Go Here, Eat This: Pai Men Miyake

Most of my "Go Here, Eat This" posts focus on places in Boston. Today I'm going to encourage you to take a little trip. If you wanted to find genuine ramen, farm-fresh ingredients, locally raised, organic meats; if you wanted to discover the joy of true yakitori seared over binchotan coal; if you craved a new local oyster you're not going to find at your local Boston raw bar; you could take a trip to Japan.

Or, you could take a short road-trip North of Boston to Portland, Maine.

It is so worth the drive...Here's why...Pai Men Miyake.

Pai Men Miyake

It's a terrific local spot that features farm fresh produce and meats. As in THEIR farm. Really, how can you improve on that for sourcing?

See that fire on the stove on the right there? That's intentional. It's Binchotan coal. We'll get to that in a moment. First, we had to try the pork buns because the meat comes from pigs they raise. Besides, who doesn't want to start with pork buns?

I was delighted to find that two oysters were offered and one of them I'd not only never had, I'd never heard of. John's River Oysters are from the local river. Pemaquids we do see from time to time here. Housemade cocktails and mocktails were excellent as well. I also tried a local microbrew that was fine to accompany the yakitori.

Pai Men Miyake Pork Buns

Binchotan is a very special compressed "white" Japanese charcoal that burns extremely hot and evenly. It is precisely the type of coal one needs to produce proper Yakitori. Mad proper, yo. Too often some insipid chicken on a skewer slathered in teriyaki sauce passes for Yaktori. 'Tis an abomination, I tell you! Yakitori is perhaps the Japanese version of Nose-to-Tail whole beast cookery, taking many bits of different animals often the ones discarded and turning them into enticing little bites on skewers. I could make a meal of them.

  • Kawa - Crispy chicken skin - what's not to love.
  • Bonjiri - Chicken tail - the fat and crispy skin bonus bite.
  • Butabara - Pork belly - easy to love.
  • Motsu - Pork intestine - amazing, the slightest earthiness gives a hint of its origins but really appealing and yes, delicious.
  • Gyu tan - Beef tongue - tender in a way that the tongue in a deli sandwich hopes to be.

Pai Men Miyake - Yakitori

And finally, the noodles. This is the thing we came for. I had been whining about the lack of proper ramen in Boston. I'm excited we may finally be getting a ramen-ya in Porter Square (I know there's the food court inside the Porter Exchange, but I cannot queue up for an hour for ramen. Constitutionally incapable.)

The middle bowl is kake soba. Konbu and shiitake broth. The dark green is wakame, a sea vegetable and scallion. The broth was so umami-rich, I nearly asked to switch.

I ordered the house ramen pai tan ramen is a pork and chicken broth. That's a slice of their home grown pork belly, a soy-marinated egg that hovered in creamy deliciousness between poached and hard boiled. Crispy sheaf of nori. This dish took me straight back to Tokyo. Actually, for the second time. The yakitori had me recalling my trip to Japan maybe 15 years ago now. I ventured out one night on my own and ended up in an Izakaya style restaurant that specialized in yakitori. The only thing that would have made that night any better would have been to share it with someone.

Well, at least we now have each other, Doc. And, thanks to your sleuthiness, we have Pai Men Miyake. Can't wait to go back!



Pai men Miyake

188 State St, Portland, Maine Tel: 207-541-9204


Monday-Saturday 12pm-12am Sunday 12pm-10pm


Go Here, Eat This: North Shore Edition - Enzo Restaurant

I may be the worst (or best?) procrastinator on the face of the planet. I can use the excuse that I am intermittently reinforced for this habit and thus feel powerless in the face of it. I'm mostly joking and do get an awful lot done, but never quite as much, as quickly as I would prefer. This North Shore edition of "Go Here, Eat This" (my series of occasional restaurant reviews) focuses on the Enzo Restaurant in the town of Newburyport. Chef Mary Reilly and husband Dave invite you to relax and enjoy fresh Italian cuisine, interpreted through hyper-local ingredients. If you love knowing that your fish was swimming that morning, your pork was humanely and sustainably raised, your chef is supporting local farmers, fishermen and distillers; well, Enzo is for you.

Last summer I was delighted to be introduced to one of our local distillers and equally happy to discover that Enzo carries these distilleries' fine products on their bar. Of course! After my first meal at Enzo, I floated away on a cloud of sated happiness and promised to tell everyone. Mary was kind enough to share the recipe for one of their house cocktails, and I tested it out with my fresh-late summer produce. I muddled, mixed, sipped, and shot.

Farmers' Market Martini, Enzo

Then life happened. A lot of it. Good and bad  -- and just took over -- as it does -- and here we are in AUGUST already. Luckily it's a great time to try this cocktail (again.)

Farmers' Market Martini

This cocktail takes advantage of the smoothness of Beauport vodka and the fresh flavor of summer vegetables.

  • 4-6 cherry tomatoes, or 1/4 of a medium tomato
  • 2-3 slices cucumber
  • a few sprigs of herbs: parsley, basil, chives, summer savory (whatever you have on hand)
  • pinch salt
  • 3 oz. Beauport vodka
  • cucumber wheel or cherry tomato for garnish

In a mixing glass, muddle the tomato, cucumber and herbs well with the salt.  Really make sure you mash all the vegetables up so as to extract as much juice as possible.  Add the vodka and ice and put the top on your shaker.  Shake well to make sure the you get everything super cold and well combined.  Double strain* into a cocktail glass and garnish with a cucumber wheel or cherry tomato.

* Double straining is a technique used when you make a drink with a lot of "bits" in it. In addition to a standard Hawthorne or julep strainer (or the strainer built into your cocktail shaker), strain through a fine-mesh strainer into your glass. A simple way to do it: hold the shaker/strainer combo in your right hand and hold the fine mesh strainer over your cocktail glass. Pour directly into the fine-mesh strainer - all the small bits will get caught, leaving you with a clearer drink.  If you don't have a fine-mesh strainer, no worries, the double strain isn't essential; your cocktail will just be a wee bit chunkier!

Getting Back to Enzo

The good news is that Enzo Restaurant has passed their first year anniversary, they're gaining steady clientele and gathering a slew of good reviews along the way. You really must go and experience it for yourself. It's comfortable yet sophisticated. As North Shore folks are wont to do, there are plenty of customers in well-worn shorts and deck shoes in evidence. The freshly coifed and the couples celebrating having found sitters on the same night (so it seemed to me) were also out in equal numbers. I was pleased to see a fair number of guests who knew the staff and to learn our server likes the place so much she'd brought her partner back on her day off! Not many restaurants can make that claim. Everyone should know this is a warm and welcoming place.

This recent meal was full of delicious surprises (left to right):

The olive oil and foccacia were delicious and a statement in pink and green.

Nonna Rose - Enzo's first barrel-aged cocktail with Milagro blanco tequila, Aperol liqueur and vermouth spend a month in an oak barrel to produce this smoky, slightly spicy cocktail. Served on the rocks with a flamed orange peel.

Pat Woodbury's Clams (wanted a bathtub sized bowl of these babies, clean, ocean-y).

Rhubarbarita, Fried Polenta, Fried olives stuffed with cheese (one of the few olive dishes Doc loves).


Nonna Rose, Fried Olives


Since the Striper was caught that morning, I couldn't resist. The fish was perfectly cooked, sat on a bed of three local beans and potato dice.

Doc had the free form lasagna, housemade cheese, local sausage.

Dessert - sorbetto so rich and chocolatey you might think you were given gelato instead. Correto.


EnzoResto Striper, Lasagna

So, Mary & Dave - we will not wait another year to come back! I'm hungry again looking at all the delicious food. Wonderful evening beginning sips to last. Mille Grazie!

Enzo Restaurant

50 Water St., #304 Newburyport, MA (978) 462-1801

Opens at 6:00 Tuesday through Thursday and 5:00 Friday through Sunday

Closed Mondays

Highlights: Local, seasonal, handmade food.

