Archive: Seafood

A Toast to Sunday Supper

A friend of a friend here in Seattle is an Orthodox Jew, and as such, every Friday at sundown, he and his family observe Shabbat. For 24 hours, J. et al put work and outside-world obligations on hold and focus on rest, reflection and quality time with each other. That quality time includes a long, leisurely lunch, or what some might call supper. Here at the Casa, Saturday is typically filled with errands and completing to-do lists, hardly a day of rest. But Sunday, that’s when life comes to a temporary halt (at least that’s what I like to tell myself), a day dedicated to the crossword puzzle, contemplating the meaning of life over coffee… and supper. Depending on where you grew up, the words “dinner” and “supper” may mean different things; for Mister MA, who hails from Kentucky, dinner is served at lunchtime, and supper is a late-afternoon meal....

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 5, 2009; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (7)

Geeking Out on Scallops

This week and next, I'm on vacation, but I've got a handful of helpful and savvy kitchen elves pitching in to keep the blog engine running. Today's treat comes from Julia Beizer, food and dining producer at washingtonpost.com. "So you're going to try a real scallop, huh?" says fishmonger Scott Weinstein after I introduce myself at the District's BlackSalt fish market last Saturday. I had called Weinstein the day before with a simple scallop question and he unloaded a world of fish geekdom on why my grocery store scallops probably weren't cutting it. Julia's scallops, prepared three ways. (Julia Beizer) I've been geeking out about the mollusks myself lately. For the past several months, I haven't been able to resist the little guys whenever I see them in the seafood case, glistening like plump, white hockey pucks. Since my husband doesn't share my obsession, I indulge with a single woman's...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 12, 2008; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (4)

Green Sushi Advice

Sushi lovers, it’s time to say sayonara to toro (aka bluefin tuna). Hamachi (yellowtail), too. And for the time being, you can forget about ordering those freshwater eel and avocado rolls -- unagi is also a big environmental no-no. Cover of Monterey Bay Aquarium's new sushi pocket guide. (Courtesy Monterey Bay Aquarium). That’s the latest advice from three ocean conservation groups that are poised to launch wallet-sized sushi guides next week. As of Oct. 22, the consumer guides will be available online via Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense Fund and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Each group has its own card with a unique design and layout (Blue Ocean’s list offers detailed descriptions about each species, for example), but the message is the same no matter which card you print out: avoid red-listed sushi and seek out more abundant and better managed species. All three groups also single out species that are...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 17, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Chum, Yum Yum

After a wild, inspiring ride along the Yukon River Delta in southwestern Alaska last week, I am still digesting my experiences and knitting them together for a blog post later this week. As previously mentioned, I embarked on a last-minute expedition to Emmonak, Alaska, to witness the final days of Yukon River salmon season – fall chum, to be exact. Yup'ik fisherman Humphrey Keyes and I wait for salmon on the mighty Yukon River. (Jon Rowley) Back in Seattle just a few days, I still have wild salmon on the brain big time. Good thing I had a few fish come home with me (and if you’re keen to get an idea of what I'm talking about, contact your local Whole Foods Market, which is currently offering Yukon salmon at seafood counters in many cities around the country). The weather here in Seattle has been very un-rainy, un-humid and un-hurricane-y,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 15, 2008; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (3)

No Chat Today; Hanging Out With the Eskimos

So I’ve got a really good excuse for missing this week’s What’s Cooking chat. I’m on the road again, but this time, I’m so far away even I can’t believe it. An early evening in Emmonak. (Kim O'Donnel) I’m typing to you from Emmonak, Alaska (say E-MONIC), a Yup'ik Eskimo fishing village roughly 500 miles northwest of Anchorage. Over the weekend, a rare opportunity to experience the final days of Yukon River salmon season fell into my lap -- a chance of a lifetime, even if it meant dropping everything and hopping on three planes to the Alaskan tundra almost immediately. Since Sunday, I’ve been holed up with the hardy folks who operate Kwikpak Fisheries. Fall is here in western Alaska, which means that the tundra is rapidly changing colors (from green to marigold yellows mixed in with orange), moose are fair game, wild berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) are ready...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 9, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Swimming in Greenpeace's Seafood Report

