For Cod and Country: Sustainable Seafood

First, I can’t take credit for the title, sadly. It is from chef Barton Seaver’s new cookbook, which aims to make correct seafood choices delicious, sustainable, and a way to restore our oceans. How? By eating the right kinds of fish – farmed catfish, anchovies, sardines, farmed oysters, Pacific cod, the list goes on… and being aware of what kind of garbage is in our oceans (giant floating trash dumps, sketchy oil rigs, etc etc) and also in certain fishing industries.

The demand for seafood across the globe has created lots of problems:

- sushi demand has threatened the survival of the bluefin tuna, now considered an endangered species

- seafood fraud (purposeful mislabeling of fish) is a danger to human health, masks our idea of seasonal eating, and encourages illegal fishing and capture practices that endanger people and the environment

In the rush to meet consumer demand, we are depleting our last great source of wild food and polluting 70% of our planet. When you eat salmon or other predatory fish, you are probably ingesting lots of mercury and encouraging unsafe farming practices. I have to admit I avoided farmed salmon because of all those reasons: high mercury levels, unclean farms where fish are crowded and living in their own excrement, the lack of nutrients compared to wild salmon, and the disruption eating so much predatory fish causes in the food chain. Also, most farmed salmon or frozen tilapia fillets taste like crap.

That means I didn’t eat salmon as often as I liked, especially at restaurants. BUT the best part about Mr. Seavers new book is that he thinks the ocean can save us, not the other way around. One of the surprising comments he made in this podcast from Here on Earth was that you can eat farmed salmon if you seek out the fisheries with best practices, like the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform. (See the link list below for more information) But really it is better to moderate your consumption of predatory fish (salmon, bluefish, etc) and increase consumption of smaller fish and mussels.

For Cod and Country offers great recipes and tips for how eat fish to save the oceans, including:

- eat smaller fish, like anchovies and sardines. Start with these amazing recipes!

- seafood, like produce, has seasons, so learn to eat in season – ask your local supplier for recommendations.

- eat farmed oysters from the Chesapeake Bay, because they actually help clean and restore that body of water!

- download and print these easy pocket guides to sustainable seafood so you can enjoy sushi or fish frys with ease

- let restaurants know that you are interested in other types of fish, like Pacific cod instead of Atlantic cod. Ask fishmongers for local, fresh specials. Be an informed consumer! It’s best for your health and the health of the oceans. AND you can branch out and try new types of food – my kind of delicious adventure.

- - and, my favorite, EAT MORE VEGETABLES! Fish tastes better not served like a steak but incorporated into a fresh meal full of vegetables, pestos, and sauces like romesco, Sicilian pistachio sauce or skordala .

Really it is best to listen to the podcast to get the full story and recipe ideas!

In keeping with this sound advice, I have for you today not a fish recipe but a vegetable recipe, and one that makes me crave it every time it’s mentioned. Cauliflower has a sweet yet hefty body that contrasts with the green beans and lemony dressing. The garlic chips require an extra step, but for a garlic-lover like me they are a no brainer, and the chips provide a pleasing texture and melt-in-your-mouth flavor that ties the whole dish together. These veggies were part of my Thanksgiving dinner and my breakfast the next day.

Cauliflower & Green Beans with Lemon Oil Dressing and Garlic Chips

adapted from Claire Robinson

5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly lengthwise to form “chips”

1/2 c + 3 tablespoons olive oil

juice of four lemons, about 1/4 c

1 tablespoon Italian herbs

salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon garlic powder, option

fresh basil or parsley, optional

2 lb green beans or haricots verres, washed and trimmed

1 large head of cauliflower

For the garlic chips: in a medium-size saucepan, heat 3 T olive oil over medium heat and add garlic chips. Fry gently for 3-5 minutes, turning once. Reserve and set aside.

In a large mason jar, add 1/2 c olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, salt, pepper, and garlic powder if using. Screw lid on tightly and shake well.

In a large pot, steam beans and cauliflower for 5 – 6 minutes. Drain and place in large bowl. Pour half the dressing mixture on the vegetables, add more to taste or save for future use – like on salads or fish! It will keep for one week in the fridge. Top with garlic chips and more fresh herbs. Enjoy!

I also think roasting the cauliflower first would be a great idea. Another great idea? Educate yourself on how to eat delicious fish and seafood to improve your health and your planet’s health:

Empty Oceans: Farming the Seas, More info on Bluefin tuna, Salmon, and Shrimp

The Blue Food Revolution from the Scientific American: Aquaculture and how to choose safely farmed fish

Help the oceans with Oceana.org: the difference between catching and responsible fishing