For diners with allergies: Enzo is one of the best at accommodating allergies and offers options for nearly everyone.

Phone ahead for reservations and let them know of any allergies then.


Where to Go? What to Order?

Looking for a place to eat in Boston? The “must-try” spot for Chinese food? Dumplings? Dim Sum? My favorite burger? Pizza? A Gluten-free joint? Who does the best dollar oysters? Roast pig? People often ask me where they should eat in Boston and what they should order when they get there.

“Go Here, Eat This” 

Quick posts sharing notes of good spots to eat, highlighting what’s unique about the place,  favorite dishes, house specialities, indicative of the cuisine, or just ones that I really enjoy. I’ll also try to note things like whether the place is friendly to those with allergies, or disabilities, etc. Just stuff you ought to know.

World of Flavor and Portuguese Stew

When you think about what Portugal has contributed to the world of gastronomic pleasure, we really do - all of us, owe them a debt of gratitude.

I was thrilled to receive David Leite's The New Portuguese Table (ahem) a while ago. As I do, I have spent months reading it and imagining making each recipe that catches my eye, imagining traveling to the town where the author first enjoyed it, or resting for a spell on the island from which it hails.

Yes, I do this with menus as well, so you never want to go out to eat with me if you're very hungry. "Oh look at this, what an interesting combination of flavors." "So you're having that?" "No, I was thinking of this instead, but it's really interesting to imagine that flavor profile. I wonder where the chef got her inspiration?" Yes, this how I approach almost every menu. It is part of the case for my husband's ascension sainthood. He - prone to low blood sugar crashes - has to remind me too often, I fear, that he's HUNGRY, NOW and can we JUST PICK SOMETHING AND ORDER PLEASE? Sorry, sometimes a girl just gets lost.

Lust and Lusophilia

I have been a Lusophile (Lusitania was the region of ancient times that corresponds to Portugal and Western Spain) myself since college. I learned a bit through customers in the wine shop about their visits, their love for the Fado sung with such passion in the cafés. Their descriptions of the pousadas (old mansions and castles, now inns for tourists) was so romantic, I openly wished and planned for a visit one day.

More recently, I learned about Madeira and Port and the wonderful wines of Esporão (and fantastic olive oil) at this tasting with my buddy Rich. I was thrilled to meet Marco Montez of New Bedford's own Travessia Winery and I'll be heading to see you soon Marco (what a great video intro to your winery!)

If you know anything about Portuguese history - you know it is, in a sense, a world history. The early Portuguese were such travelers, you'd be hard-pressed to find a country or a cuisine that did not reflect some influence or contact with Portuguese. In my native Japan we have Tempura (from Portuguese) and we call bread "pan" which is a Japanese pronunciation of the Portuguese "Pão".

Back to Portugal and Fall River. And Lamb stew.

Foodies among my readers will know David as the publisher of Leite's Culinaria - a beautiful and well-loved site dishing up "Hot Food. Dry Wit" (every time I read that I wish I'd thought of it first!) I know David through IACP (we were *this close* to doing a panel together for this year's conference.) He is a wonderful, accessible and down-to-earth guy who is always willing to share time, advice and insights, whether it's in a webinar for other cookbook authors and wanna-be publishers, or during an interview in the middle of alternate side of the street parking negotiation.

So my confession is two-fold: first, this is my first actual recipe I've cooked from the book (I think) and second, I didn't do the recipe straight. Don't hate me - I can explain!

Recently, we feasted for a week on Indian food lovingly prepared by our friend's visiting Mother. With the Indian spice palette lingering in my memory (and on my palate - please take note word-manglers out there - these are two different words), I turned to my beautiful boneless leg of lamb and to David's New Portuguese Table.

Lo and behold, a gorgeous recipe using many of the same warm spices we had been enjoying all week. Cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cloves, ginger and garlic. White beans and carrots are the called for vegetables in Borrego Ensopado com Feijão Bronco, and they appeared in our stew, too. I also had some fingerling potatoes leftover from a bag half-used in another dish, so in they went.

We enjoyed it over rice and I had my leftovers served atop grits I simmered in homemade vegetable stock. I told myself that these little divergences would be forgiven and possibly not uncommon in a true Portuguese kitchen. I think or imagine at least, that many of these kitchens are like those of my ancestors where nothing gets wasted. So the dish may have ended up a little different from its original but then, isn't that the beauty of the multicultural world we live in today? And frugality? Hardly new, but new again, and much in evidence around here.

One of the things I love about this book is the way you are welcomed into a Portuguese kitchen. You can easily imagine sharing a coffee with a slice of Bolo de Laranja (Orange Cake, p 220) as he tells you stories, of his family in Fall River, Massachusetts or his time in Lisbon, or the traditions of this town or that. You just want to sit for hours and eat and drink and laugh.

This cake - coming soon to a kitchen near you ~ posting the recipe next.

That, my friends is what I encourage you to do - share a meal. Pick up this book, dream and travel the globe through it. Imagine the warm and lusty flavors of the Azores, the seafood, the salty cured olives or sausages. Then enjoy some hot food and dry wit with your friends or family. Or just on your own. Any way you do it, you really must just enjoy it. To help you ~ I'm offering a free copy to one of the lucky commenters here.

An Invitation ~ Convite

Share with us your connection to Portugal. Have you been? Where do you wish to go?

What flavors does your native cuisine share or borrow from Portugal? Been to an Azorean restaurant?

If you have a favorite fish curry from Goa ~ or have a hankering for Vindhaloo - you're longing for the flavors of Portuguese food. Love those little custard tarts in Chinese bakeries? "Po-tat" or "Dan-tat" (Pastéis de Nata, p 217) are said to have Portuguese origins coming to Hong Kong via Macau. Japanese tempura, bacalhao, enjoy a nice glass of Port or Madeira or Vinho Verde? Well, you get my drift.

So drop a comment and enter to win a copy of this gorgeous book. Just don't blame me if you also become a Lusophile. There's always room for one more at our table, no matter where in the world you hail from we've got you covered. And fed.

An unpopular electric eel at the International Boston Seafood Show

I am not eccentric. It's just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular electric eel set in a pond of goldfish.

Dame Edith Sitwell


I think this quote appeals to me because I'm often the one who says the unpopular thing that needs to be said. When everyone else is too polite or too timid to say it, I'm often the one that speaks up. I'm okay with that. This feeling of being that eel comes to mind as I head out to the International Boston Seafood Show.

I'll be among a small minority there who are concerned with conservation issues. Unpopular, indeed, among the sellers of all manner of endangered or threatened species. I just remember being floored by seeing miles of tuna and so many other species there with deals being made for what remains of them to be further diminished for profit. It's really one of the hardest things about the show.

Kibo and Hope

There will be glimmers of hope and that's what we look for. Who is practicing sustainable aquaculture? Who is working to reduce by-catch and waste? What are we doing to balance the needs of all species ocean and even land-based mammals, like fishermen? Ultimately, unless we talk about models that work for local economies whether it's in Costa Rica or Gloucester, we will be fighting an unwinnable battle to preserve the last of species like cod or tuna.

That's why I'm so excited to be working with The Friends of MarViva and thrilled to be learning about their success and ongoing challenges in the Eastern Tropical Pacific.

Just last week, it was announced that this new species of shark was discovered in that region.

Kibō is Japanese for "Brimming with Hope" and is the name of an e-book I urge you to order today

From the Random House website:

Kibō was written by Japanese culinary authority Elizabeth Andoh, who was in her Tokyo kitchen when the Great Eastern-Japan Earthquake struck.  Over the following months she witnessed the strength of the people of the Tohoku region--one of the largest miso- and sake-producing areas in Japan--as they struggled with the effects of the resulting tsunami and nuclear accident. She was inspired to write Kibō(meaning "brimming with hope") to not only tell the story of the food of the Tohoku region but also to document the experiences of its people, both before and after the disaster. This lushly photographed original eBook will honor the region and its rich culture on the first anniversary of the earthquake, with a portion of the proceeds going to Japanese recovery efforts.


