Swimming Scallops!

8 07 2009

Yes, scallops are delicious, but did you know they can swim by “clapping” their shell together? This video is pretty awesome…

There are many ways to buy scallops. Bay scallops are small- great for soups, stews, paella, etc. Sea scallops are larger, richer and generally more flavorful, however bay scallops are considered the “best” by most insiders. I disagree. Unlike other bivalves, only the muscle of the scallop is availble commercially in the United States. Scallops are either trawled, which is considered “unsustainable,” or they are “diver caught” meaning a diver literally picks them up from the sea floor. The latter method is better for the ocean environment. The best packing method to look for is “dry packed.” This means the scallops are packed without water and preservatives. The water adds weight to the scallops which make them weigh more, which obviously ends up costing you more. So look for diver caught, dry packed scallops. They are hard to find outside of the east coast, but worth it if you can hunt them down. scallop8


How To Buy Seafood And Ensure A Fresh Meal

20 06 2009

filletCooking seafood is the easy part! Buying the freshest ingredients can be challenging. When buying seafood, it’s important to use your senses.

Use Your Eyes: The flesh of the fish should be shiny, and the scales or skin should look vibrant. Seafood should not have discoloration. Often, you’ll see slight discoloration around the edges of the fillet. This is a sign of rotting, and should be avoided. Fillets should appear moist and freshly cut. Live shellfish should be closed. If they are open, they should close after being lightly tapped. When buying whole fish, the gills should be a bright pink or reddish color. There should be no dull colors in the gills. The eyes should also be clear and crisp, not dull.

Smell: Smell the seafood. This is the best way to tell freshness.  If there is a strong “fishy” smell, it is probably not good. Old shrimp smells like ammonia. Fresh seafood should have a pleasant aroma.

Touch It: The flesh should be firm, not soft or mushy.

After purchasing seafood, it is best to cook it the same day, although it should keep up to two or three days properly stored.

Fish that have been frozen at sea can be good alternatives to fresh products. Most grocery stores get their shrimp pre-frozen for example, so it is almost best to buy them frozen rather than thawed and sitting in the store. Understand when a seafood product is labeled “fresh” this just means it has never been frozen. And don’t be afraid to ask the fishmonger questions-like “when was the fish cut,” or “when did it come in.” A reputable vendor should be happy to answer your questions and sell you the fish that you want. I filleted and sold fish for five years and was always happy to give my best products to interested and informed customers.

(photo courtesy of pike place fish market)

Who Really Knows What And What Not To Eat?

16 06 2009

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely known for it’s conservation efforts. They publish a list of fish which are listed as “best choice,” “good alternative,” and “avoid” for sustainable consumption. sfw_factsheet.aspx?gid=32 When I was there a few years ago, I studied this list and noticed something interesting. The restaurant inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Portola, featured monkfish on the menu, a fish that the Aquarium listed as “avoid” due to the harmful method of trawl fishing that is used to catch them. monkfish How are we as consumers supposed to know and trust what fish to buy and eat? In my opinion, the best method of buying (wild species) is to find out the origin of the fish and the fishing method. 

Alaska has one of the best fisheries because of regulation. (Most of my fishing cohorts believe it is heavily, overly regulated.) There are many methods of commercial fishing. Nets, also called purse seines or seine nets, trap thousands of pounds of fish at a time. This method is reasonable, and it’s how most wild salmon are caught. Trawls, or dredges are also used, which essentially rake the ocean bottom and haul up the catch. This is the worst method of fishing due to the amount of byproduct that is wasted and it’s harm caused. Gill netting is another method used which ensnares and entangles the fish in a net.  Using hooks in methods like long lining and trolling is the best method due to the quality of the fish caught (less bruising) and the minimal effects on the environment. Harpooning is less common, but also an excellent alternative fishing method.

Some shellfish, scallops for example, are mostly trawled for, however, you can find some that are caught by divers. The best way to buy seafood is to be as environmentally conscious as you can knowing that by eating seafood, like almost everything else, you are inevitably contributing to some aspect of destruction. When you eat anything, you should generally try to be as knowledgeable as you can to minimalize your impact on the environment around you.

Mark Bittman’s Ny Times Article:

16 06 2009

Buying seafood is complicated. You need to consider and determine freshness, health and the ecological factors. I don’t agree with everything Mark Bittman says about seafood, but this is an accurate and informative article.

Bittman\’s Article