I heard from the Washington office of Greenpeace (GP) yesterday; the environmental activist organization has just released a new report on the continually-shrinking supply of seafood, with a focus on the big supermarket chains. "Carting Away the Oceans: How Grocery Stores Are Emptying the Seas" is a 75-page document that includes a "supermarket scorecard" of the seafood purchasing practices and policies of 20 supermarket corporations and a "Red List" of 22 species that Greenpeace has identified as "most vulnerable" to overfishing and extinction. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which monitors 600 marine stocks, 52 percent of the world's fish supply is "fully exploited" and seven percent of species are depleted. Interesting angle, I think to myself. Oceana is the only other environmental NGO that I could think of that has been focusing on the retail sector, with its mercury advisory campaign at supermarket seafood counters. I'm eager...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 18, 2008; 12:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Year Without Salmon?

It's the number three most popular seafood in this country, but this year salmon may have to sit this one out. It seems that won't be difficult because there are so few to go around. According to the Pacific Fishery Management Council, a federal agency under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Commerce, 775,000 adult chinook salmon returned to spawn in the Sacramento River valley in central California in 2002. The minimum number to maintain conservation goals is 122,000 - 180,000. This year, the projected run: a mere 58,000. (Check out this graphic from the Sacramento Bee.) As a result, the PFMC voted last week to cancel this year's chinook salmon season in federal waters off the coast of California and most of Oregon. On May 1, the vote will be reviewed by NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and will likely be confirmed. And yesterday, the California state Fish...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 16, 2008; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

At-Home Mussels -- And a Case for DIY Curry Paste

We were hankering for mussels at Casa Appetite over the weekend, a craving that also met our objective of eating more sustainable seafood. Mussels get a unanimous green light from the environmental community, getting high marks for aqua-farm management practices and their low position on the food chain. Mussels with a red curry take off the chill. (Kim O'Donnel) If you've never dared to make mussels at home, it's time to get busy. They are so easy to prepare you'll be wondering what took you so long to wake up to this marvelous dinner secret. Once rinsed and inspected, mussels require less than 10 minutes of cooking time. Dinner can literally be on the table in a half hour. For Sunday night's supper, I wanted a bowlful of ka-pow, a little heat in my mussel broth on this stubbornly chilly spring eve. A coconut curry sounded just right. But I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 31, 2008; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sustainable Catch of the Day on Your Phone

The wireless gadgetry that I love to hate (I refer to Mister MA's BlackBerry as his "girlfriend.") has just earned its way back into my good graces. Remember when I was lamenting just a few weeks ago about what a pain it's become to be a seafood shopper? You practically need a degree in marine biology to decipher (and remember) the constantly changing health and eco advisories for all of your favorite fish, a daunting task when all you want to do is grill up some salmon steaks and call it a day. Friend of the Sea's eco-update on cod, via SMS. (Kim O'Donnel) But if you own a cell phone (I think most of us do) or a PDA "girlfriend," your seafood counter confusion may soon be a thing of the past. For basic cell phone users, getting the 411 on tonight's shrimp can be easy as sending a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 27, 2008; 07:55 AM ET | Comments (9)

Sardines: Love Those Little Fishes

As mentioned last week, I'm on an eat more fish at home kick, and so far, so good. In addition to tilapia, I've added fresh sardines to the lineup. I don't know what it is about me and the advent of spring, but I gotta have some fresh sardines at this time of year. I'll take a pass on the canned stuff, thank you very much, when the fresh six-inchers are so light, quick cooking and play nicely with other ingredients. Sardines in waiting. (Kim O'Donnel) Plus--and it's a big plus -- sardines rule when it comes to heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids and as a non-predatory fish low on the food chain there's no worry of mercury contamination. (For more info on other species, check out the chart of the most contaminated fish and recommended monthly servings from Environmental Defense.) Oh, and there's more good word from the nutrition department:...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 12, 2008; 07:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