I will go see who's who and what's what and I will go to a special seminar by the Japan's Ministry of Agriculture and Chef David Bouley.

Stay tuned. Eat sustainable seafood. Keep Hope Alive.

Be concerned with integrity over popularity.

Ceviche of Scallop, Squid, Kumquats

Ceviche has not caught on like sushi yet. Not sure why. South and Central Americans love it. It's fast, it's healthy. It probably passes for raw and paleo and all that. Certainly it's low carb. It's loaded with vitamins and good clean protein. You can serve it over shredded romaine and radicchio in a martini glass for an elegant brunch or dinner starter. You can serve it as a main course.

It's as refreshing in Winter as it is in Summer. The "Tiger's Milk" or the juices leftover once the seafood is consumed is reputed to be a sure-fire hangover cure.

The main question you get when you mention ceviche is "...but isn't that raw?!" Even from folks who eat sushi!

The extent to which is is "cooked" by the citrus seems to me to be enough that you wouldn't liken it to sushi, but not cooked enough to make it part of a pregnant woman's regular diet. Now, if you're pregnant and you eat canned goods from BPA-lined cans or a burger from nearly anywhere but a clean local farm with an impeccable slaughterhouse -- I'd argue you're safer with this ceviche, but hey, I'm not a doctor.


What is ceviche?

Simply put, it's a quick pickle involving citrus juice for the acid (typically lime) and seafood (most often shrimp, scallops, squid or thin white fish fillets.) Shrimp is so problematic and dirty, I mostly avoid it. You have the insane by-catch (up to nine pounds of wasted unintended catch for every single pound of shrimp harvested on traditional equipment), and you have the imported toxic crap. A few exceptions to be sure, but in the main, not so great.

The good news is that scallops can be harvested locally and with little damage (or a lot, ask your fishmonger) and squid is a great choice. Once prepared in this way, both become velvety and firm and not at all "raw fish" tasting.


Recipe: Simple Ceviche - Scallops, Squid, Kumquats


  • 1 lb scallops (diver scallops, dry pack; rinsed, patted dry and cut into thirds, cross-wise)
  • 1 lb squid (sliced into rings)
  • 2 C freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 C freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice
  • ~ 1/3 C poblano pepper, minced
  • ~ 1/3 C red onion, minced
  • ~ 1 C sliced kumquats, organic please
  • ~ 1C chopped cilantro
  • 1 TBSP aji amarillo
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • ~ 1/3 C jalapeño, minced


Note about ingredients: Aji Amarillo is a deep yellow dried pepper that adds a floral note and gorgeous color to the ceviche. It is native to Peru I think, and it is more widely available than it used to be. Try a market with a good "international" section or drive to your nearest bodega. You will most likely find it in dried, powdered form but sometimes in a paste. I first learned of it through Peruvian food.

Here is a photo of some dried Aji Amarillo pods and also the Aji Amarillo powder. Last year, the New York Times called it a "new staple" ingredient. We couldn't agree more.

Although "amarillo" means yellow, the pepper itself is more red-orange in its natural state, turning this sort of caramel color when dried. It does lend a golden color to food it's cooked with, so perhaps that is where the name came from. The pepper is piquant more than it is hot. Definite fruity and floral notes with a gentle not overpowering heat. Try mixing some into your mayo the next time you're making potato salad. Magic!


Directions for assembling your Ceviche:


  1. Prepare your vegetables, mincing or slicing, as directed. You can vary the amount of heat by reducing the amount of jalapeño if you like but you can also eat around them. If you prefer less heat, leave the jalapeño in larger slices, rather than mince. Slice the kumquats across. This does two things, gives you pretty slices and enables you to remove seeds.
  2. Squeeze your juices. You positively, absolutely do not want to substitute bottled juices here. Remember as a rule of thumb the fewer the ingredients the more important the quality. (Also the acid level is not as critical as in Canning when you actually do want use bottled lemon juice which has a consistent acidity.)
  3. Prepare your scallops and squid. Rinse, pat dry, slice, then blanch by pouring boiling water over the seafood for just a few seconds, drain immediately. Pat dry.
  4. Mix it all together in a large glass or non-reactive bowl.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for four hours. Stir once to ensure all the seafood is evenly submerged. If you leave it in the marinade longer, the seafood will continue to firm up. This is neither good nor bad, just is. I would not be able to tell you what happens after overnight, because we never have it around that long.
The beautiful golden color is imparted by the Aji Amarillo. Sunny, refreshing, healthy, delicious. What could be better?


Top 5 Ways to Enjoy Winter Citrus (plus a couple dead-easy recipes)

Every once in a while we have to shake things up. We all get stuck in ruts, falling back on the familiar recipes, the easy ones we don't have to think about.

Right now, even in New England, we have citrus. You may even have a CSA that brings you citrus from the East coast. Or, if you're really lucky, you may have relatives that mail you boxes of citrus from their yard. You may simply pick up some gorgeous citrus in the grocery store. There's a reason we crave citrus in Winter. It's full of vitamins and tastes of the sun - what's not to love?

Here are my picks for some favorite ways to incorporate citrus, hopefully they'll give you some inspiration.

1. Roast a chicken with oranges and lemon and warm Indian spices.

The other night I wanted to roast a chicken. It's one of those meals that grounds me. After traveling to Mali, coming home with a bad cold, visits with out-of-town friends, my many meals out, I was desperate to get cooking again. My friend Virginia Willis calls chickens Gospel Birds (follow that link to find two other recipes including citrus) because they were a traditional Sunday after-church meal.

I had Indian spices on my mind, so here's what I did: Washed and patted dry a chicken we got on sale at Whole Foods. I mixed some homemade Punjabi Garam Masala and canola oil and rubbed that bird all over, let it sit a couple hours in the fridge. To make your own garam masala see Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries or simply buy his new spice blends, here.

When the oven was pre heating (to 375) I sliced orange and lemon wedges and about half a red onion and placed those in the cavity. Tied its legs and folded the wing tips under, then roasted for about half an hour in a small roasting pan with a little water in the bottom. After that first half hour or 40 minutes, I tossed lemon halves, orange wedges, ginger, garlic and a large carrot chopped up into the roasting pan. Once or twice I poured the accumulated juices into a bowl and basted the chicken with it.

While the chicken rested, I poured the pan juices into a grease separator, deglazed the pan with a little saké, added the juice and zest of half an orange went into a pan sauce, along with some citrus champagne vinegar, and the de-greased pan juices. No butter, no flour, just a slightly reduced citrusy pan sauce.

We had white rice (I was out of basmati~!) with aloo gobhi (another simple and satisfying Indian dish - potatoes, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, simmered in tomato and spices). The aloo gobhi came together while the chicken was roasting. Another meal, I made Kathy Gori's Spinach Pachadi, basmati rice and mulligatawny soup.

As our niece Ennyn says "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy."

2. Make a citrus aioli or mayonnaise.

A little Meyer Lemon is a wonderful thing in some mayo. Even if you're just using it for workaday sandwiches, the extra punch of lemon zest in the mayo is divine. Be sure to get organic lemons and oranges so the zest is free of chemicals. A microplane grater makes quick work of zesting.


3. Infuse some vodka.

We have a batch of vodka sitting with lovely strips of Citron. I should've shot some photos but totally forgot. Citron is wild. It looks like a gigantic lemon. I used my vegetable peeler to remove thin strips of zest without pith (the spongy bitter white portion of citrus). Then, I cut into the Citron to squeeze out about a Tablespoon of juice. Really, in that whole thing, that was all there was!


4. Enjoy some sustainable seafood.


  • Slice lemon or orange slices in some en papillote preparation.
  • Make a ceviche with scallops, squid, poblano, aji amarillo, kumquats and citrus.


Here's the ceviche completed:


Que RRRRico!


