapts to sweet or savory, and its creamy texture is an invitation for ingredients to nestle within. It is no stranger to being used as the base of sauces to adorn meat, poultry and fish – the Indian raita being no exception. This cool condiment, spiked with cumin and mustard and textured by chickpeas, minced cucumber and red onion, takes as little time to assemble as the fish. A dash of red pepper gives it the perfect dose of heat to compliment the curry-spiced salmon. I recommend having a warmed pita or naan bread nearby to mop up any sauce that lingers at the end. Recipe from How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes On America’s Chefs.
Fish Steamed over Summer Vegetables
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Versatile and foolproof, this recipe provides both fish and side dish in one preparation (it’s a summer main-stay for gardeners). The idea is to give the vegetables (whichever you choose) a head start in a hot skillet, then use that as a bed to steam sturdy fillets, steaks, or whole fish (which might take just a couple minutes longer).
The goal is to let the vegetables soften but not fully cook. That way when you lay on the fish, everything finishes cooking together.
Other seafood you can use here: halibut, salmon, or trout; avoid fish that tend to dry out quickly, like tuna and swordfish. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
Fish: roasted, sautéed, poached and broiled (“all” in five minutes, this morning on the Today Show.)
A clambake is one of those absurdly demanding culinary tasks that can still be performed by normal people — that is, nonchefs. And your first clambake can go well: the hardest part is finding the right beach, preferably one with an abundance of seaweed, big rocks and dry wood. It’s still not an intuitive process; at my first clambake, I wound up scraped, burned and sore, and the food I produced was undercooked and sandy. Part of this was drinking too much, too early, and part of it was that I was making it up as I went along.
I’ve worked through all of that. And if you follow my “recipe” (which includes phrases I don’t often employ, like “find about 30 rocks, each 6 by 4 inches”), you should have a memorable experience. Few meals are more beautiful than a well-executed clambake. And because demanding culinary tasks are in vogue, at least for a certain hard-working segment of the sustainable-food set, it seems like the right moment for a clambake revival.
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By Freya Bellin
There’s something about fish tacos that just screams summer to me, and, true to form, the flavors in this taco are fresh, simple, and nearly beachy. Tomatillos are a great choice here if you can find them. They taste fruitier than a tomato, and very tart and crisp, almost like a Granny Smith apple. The tomatillo and avocado combo makes a great simple salsa, and serves as a nice contrast to the soft, slightly spicy cabbage. I used purple cabbage for the color, but green cabbage would work also. For the fish, any thick white fillet is fine. I used a combination of halibut and striped bass, but go with whatever looks freshest. A cold beer (and a beachfront view) makes this meal even better. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
By Freya Bellin
Celery truly is underrated. Most people think of it as a mindless addition to salads or soups, but celery actually has its own unique flavor and becomes pleasantly creamy when cooked. This tenderness makes it a great contrast to the grainy, nuttiness of wild rice. You can certainly use water instead of stock for the cooking liquid, but the rice really has a chance to absorb the flavor of the stock, so it goes a long way here.
Steaming the salmon in the same pot as the rice makes this a one-pot meal, and also means that the salmon gets infused with all of the seasonings of the rice, too. I took advantage of a rare opportunity to use a grill and followed the variation for grilled salmon below. Salmon is a great fish for grilling because it stays very moist and cooks super quickly. Just remember that if you’re not steaming the salmon, you can add a little less liquid to the pot of rice. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook. Continue reading
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes
You can use the stand-alone sauce in this recipe with any simply cooked fish (steak or fillet), though I especially like it here, with the gentle butter-poaching technique and a delicate-tasting fish like halibut.
Other seafood you can use: any thick white fish steaks or thick fillets, or scallops or shrimp. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
By Freya Bellin
When a recipe transforms winter vegetables into something bright and summery, you know you’ve stumbled upon something special. That’s exactly how this dish is; it has a tropical element despite being composed almost entirely of root vegetables. The vegetable base for the fish is like a hash, especially if you use mostly potato. (I used a combination of sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, and turnip.) A food processor with a grating blade will be tremendously helpful, unless you have a particularly good hand grater (and a fearless disregard for your knuckles).
The seasoning for the dish is simple, which highlights the natural sweetness of the veggies. I used a mild curry powder, but a spicier one could work too. If you stay with the sweet and mild theme, I think there’s even room in this dish for some fruit, like raisins, apple, plantains, or mango. While the vegetable mixture makes a great side dish here, it could easily stand alone without the fish, garnished with red onion and parsley. It would also make a good potluck dish, as it isn’t temperature sensitive.
I chose striped bass for the fish, which held up really nicely to this method of cooking. You could also try halibut or mahi-mahi. If you don’t like the idea of breading or dredging fish, you’ll be happy to know that the fish ends up with just a light coating of the flour and cornmeal mixture. It makes a thin, perfectly crispy layer that is otherwise hard to get without frying in lots of oil. Texturally, the crispy fish makes a great contrast to the soft, grated vegetable hash. Sweet, crunchy, spicy, and quite light: an excellent combination. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.