Rediscovering Tilapia

I'll admit it: I love seafood, but prepare it at home with relative infrequency. Buying seafood in the 21st century has become a major hassle -- if it's not mercury and PCB contamination, it's the environmental impact you have to worry about. The research involved in cooking a fish dinner, in all honesty, gives me a headache that I'd rather avoid. But this is short-sighted on my part. Fish, as we know, is lean heart-healthy protein, brain food that does the body a lot of good. As a woman of child-bearing age, I regularly mull over the mercury debate and cringe with worry when I make my monthly tuna sandwich -- and the sushi bar - well, I've pretty much given up that pastime until further notice. I'm not saying I'm being rational, folks. But what I do need to do is focus less on the "avoid" fish and more...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 5, 2008; 08:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

Friday Night Fishcakes With a Thai Twist

The story behind this story is one to which we all can relate: What should I cook for dinner tonight? I was pondering that very question yesterday afternoon, but was coming up empty, even with hundreds of books in my midst. To help fire up the synapses, I turned to my food-stained copy of "The Kitchen Diaries," an old reliable by Brit food writer Nigel Slater. In "The Kitchen Diaries," Slater chronicles a year in the life of his own home kitchen in London. Thai fish cakes: A sure-fire way to break out of a cooking rut. (Kim O'Donnel) I peeked at the Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 entries (with the idea of coinciding with the calendar) which dish up "lamb shanks to warm the soul" and "a smoked fish supper." The idea of fish appealed -- but without the smoke. So I kept thumbing through until I saw the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 8, 2008; 11:04 AM ET | Comments (11)

Veggie Lunchbox and Shrimp 'Veins' With a Side of Hot Fudge

There were too many good questions left undone from this week's What's Cooking jamboree. Below, a few to chew on, with an invitation to weigh in on any or all of the topics -- vegetarian workday lunches, deveining shrimp and the search for a true-blue hot fudge sauce. Have a delicious and safe weekend. Vienna, Va.: Kim, do you have any ideas for a healthy, satisfying vegetarian lunch that I could easily pack in a lunchbox at 6 a.m.? I've tried the old standby of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but it doesn't seem to fill me; I've tried packing leftovers, but my supply of leftovers is inconsistent. Vienna, you're a prime candidate for Jamaican patties, veggie style. (Scroll past the meat filling details and you'll see what I'm talking about.) Spend an afternoon on the weekend whipping up a batch, then you can freeze them individually, pack it...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 10, 2007; 10:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

Seafood: Another Reason To Think Local Over Global

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the import of several kinds of Chinese farm-raised seafood, including catfish, shrimp, eel and dace (a kind of carp). It is a complicated story involving restricted antibiotics, unregulated (and unsanitary) overseas fish farms, a disproportionate ratio of FDA inspectors to imported seafood (85 to 6.6 million) and a whole lot of politicking. It is also another compelling reason to eat local. Remember last year's big food safety imbroglio, when E. coli-contaminated spinach killed three people and sickened at least 200 others around the country? Yeah, it's hard to forget -- and have you resumed buying those prewashed bags in the supermarket? It was early fall at the time of the nationwide scare, when spinach, a cool weather crop, was coming into season along the Northeast and in the Midwest. It was also an appropriate time to reflect on buying seasonally and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 17, 2007; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

Summer Salmon

This time of year in this part of the country has got to be the most splendid stretch -- cool mornings followed by warm days, late sunsets, brilliant blooms on plants and trees, an ongoing, increasing supply of local vegetables and fruit -- and to top off the excitement -- the arrival of Copper River salmon from Alaska. The 2007 season kicked off May 15 with much fanfare and media hoopla, when several Alaska Airlines salmon-only jets arrived in Seattle for the first drop-off and distribution throughout the lower 48 states. Salmon as pop art. (Kim O'Donnel) There are several species of wild Pacific salmon, and the two you'll see in all their red-fleshed glory are king (aka chinook) and sockeye (aka red). Available for only four weeks, until June 15, king salmon is coveted and costly, starting at $30 per pound. Because it's so pricey, merchants, particularly on this...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 30, 2007; 09:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Yankee Girl Fries Fish