5. Lemon Ginger Quinoa.

I had one meal of some leftover Chinese food (dao miu - pea tendrils, and tofu). I just needed a little something but I was too hungry to wait for rice! Quinoa to the rescue. If you haven't tried quinoa yet, you really should. I am giving you one last chance with this easy recipe. It's DONE in less than half an hour!


Dead-easy Recipe: Lemon Ginger quinoa recipe



  1. Rinse white quinoa thoroughly in a fine mesh sieve. The little berries (yes, they are fruits of the quinoa plant, not actually a grain) are coated with saponin which while it won't hurt you, tastes soapy. I'm convinced most folks who have had a bad quinoa experience have simply had quinoa that wasn't rinsed.
  2. Place quinoa and water in a small pot. Add a slice of fresh ginger root and a wedge of Meyer Lemon. I think orange would work just as well. Whatever your measure of quinoa is, simply add twice the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and pop a lid on it.
  3. Check in 20 minutes to see if water has absorbed. Stir a few times and your quinoa will be done when the little grains unfurl and the water is absorbed.
Enjoy. The advantage of quinoa in addition to its quick cooking time is that it is better for you nutritionally (calcium, protein, minerals) and adds protein to the plate. Zero fat, just good flavor.
Leftover quinoa can be added to or substituted for your morning oatmeal.

  • What are your favorite ways to eat or cook with citrus?
  • Drop a comment and win a package of Raghavan Iyer's Garam Masala. (Have a look at these gorgeous photos and lovely article on The Heavy Table blog.)
  • I'll use the random number generator to pick from our comments. Contest closes 5 PM Wednesday February 29th!


Good Beef, Bad Beef, Less Beef, Or?

If you're eating a burger while you're reading this post, I'll give you a minute to either finish it in blissful ignorance or go stick your fingers down your throat and get rid of it.

Why would I want you to do that? Because it may just save your life. Approximately 25% of the industrial, commercial beef (such as the boxes of patties or packages of ground beef) you might find in the grocery store or your big box store could have a little lagniappe (something extra) of salmonella. And thanks to the feedlot cattle raising practices, these nasty bugs, potentially lethal to anyone, are becoming stronger, developing resistance to more and more antibiotics. (The very young, very old or immune compromised are even more at risk.)

We're ensuring that these bugs such as salmonella, learn quickly by continually creating the perfect classrooms for them: cattle feedlots. You may have heard of "CAFO"s and wondered what the heck they are. Confined Animal Feeding Operation. They confine and congregate not only the animals, but also their feed, their manure, their urine, dead animals and production operations all in a giant playpen from hell.

Because cows are ruminants, they are designed to digest grass, not grain. But grain allows big cattle operations to fatten cows more quickly. It's cheaper than rotating cows on green pastures. Just pen them in and let them stand in their own feces, feed them what they can't digest and inject them or feed them antibiotics even when they're not yet sick. Getting the picture?

Eating meat from these operations is like playing Russian Roulette, only their are just four chambers for the one bullet. How do you like those odds?

As The Opinionator (AKA Mark Bittman) says in the New York Times:

...when you go to the supermarket to buy one of these brands of pre-ground meat products, there’s a roughly 25 percent chance you’ll consume a potentially fatal bacteria that doesn’t respond to commonly prescribed drugs.

As far back as 1977 ("since your dad had sideburns") the FDA has been aware of the increasing trend of potentially lethal bacteria in our commercial meats. Kowtowing to political pressure they did a nifty little sidestep and put action on hold, on the back burner. Then they killed it, just before the holidays. Completely abnegated their responsibility and decided to trust the same people who released, then were forced to recall, 36 million pounds of turkey products that were possibly contaminated with drug-resistant salmonella.

The FDA is taking the "judicious" course of encouraging "voluntary reform." In my experience, that's about as effective as hoping for abstinence from teens' with raging hormones. That is to say: not very effective.

Learning, or not, from History

Here is Maryn McKenna's excellent breakdown of the FDA's complete failure to protect public health from documented insanity of agricultural use of subtherapeutic antibiotics. At the end of Maryn's post, she says:

The FDA seems to leave the door open to accepting public comment on the issue of sub-therapeutic antibiotics so there may still be an opportunity to voice your opinion:


  • At the end of the Federal Register posting, the FDA says it is taking public comment on this issue, via the docket established for the draft guidance issued in 2010. That docket number is FDA-2010-D-0094-0002, and the form for submitting comments is here.


Earlier in the week folks were a-Twitter about the news that people seem to be eating less beef. By my read, it looked like the beef in question was the very same product that just skated by being regulated. My cynical self thinks the story was planted by the lobbyists so they could ply the "poor us, profits are down, don't put costly regulations on us now!" argument with regulators and elected officials.

Perhaps people are eating less meat? Perhaps they're eating meat from different sources than that news story counts. Many people (I have no idea how many) but at least some of us ARE eating less meat as we discover the joys of farmers' markets and local, seasonal produce. Some number of us are buying more local meat, from farmers we know. We're avoiding the anonymous corporations with enough money to shut Oprah up, or try to.

Barry Estabrook our intrepid fair food journalist has another piece in the Atlantic comparing pastured beef to "Cowshwitz" feedlot beef.  Barry has a very good photo comparing examples, side by side of these two extremes.

What to Do

So now you're queasy and mad and wondering what the heck you can do and why I've ruined your lunch? Fear not, I've got some ideas.

1. Do use the the comment link in Maryn's post to tell the FDA they stink. We need to rein in the use of antibiotics in Agriculture. Currently, 80% of the antibiotics produced in the US go to animals not humans. You might also want to weigh in by sending an email on the related issue of CAFO farms' waste lagoons and the threat they pose to our water supply. The comment period for the EPA closes mid-January and they appear to need pressure to collect more robust data on this public health and environmental threat. Takes two minutes.

2. Eat less meat. It's not about giving up something you love; trust me, I don't want to come between you and a good steak. But for your health, your wallet, the environment - eat a delicious meat-free meal just one day a week. If you need inspiration, ideas, recipes -  holla!

3. Ask questions and be an informed consumer (see below). Most of us know more about the phone in our pocket than the food we put into our bodies. This is crazy.

4. When you buy meat, choose locally farmed, grass-fed, pastured meat. The best burger I've had in recent memory was at New Rivers in Providence. Blackbird Farms beef was so clean and beefy tasting, completely unadorned, I could barely speak to thank the farmer sitting next to me! I had sampled Animal Welfare Approved meats at the AWA conference in DC this year, including the wonderful Will Harris White Oak Pastures beef. That's me and Will.

5. When you eat out, support your restaurants that buy and serve local meats. Tell them and show them that you appreciate the added cost and trouble to supply you with fair, clean food.

Here's some help from our good friends at the Animal Welfare Approved organization. I'm breaking down the beef terminology so you know what you're buying versus what you're being sold. Many terms on labels are pure marketing spin, intended to convey what they know the market wants. The problem is very few terms are legally defined or regulated which is to say they are meaningless.

Food Labeling for Dummies: an excerpt

Let's take just a few examples of label terms that sound good. When you read descriptions like "natural" or "free range" you likely imagine a bucolic country setting, animals romping on green grass under sunny blue skies. That's exactly what the marketing folks behind the label want you to think. But what do they really mean?

Natural - this is actually a term that IS defined by the USDA, it just means something different than most of us would think. It has absolutely nothing to do with how the animal was raised. "Natural" applies only to the processing after slaughter. For example, a cow could have been raised on a feedlot, with routine antibiotics and growth promoters but so long as things like coloring agents were not added after slaughter - it's entitled to be labeled "Natural".

Free-range/Free-roaming - For poultry only - producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside. (ed. note: "allowed access to" is a debatable term, too. Chickens are flocking birds. If you have thousands in a huge quonset hut and one door, those birds ain't leaving to go strut around on grass unless someone leads them out there.) Buyers should be aware that the type of outdoor access provided (such as pasture or dirt lot), the length of time the birds are required to have outdoor access, and how this must be verified is not legally defined and therefore varies greatly from facility to facility. Crowding is not uncommon. No independent third-party verification.


  • for any other species - no legal or regulated definition.


Fine, you say, how about if I look for...

Grass fed - refers to feed, not access to pasture, or if it has been raised on feedlot and/or given antibiotics or hormones. American Grassfed Assoc has an independent third party certification process available to ranchers. AGA cert is recognized by USDA and verifies 100% forage diet, raised on pasture w/minimum 75% cover, not confinement, no antibiotics, no added hormones.

Meat purchasers seeking truly grassfed meat should source AGA certified products.

Pastured/Pasture-raised - No legal or regulated definition. Implies, but does not ensure, or certify, in any way that animals were raised outdoors on pasture. (ed. note: I tend to believe a farmer I can meet, I can visit, I can talk to at the market. I also believe we could be asking the myriad market managers to give us some information about the verification they do, if any, of the farmers' claims.)

Download the "Food Labeling for Dummies" PDF from AWA and look for their logo when buying meat and eggs. You're paying a bit more, but you're gaining assurance that the food you're buying is third-party certified, raised humanely, cleanly and by the highest standards, outdoors on pasture or range. All the standards are on their website and you can find a list of farmers and products available in your area. Transparency, farmers you can trust, third-party verification.

Simply look for the label.



Additional Resources:

Bill Marler - perhaps no one knows more about the failures in our food safety systems than attorney Bill Marler. He puts a very real face on the issue representing consumers poisoned by tainted food. Learn about the multitude of bugs waiting for you in that next burger on Marler Blog.

Maryn McKenna - author of Superbug. Maryn writes for Wired and elsewhere sharing science about infectious disease, food policy and more.

Sustainable Table - a good source of consumer information on all types of sustainable food issues.

Kim O'Donnel - author of Meatlover's Meatless Cookook: truly has meatless meals carnivores will devour.

Animal Welfare Approved - click on the label above to go to their consumer page. There you can find tools like the entire food labels cheat sheet, as well as find farmers and products you can trust. Learn what goes into their certification system and meet farmers like Will Harris.

Fish Fraud Expose in Boston Globe Sparks Conversation

This morning the Boston Globe ran part one of a two-part exposé on fish fraud (Diners Order One Fish, Get Another), including this video. This issue is not new, and not limited to Boston. As an iconic coastal city, Boston has long been associated with good, fresh seafood. Are consumers getting what they pay for? It seems in many cases, the answer is no.

With the growing awareness of food safety issues, traceability is a word on the lips of many diners. Sourcing local food, including local fish here in New England, is very important as well.

In a British hospitality survey of 2,000 diners 90% said they wanted to be served only sustainable seafood when they dine out.
But, nearly three-quarters said they themselves did not know which species were near extinction.

I tell chefs this is upside for them. Diners want your help and want to rely on your expertise to help them make better choices. Like it or not, this piece in the Globe piece puts chefs and servers squarely in the cross-hairs as a probably unintended, but no less real, consequence will have diners asking point-blank "How do I know this cod is really cod?"

Bad information can confuse and numerous names fish go by can obfuscate. Chef Ming Tsai has been a leader in advocating for transparency in allergy information. He's a trusted chef in many ways. The Globe piece might be read to infer bad motive to his use of the name "butterfish" for sablefish. In fact, sablefish is often called by various names, including Butterfish. It is not a fish that is overfished nor threatened by overfishing. This naming issue is sometimes dishonest and often not. I trust Ming Tsai and I know sablefish is one I often recommend. Readers here will know that "Orange Roughy" was originally called Slimehead and Chilean Seabass is not a bass at all but Patagonian Toothfish.Tsai's use of the name Butterfish for Sablefish is a far cry from selling Vietnamese Catfish in place of Grouper.

I applaud the Globe piece for bringing to light some of the myriad issues restaurateurs face when trying to source and sell seafood. The St Petersburg Times ran a story on Florida Grouper fraud in 2006 and the New York Times ran a piece in 2008 and another earlier this year on fish fraud uncovered in numerous ways. We must all strive for accuracy and be vigilant about transparency to advance the cause for consumers.

Who Else Suffers?

Who else is hurt by the ongoing fraud and lack of transparency in the field? Fishermen. Our local fishermen have struggled between the challenges of regulations (shifting, sometimes unfair, sometimes just burdensome even if fair) and competition by large trawling factories, by foreign imports like catfish.

When fishermen lose their way of life, the very coastal cities that draw painters, poets, and important tourist dollars change. We are in very real danger of having our fishing ports become museum artifacts and theme park memorials to a lifestyle that once defined New England.

Who else suffers? Local economies. Tourism will not take the place of fishing for the families of cities like Gloucester.

Who benefits?

The unscrupulous purveyors and middlemen who mark up fish and mislabel cheap imports as more expensive species.

Restaurateurs who turn a blind eye to the "deal" they're getting, never demanding traceability are responsible for perpetuating this "wink, wink" sort of business practice. If they demanded traceability the unscrupulous purveyors would have to change their ways. As one person said in the Florida Grouper Scandal, if you're buying a Mercedes for 10K you can't be surprised to learn it's not really a Mercedes.

The politicians pandering for local votes by politicizing the issue to their own benefit are not helping matters either.

From Vancouver to New Brunswick, New Orleans to Alaska, I have spoken with fishermen and those they support. I am stunned at how often the questions I get are about the vitriol of the dialog here. It's not about the actual issues, it's the lack of open dialog that mystifies people. We must move beyond blaming the regulators, demonizing conservationists, and pointing fingers all around.

Moving Toward Solutions - Teach a Chef to Fish Workshop

For five years I have run an online event called Teach a Man to Fish. It's a virtual potluck where bloggers, food writers, cookbook authors, home cooks and restaurateurs share recipes, info, tips, resources and questions about the very real challenges, and joys, of cooking with sustainable seafood. Two years ago, I began running workshops for chefs alerting them to the growing consumer demand and awareness. In the Teach a Chef to Fish workshops (attended by Jose Duarte, Andy Husbands, Matt Jennings and Myers + Chang, among others), I share a framework for understanding these complex issues. I also point to resources geared specifically for the professional kitchen.

There are many ways for chefs and restaurants to bolster their knowledge, their training and their sourcing options. I package it in a workshop that delivers an approach to these issues in a one hour discussion.


"In an hour, Jacqueline took the dizzying library of information that exists concerning sustainability and eco-responsibility, and she distilled it down to a meaningful and consumable truth: think, care, and do your level best to be a careful and vigilant purveyor of seafood. Better, to be a more careful and gentle human being. And rather than leaving the seminar punch drunk, we were energized to learn more and to help realize a better future for not only the diners of tomorrow but their children, as well."

Joanne Chang and Christopher Myers, Myers + Chang, Flour Bakery & Cafe


Please contact me to schedule one for your restaurant. At LDGourmet [a] gmail [dot] com.


Good place to start: two New Cookbooks

Becky Selengut's Good Fish


and Barton Seaver's For Cod & Country are two I highly recommend.

And a Non-cookbook Book

Mark Kurlansky's A World Without Fish is a sort of graphic novel approach to teaching the basics. Good for kids of all ages.

Fish Fraud in the News

Cooking with Kids

This is the fifth year of my sustainable seafood focus and I'm turning my attention to cooking with kids. Creating the next generation of sustainable seafood advocates and conscious cooks is something that we need to be focusing on before we end up a world without fish. A distinct possibility.

We'll kick off another round of the TM2F virtual potluck and teach-in, shortly. For now, peruse last year's wrap up (this year, I included resources in the wrap up rather than breaking it out separately) and get your cookbooks and thinking caps on. Here's my Sustainable Seafood resource guide from a prior year.

Don't forget we have a wealth of resources here including, Australis Barramundi (healthy farmed fish), the New England Aquarium, the Herring Alliance, the Chefs Collaborative and more.

And always vote with your dollars by dining at restaurants like Turner Fisheries, who openly feature sustainable seafood and willingly discuss choices they're making and why.