I can't be there, but I thought I'd join them, anyway. I'm talking about Rep. Jim Clyburn's annual fish fry that takes place tonight in Columbia, S.C. After interviewing Clyburn's appointed fish fry guy Lucius Moultrie, I was inspired to fry up some fish in my own kitchen. To get started, I consulted a few cookbooks, including "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by the late Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock as well as the newer "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," by Matt Lee and Ted Lee. Moultrie, who's been at this for 10 years, told me that his winning dredge is a combination of cornmeal and its pulverized, finer-textured sister, corn flour, which I thought would make an interesting mix of textures. I also followed Moutrie's advice on omitting a liquid binder, such as buttermilk or beaten egg, which he believes takes away from the flavor of the fish. Instead,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 27, 2007; 01:43 PM ET | Comments (0)

Let's Go to the Fish Fry

The place to eat tonight is Columbia, S.C., where some 4,000 people will queue up in a parking garage for fried fish. The fish in question is fillet of whiting, a favorite of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and the mastermind/host of this annual fish fry since 1992. He's also partial to the culinary stylings of Lucius Moultrie, who's been Clyburn's fish fry master for the past eight years. After retiring from the Columbia Fire Department 10 years ago, Moultrie switched careers and took over Palmetto Seafood, a fish market/kitchen that he runs with his wife and two sons. Tonight's shindig, which Moultrie calls "the after party," follows the more formal Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, a major Democratic fundraiser. Every year, he's watched the event grow; "Last year, it was an off-election year, and we still had nearly 3,000 people," he says, with a laugh. With expectations of at least 4,000...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 27, 2007; 10:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Key West 'Pinks' in a Bag

In this week's Food section, Walter Nicholls profiles a shrimp farm in Hurlock, Md. that is using state-of-the-art, sustainable indoor aquaculture. I was unable to join the Food staff for its blind taste test of frozen shrimp available at Washington supermarket fish counters. The objective: To see how they stacked up against the fresh indoor-farmed shrimp from Marvesta Shrimp Farms, which I hope to taste sooner rather than later, based on the results. Key West "pinks" that come from the frozen section. (Kim O'Donnel) Among the frozen shrimp contestants, I noticed the absence of "Wild Key West Pink Shrimp" from Whole Catch, a private label of Whole Foods Market. Sold in the frozen section rather than at the seafood counter, the Whole Catch one-pound bag contains 16-20 wild-caught shrimp, which means large, three inches of crustacean. I was immediately drawn to three words on the package -- Key, West and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 18, 2007; 12:52 AM ET | Comments (9)

A St. Patrick's Taco

With a name like O'Donnel, I must have the luck of the Irish, right? Well, kinda sorta. As an Anglo mutt of varying European stocks, I'm more Irish in name than in genealogical connection. My German mother is hooked up with a proud Irish dude, and so every year at this time, he likes to make a pot of corned beef and cabbage. No thanks. The cabbage is typically cooked way beyond resemblance of a cruciferous vegetable, and the corned beef is just too darn fatty. Salmon tacos -- a lot more fun than corned beef and cabbage. (Kim O'Donnel) When it comes to paying tribute to St. Pat, I think of salmon instead. There's something about the pink, Omega 3-rich flesh that lifts me out of a winter funk (particularly under such dreary Nor'easter conditions), and by the way, salmon swim in the rivers of Ireland. To wit, a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 16, 2007; 10:52 AM ET | Comments (8)

Clammering for Clams

It had been months since I last supped on clams, probably when I was vacationing in the Pacific Northwest last summer. Thing is, there are plenty of clams right in my own back yard -- and I've been long ignoring them. Littlenecks swimming in a pungent briny broth. (Kim O'Donnel) Here, on the Atlantic side of North America, there are softshells as well as hardshells to choose from. For the purposes of my supper this weekend, I went the hardshell route. Also known as quahogs (pronounced KO-hogs), hard clams were important to Native American tribes, such as the Algonquins, who also used the shell's beads for wampum, a system of negotiations and contracts. Littlenecks are the smallest of the lot, averaging about two inches in diameter. They are known to be tender and sweeter in flavor. Next in size are the cherrystones, followed by large or chowder clams. I was...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 16, 2007; 10:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Little Tuna With My Mercury

All week, I've been dissecting the debate over eating seafood, including the latest health and environmental reports and the issues at play. Today, I look at mercury, a naturally occurring substance that has found its way into the oceans and into the fish we eat. There's been a lot of discussion lately over the risks of mercury, with fervent arguments coming from both sides. Even two of the most recently published scientific papers vary in their assessment of the mercury issue. The recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report concludes that the risks of mercury are outweighed by the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids obtained from eating fish. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report is less strident, arguing that "considerable uncertainties are associated with estimates of the health risks to the general population from exposures to methylmercury and persistent organic pollutants at levels present in commercially-obtained seafood." Known since...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 30, 2006; 04:42 PM ET | Comments (8)

No More Shrimp Cocktail?