Eating Local as an Act of Intimacy


Living in downtown Boston, a stone's throw from South Station Train Station, we like to brag that it takes less time to take the train to Providence than it does to drive across town. Maybe a slight exaggeration but not much of one.

I was glad to be invited to join part of the first annual Providence Food & Wine Festival. With such a vital and engaged group of chefs, farmers, growers and a loyal local dining following, this is sure to become a regular event.

I was particularly moved by Chef Vestal's lovely way of capturing his devotion to local food. He says "eating local is an act of intimacy." That makes my heart swell - a perfect turn of phrase to capture the thrill of that connection between us when enjoy local food, food that has a sense of place. The shared moment that is both fleeting and lasting - fleeting because that one meal cannot last beyond its enjoyment. Lasting in that the memory of it, the feeling of it, can last and give us more that the actual dietary components consumed. It nourishes us in a deeper way.

We listened to and then joined in the conversation of this excellent panel of local producers, hosted by Chef Beau Vestal of New Rivers and moderated by David Dadekian, local food writer & photographer of Eat Drink RI.


Oyster lovers and Oyster Century Club© members should swing by New Rivers for their $1 oyster night and try the Plum Points! Don't miss the Blackbird Farm burger, either. Food that makes you happy in the most intimate way.

BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Swordfish with Grilled Fennel and Tomatoes

Our BBQ Bonanza continues this week with a sustainable seafood lesson. If you have ever tried to figure out what makes a fish choice sustainable, you might have felt that choosing fish is anything but a walk on the beach. Our guest poster this week is the inimitable Amy McCoy, who was inspired by a much-needed tumble in the waves of Block Island.

photo by Denise Woodward,


I will never forget Amy's hilarious post three years ago about DIY Turkey in a Hole in the Ground. Since then, she's become a published cookbook author. Her Poor Girl Gourmet makes a perfect housewarming gift for your niece or nephew just setting up their own apartment. I incorporated her Chicken in Cider Gravy recipe in my Sustainable Meats Class. It always pleases.

Amy brings us a swordfish recipe inspired by local Block Island swordfish. Her sensible approach to sustainability is one that's near and dear to my heart. Here's a post with five tips for making Small Steps that Make a Difference.



Amy is the author of “Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget” (Andrews McMeel, 2010), and the blog Poor Girl Gourmet, where she shares budget-friendly recipes, tales (sometimes of woe) of raising chickens and turkeys, keeping bees, and particularly woeful this year, gardening (Blight! Chipmunks! Squash bugs!).

Amy was scheduled to speak about eating on a budget at the International Food Blogger Conference in New Orleans, LA on August 28 (curse you Irene!), and her recipes and writing have appeared in many newspapers across the country.


Block Island Swordfish with Fennel and Tomato

Guest post by Amy McCoy

Fish has been stressing me out for a few years now. And I say this without so much as a hint of hyperbole; such a worrier am I.

I want to eat fish, but I want to do the right thing. I don’t want the oceans depleted, and, quite honestly, pulling out a chart that delineates what’s okay to eat and what isn’t takes a little of the joy out of fish eating. And what I like most about food – the making and sharing of food – is the joy of it all.

So stressed I have been.

But then I read a few words of wisdom from fellow BBQ Bonanza contributor, Mark Scarbrough, that boiled down to this: calm down, make good choices, and enjoy yourself some fish, already, darn it.

So I stopped with the stress (sometimes it only takes one slap to snap me out of it). And decided to apply a trusted mantra to fish shopping: Buy local.

Fortunately, living in southeastern Massachusetts, local isn’t too far away – generally less than an hour by car, and sometimes, it’s an additional 13 miles by ferry. If a jaunt to Block Island is in order. Oh, which it was this past week. Which it was.

Block Island is a quaint, well-preserved Victorian-era village surrounded by rolling hills dotted with stonewalls and stunning golden cliffs rising up above its beaches. The water is colder than on the mainland (of course), and if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself smacked down to the sandy shore by a giant wave. It’s a lot easier to get smacked down and find the wave giant if you’re short. Not that this happened to me, um, two days ago, or anything.

It also happens to be quite the swordfish harvesting ground, with “BI Swordfish” signs posted at local fish markets - on the mainland as well as the island - causing glee at the mere sight (and angst-free glee at that, for it is local). And that’s all before you’ve laid eyes on the fish.

As it happens, harpoon and hand line swordfish are both “best choices” on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide (okay, so I checked my chart – I admit it. There’s still some guilt, despite my best efforts at being effortless in fish shopping).

Back home with my Block Island swordfish, I decided to add homegrown fennel and tomatoes (it doesn’t get much more local than your own backyard – and it helps to keep the cost down, too), grill ‘em up, then add the grilled veggies to a pan of sautéed shallots with white wine, crushed red pepper flakes, and oregano (which is also homegrown, and threatens to overrun our property, prolific as it is) for a rich, yet summery sauce.

Swordfish with Grilled Fennel and Tomatoes

Serves 4


  • 1 pound swordfish steak, approximately 1-inch thick
  • 1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed of fronds, sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch wedges.
  • 4 medium tomatoes (approximately 2 pounds), sliced in half lengthwise
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


For the sauce:


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper




  1. Be sure that your grill is clean, and has been lightly oiled. Preheat the grill to medium high.
  2. Toss the fennel and tomatoes in a medium mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then season them with salt and pepper.
  3. Brush the swordfish all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the fennel and tomatoes on the grill, and grill until they are lightly charred and the tomato skins are beginning to peel, 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove the fennel and tomatoes from the grill. Using a fork or tongs, remove and discard the tomato skin.
  6. Before starting the swordfish on the grill – or simultaneously, if you are fortunate enough to have a side burner on your grill – start the sauce.
  7. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, and cook until it is translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fennel, tomatoes and any accumulated juices, then add the crushed red pepper flakes and oregano. Next, pour in the wine, and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, 10 to 12 minutes.
  8. Place the swordfish on the grill, flipping midway through the cooking time, and grill it until it is opaque and is easily cut with a fork, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  9. Remove the swordfish from the grill, then cut it into 4 more-or-less equal sized pieces. Place the swordfish pieces in the saucepan, and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve the swordfish forth, topped with sauce.


This dish goes well with grilled potatoes, and can also be served stew-style: I recommend toasting (on the grill, of course) a slice of country bread, rubbing the bread with garlic, then placing it into a bowl and topping with fish and sauce. No guilt there at all, I can assure you. Only glee.



Great News from Our Sponsors giving away another set of their terrific barbecue sauces (exclusively available for us); each winner will receive:

  • one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork);
  • one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy);
  • and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).


Comment on BBQ Bonanza August posts also enter you to win Fire it Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything. (Even includes recipes for goat! Donuts, I kid you not, and scallops with grapefruit mojo. Really there ARE recipes for grilling everything!)



The good people at OXO have graciously added this Four Piece Grilling Set to our August Contest!


How to win one of these THREE prizes:

  1. Enter a comment in any August BBQ Bonanza post.
  2. Write your own post on the theme of Sustainability at the Grill and link back here. You'll get a second entry!
  3. Hit the Silk Road! Find the phony location of a Silk Road yurt, post the true and the false locations in your comment here, and gain another chance to win.
  4. Tweet, RT (#BBQBonanza), post to Facebook.


BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Salt block grilled Salmon with Basil Butter

Photo credit: Denise Woodward, Chez Us

BBQ Bonanza continues with this our fifth guest post. The theme this year, our second, is Sustainability at the Grill. I thought it would be fun to see what our guest posters would come up with -- I have not been disappointed. I began this year's kickoff post with this:

"You're standing at your barbecue grill with a package of hot dogs and you're wondering "why don't I do something more original?" Or maybe you're thinking about where the beef in your burgers came from..."

Our guest poster this week touches on our theme by sharing her awakening to issues of sustainability when she moved from Chilean Sea Bass to wild Alaskan Salmon, and discovered her connection to the issue. I share her desire to treat the planet, not as if we inherited it from the previous generation; but rather, as if we borrowed it from the next.

Later this year, I'll be hosting the 5th annual Teach a Man to Fish - sustainable seafood event anniversary with cooking classes for kids. My hope is to build the next generation of ocean stewards and conscious cooks.

Denise is half of the blogging couple, Chez Us "she cooks, he devours", that counts as half, right Lenny? Her stories are lovely and the photos, even better. The photo above which I nabbed for our bonanza badge was taken by Denise and you may have seen her winning entry in Saveur Magazine - gorgeous! Read on and you'll see why these folks became good friends - thoughtful, delicious, beautiful - what more can I say but thank you? And enjoy!

Salt block grilled Copper River Salmon with Basil Butter

Guest Post: Denise Woodward, Chez Us

Summer is the ultimate grilling season. It doesn't matter where you may live, or the culture you come from, summer and grilling go hand-in-hand. Every season I chuckle to myself as I light up the grill for our first cookout; why don't we take advantage and do it more often throughout the year? Besides the obvious that food just tastes really good when it comes off the grill, it is also social and inviting, not to mention, minimal clean-up. We are lucky living in the Bay Area as our seasons are mild and we can take advantage. But, we still don't. We save our sacred recipes for a few precious months and then we tuck them away until the next year. Maybe it is a comfort thing, or maybe some habits are just hard to break.

I was thrilled when our friend Jackie asked us to join her for BBQ Bonanza 2011 as we had a great time last year exploring Mastering The Grill last summer. When I said yes, I could not wait to see what delicious cookbook she was going to expose us too. Little did I know she would be asking us to write about a topic that is true to her heart: sustainability.

The first time I "really" realized that I needed to try to make a difference in my eating lifestyle was some 20 years ago when I approached my fishmonger to purchase some Chilean Sea Bass. I had been enjoying it weekly, even thought I was on a beer budget. As my eyes searched the case hungrily for it, I was told it was no longer available. I made a joke about the fisherman not being able to find it. He came back saying that was absolutely true. I walked home with a bag of pasta and thought long and deep (no pun intended there) about what was happening. How could this happen? How could we be so careless? Overfishing our oceans? It was criminal.

When I think about sustainability, common sense comes to mind. Kind of like ... you leave your house, you turn off the lights and shut the door; excessive behaviors will result in a diminishment of luxuries. Just like that Chilean sea bass.  I took advantage of eating something so delicious, every week, and soon it was not available to me. We try to eat sustainably in our home by asking questions, such as where our food is coming from? How did it come to us? Could we make a better choice? Also by eating seasonally. Do we really need bright red strawberries in the middle of February, when they have been put on a plane from Peru just to land on my table?

We try to do our part. We are only two people, a small speck actually, but we try. We have to, as we want the younger generations, such as our nieces, nephews and MEM to grow into fine adults who care; who have a planet to live on, a planet to grow their families on. If we don't try, who will?

We recently received a lovely package of gorgeous fresh caught Copper River Salmon. Granted it does have to board a flight to get to us; but, the fish is harvested sustainably. The salmon from the Copper River is special, it really doesn't taste like any salmon I have eaten. It is smooth, creamy and full of omega 3s. I tucked away a pound of the king salmon for a special occasion. I could not think of a better time to use it than now. One of my favorite ways to grill salmon is using a whole salmon. I stuff it full of fresh basil, lemon, red onion, butter and some white wine; then I grill it.

It is a delicious way to celebrate summer and the grilling season. Since I was not lucky enough to have a whole salmon, I made my recipe a bit differently this time. I seasoned the salmon with a little black pepper and then cooked it over hot coals, on top of a chunk of Himalayan Salt. The salt distributes heat evenly while lightly seasoning the fish. If you don't have a salt plate, grill the fish as you normally would.

Then, I made a compound butter using fresh basil, lemon zest, shallots and a little white wine. Right before taking the salmon off the grill, I put some of the compound butter on top. The slow heat that was left in the grill as well as the smoke wrapped around the salmon and butter, creating a very moist and flavorful piece of fish. Simple. Sustainable.

Recipe:  Grilled Salmon with Basil Butter


  • 1 pound of sustainably caught salmon
  • black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 stick high quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white wine, optional
  • kosher salt, to taste


  1. In a small mixing bowl mash the butter with a fork, until creamy.  Add the seasonings.  Stir to combine.
  2. Roll the butter into a log using parchment paper.  Put into the freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the grill to 350.  Lightly oil the salmon and season with pepper.
  4. Grill the fish until almost cooked.  5 minutes before removing from the grill, slice the butter into slices and evenly space on top of the salmon.
  5. Cover the grill with the lid and continue to cook for the last couple minutes.

Serve.  Eat.

BBQ BONANZA '11 is sponsored by:




Giveaway Rules:

We'll be giving away three Silk Road BBQ Sauce Trios. One trio will be given away in each month: July (congrats, Jenni!), August, and September.

Each winner will receive: one bottle of Carolina sauce (for dressing pulled pork); one bottle of pomegranate chili sauce (versatile sweet/sour/spicy); and one bottle of jerk marinade (meat brine or stew base or ceviche base).


Enter to win:

1. Add a comment on any of the BBQ Bonanza posts. I'll use the random number generator to pick a winner from that month's comments.

2. Add a post on your own blog - c'mon, you know you're grilling! - and link back to one of the BBQ Bonanza posts that inspired you. Let me know which one and you earn another shot. I'll link back, too!

3. Bonus entry: answer to this question and gain another entry in the drawing: Which of the sites on the Silk Road BBQ website is NOT a current, actual location of one of their yurts?


Second Sponsor for August:

For the month of August, we are thrilled to add a second sponsor: OXO! OXO joins the BBQ Bonanza family, graciously offering this groovy and practical four piece grilling tool set. Groovy and practical, isn't that their sweet spot?

These tools have long handles (safely keeping your arms away from the heat. They feature retractable hanging hooks, durable stainless steel tools with comfortable beech wood grips, and the silicone basting brush incorporates OXO’s patented design to prevent marinades from sliding off bristles. I can tell you from personal experience, once you've used an Oxo kitchen tool, nothing else compares. The other basting brushes in my house are lonely, pressed into service only when two separate things are being basted or when my Oxo brush is in the dishwasher. Tongs lock, too. They really think of everything.


Remember all you have to do to enter is drop a comment on any August BBQ Bonanza post, and extra entries can be yours, simply share the link love (see above).

We want to know what you're grilling and how you incorporate sustainability at the grill.

Now go on, fire it up!





Don't forget, BBQ & Grilling love this month also includes a chance to win:

Your comments on any BBQ Bonanza post in August enter you to win Fire it Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything. Even includes recipes for goat!


BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Channel Catfish with Chili Coconut Glaze

photo credit: Denise Woodward

Recently I've been reading books like Mark Kurlansky's A World without Fish and Paul Greenberg's Four Fish. Both men write persuasively and eloquently about the ocean. They speak of fishing, Kurlansky with his daughter and Greenberg as a boy, and connect us to a time of innocence, now lost in the often contentious world of ocean conservation. I sometimes get sad and frankly a little frustrated when I'm attacked for bringing up the S word: sustainability.

What I want most is to get to solutions that work and systems that enable the future fishermen to take their children out for a day of snorkeling or fishing, to have their children inherit their fishing boats and to have that be a viable choice. To imagine oceans teaming with healthy fish populations and to have sane fisheries management that enables them to thrive: sometimes seems impossible. Solutions can be hard to come by. Too often, it's "us against them" thinking that takes over.


Can we just kick back, pop a cold one, and fire up the grill? Can we do it without guilt if we're grilling fish?

Yes. Yes we can.

I Love Blue Sea is a company that was borne of the same fondness for the sea and a desire to re-think how we do things. In this case, entrepreneurial thinking and personal longing for fresh, sustainable fish spurred Martin Reed to create a company to fill in the gap he saw between sustainable purveyors and conscientious cooks. Now, with a couple of clicks you can experience sparkling fresh seafood that's shipped to your door. They even take care with packaging to use soy based inks and recyclable materials where possible. Remember, our theme for BBQ Bonanza this year is Sustainability at the Grill.