As I wrote yesterday, environmentalists have warned that we are on a fast track to wiping out our seafood supply if we're not careful. The writing has been on the wall, say experts, but we keep eating anyway. In fact, we're eating more. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service of the Department of Commerce (NMFS), US annual per capita consumption of seafood in 2004 was 16.6 pounds per person, up from 14.8 pounds in 2001. Short of giving up seafood altogether, how do we do our part to help save the oceans? Part of the problem is not how much fish we eat, but what kinds of fish we eat, according to one expert. When it comes to seafood, Americans are narrow minded. According to NMFS, we love shrimp, canned tuna and salmon, in that order. Unfortunately, these national seafood faves also happen to be environmental troublemakers. "As they're...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 29, 2006; 02:55 PM ET | Comments (0)

Fishing for Clarity

All autumn long, seafood lovers have been subjected to a tug of war that won't quit. While one side is praising its health benefits and putting your fork to your mouth, another is pulling the other way, warning about contaminants and environmental impact. In mid-October, two prominent reports were released, focusing on weighing the health benefits and risks of eating seafood. On one hand, there are the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids to consider; on the other, there are the toxins, particularly mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Depending on the source, advice for seafood lovers has been all over the map, creating mass confusion over what to eat, how much or to even eat it at all. In fact, both reports -- one from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the other released by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) --...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 28, 2006; 01:09 PM ET | Comments (4)

Foodway to Our Hearts

It's a known fact that on a practical level, food is fuel for the body. It keeps the human engine and all of its interconnected parts running. However, if physiological maintenance and growth were the only roles food had to play, what would happen to our long lists of food preferences? Chile shrimp and rice. (Kim O'Donnel) The emotional pull of food is complicated, personal and undeniable. When we humans come in contact with food, the switches to our five physical senses are activated, which sets the stage for an experience of emotion. These experiences are duly noted in the memory bank, and more often than not we share them with others. I know this may seem elementary, but think about it. Everything you eat today likely rings some kind of emotional bell for you. Even more interesting to this cook is the noise of one's emotional food bells clanging...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 15, 2006; 11:56 AM ET | Comments (8)

Sustainable Seafood Hook Up: The Details

Salmon, shrimp, tuna - they're among our favorites on the grill. But before you head to the seafood counter, arm yourself with important information on both ecological and health fronts. The information below comes from Monterey Bay Aquarium's (MBAYAQ) Seafood Watch program and Oceans Alive, a seafood program of conservation group Environmental Defense (ED). Seafood rated "eco-friendly" encompass various criteria, but here are a few terms to get you up to speed at the seafood counter: No By-catch: By-catch is a term referring to fish that are caught unintentionally (remember the hubbub over dolphin by-catch during tuna catches?) Some or all of it may be returned to the water, but by that point, it's often dead or dying. An estimated one fourth of the worldwide fishery catch is discarded each year as by-catch, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). What a waste! Trawling nets are a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 31, 2006; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (5)

Catch of the Day, Part One

It's not news that seafood is a lean source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids -- undoubtedly a good thing. The new hitch? In our quest to eat lean and do the seafood thing, the oceans have become polluted and severely overfished. For the consumer, this means two things: many of your grill-friendly favorites are getting either scarce and/or are contaminated with methylmercury or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), scary stuff resulting from industrial pollution. Indeed, it's rough sailing at the seafood counter. If it's difficult for a journalist to decipher this complicated, constantly changing scenario, I know it must be overwhelming for regular folks who just want to eat fish without worry or guilt. I digested quite a bit of information at "Cooking for Solutions," a sustainable seafood and agriculture event hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBAYAQ) in Monterey, Calif., earlier this month, and the overriding sentiment -- in...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 31, 2006; 10:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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