When I read Martin's guest post, I thought of Kurlansky and Greenberg starting with their own innocent fishing days. When you speak with Martin (read my post Sustainable Seafood Delivered: I Love Blue Sea makes a Splash), you sense his love for the ocean. With clear vision and a reassuring smile, he makes the business of sustainable seafood seem more than possible, he makes it real.


In that same way, he takes a beautiful sustainable fish and shows us anyone can enjoy it grilled with an easy sauce. No fussy stuff here, so kick back and enjoy a guilt-free grilled fish.

Channel Catfish with Sweet Chili Coconut Glaze

Guest post: Martin Reed, founder

I fell in love with fish as a young boy when I caught my first out of the icy waters of San Francisco Bay. This love grew to include sushi, surfing and finally to the great body of water that produces these magnificent species – our ocean. The past five decades have seen catastrophic decline in ocean life as we’ve cleverly found ways to outsmart fish in a battle first waged many moons ago. Boats the size of football fields fish for months at a time in areas inaccessible just one generation ago.

So maybe you know this, and try to support sustainable seafood – but it’s not always easy is it? The NY Times recently revealed 20 - 25% of fish is mislabeled intentionally. My passion is to change that and make sustainable seafood easy transparent and convenient. With the purpose of restoring trust to fishmongers, I started i love blue sea.  Browse 120+ types of sustainable seafood online and enjoy sushi-quality fresh fish anywhere in the US. We’re a partner of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, and they just named us a ‘2011 Seafood Champion!’  OK, okay enough about us. Let’s talk catfish.


Yup, if you haven’t had domestic farm-raised catfish, hold your judgment.  Most catfish is raised in Asia and is not something I would buy either. Our Channel Catfish is raised in closed-containment ponds in Louisiana. They are primarily vegetarian so they have a favorable feed conversion ratio. This means it takes less than one pound of wild fish to create one pound of catfish. This is a net gain in protein - not something all farmed fish can claim.

I’m still pretty new to the world of gourmet cooking so I’ve been trying lots of new ingredients. Right now, I’ve been enjoying experimenting with oils. So this recipe uses three. I recently found coconut butter and sometimes sneak a spoonful before bedtime. It’s that good.

Obviously, feel free to use oils interchangeably here based on what’s in the cupboard.


Channel catfish with sweet chili coconut glaze



  • Channel Catfish Fillets - about 1/2 to 3/4 lb per person.
  • Peanut oil
  • Your choice of seasonal vegetables for the grill (how about onions, peppers, and baby eggplants? Bok Choy?)




  1. Brush fillet with peanut oil to prevent sticking to hot grill
  2. Put veggies on to grill.
  3. When veggies are about halfway done, add fish to grill.




  • Blend 2 parts coconut butter, 1 part hot water and 1 part sweet chili sauce (I like Mae Ploy).
  • Splash a streak or two of Sriracha across the plate if you want a little spice.

I devoured the dish before I thought to do this. Serve with:


Mixed summer veggies with Canadian flair


  • Buy some local, seasonal vegetables at your favorite market cut into whatever shape just feels right.
  • Toss with sesame oil and Montréal steak seasoning to taste. Olive oil also works really well.
  • Throw on the grill and flip a few times till satisfied.



Previous Guest Posts in BBQ Bonanza '11

❶ Pulled Pork Tacos - Sharon Miro

❷ Squid with Tamarind & Orange - Becky Selengut

❸ Goat Skewers with Vinegary Herb Sauce - Mark Scarbrough & Bruce Weinstein


❦ ❦ ❦

BBQ BONANZA '11 is sponsored by:

Click on the logo to visit their site.

❦ ❦ ❦





BBQ Bonanza 2011 - Grilled Squid with Tamarind and Orange

Since our theme for BBQ Bonanza 2011 is Sustainability at the Grill, you knew we'd feature some seafood, right? And you know my rule of sensual, sensible, sustainability: first, it has to taste good, then we have to be able to afford it and also we want to be able to consume it without guilt. This recipe sails through with flying colors on all three counts.

This our second guest post is by my friend, author, chef, wiseacre and sustainability soldier: Becky Selengut. Her new book is gorgeous, inspiring and dying to come live on your bookshelf.

I love what Becky is about, how she cooks, her razor sharp wit and her joie de vivre. Joie de Vivre sounds a little too white-gloves-and-party-manners, though. She's one of those women that we used to call "a great broad." Something I aspire to be. Smart and quick, a good drinker and a good sport. My Journalism prof in school wanted me to pursue writing and described me as very similar to his favorite journalist, a great broad by the name of Joan if memory serves. Wonder what the current equivalent of "a great broad" is? Hmm...

Anyway, I knew that if Becky agreed to a guest post, we'd get a fun, salty story. She doesn't disappoint.

Photo credit: Clare Barboza

Calamari or Squid and Hypocrites

Guest Post: Becky Selengut

When I told my friend I was including squid recipes in my book, she wrinkled her nose and gave me a judgy look. “Have you even tried squid?” I asked, my eyebrows hitting the ceiling as I mustered my most condescending expression. “Ick. Never,” she said, “though there was once some calamari I had in the Riviera that I looooved.”

I blinked 4 times in pained, slow motion succession.

“You realize squid and calamari are the same thing, dumbass” I said.  “No,” she countered, “they’re not. Squid is disgusting and calamari is Italian and Awesome.”

I couldn’t even be bothered to blink at that, so I just stared at her until my eyes dried up and fell out.

Whether you call it squid or calamari matters not in how fabulous it is, marinated in a spicy, gingery and tart tamarind bath and then quickly caramelized on a hot grill.  Squid is a low cost and sustainable seafood option and a ridiculously simple dinner.  To your friends who claim they don’t have time to cook or can’t afford going out to restaurants I say: grab a few chunks of wood briquettes, a kettle grill and a pound of squid.  While you can substitute lemon for the bright acidity of tamarind, most supermarkets carry it these days and it really does give the squid a unique depth, so don’t be lazy.

Feed this to your judgy friend and gloat while she chokes on her Eurocentric hypocrisy.

Grilled squid (calamari) with tamarind and orange

Primum non nocere. First, do no harm. All medical students are taught this, and I am of the opinion that it should also be taught in culinary schools. In medicine, sometimes the cure can do more damage than the sickness, and similarly, overzealous culinary students and chefs can sometimes do more damage to food than if they had simply let the poor ingredient be. I’m a big fan of sauce, don’t get me wrong, but some foods shine the brightest when prepared the most simply. Great ingredients don’t require heroic culinary interventions.

Serves 4

1 teaspoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced Serrano chile (seeds left in)

1 orange (1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)

2 teaspoons tamarind paste

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound squid bodies, cleaned* – skin removed

1 teaspoon minced fresh mint

Maldon or gray salt as optional garnish


Mix together shallot, ginger, serrano, orange zest, orange juice, tamarind, salt and 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Pour over squid bodies and marinate for 30 minutes.  Heat a grill over high heat (you could also do this on a grill pan).  When the grill is very hot, oil the grates well and lay 1/2 the squid on the grates.  Weigh down immediately with a cast iron skillet (or similar heavy heat-proof pan). Grill for 1 1/2 minutes until you see grill marks. Flip and weigh again with skillet and grill for another 30 seconds to a minute.  Remove and repeat < script src="plugins/editors/tinymce/jscripts/tiny_mce/themes/advanced/langs/en.js" type="text/javascript"> with the rest of the squid.

Lay the grilled squid out on a small platter and drizzle the rest of the extra virgin olive oil over the top. Squeeze some more orange juice over the top and sprinkle the mint and some Maldon or gray sea salt over the pieces of squid.

Wine pairing: An Albariño, such as Abacela 2009, Umpqua Valley, Oregon, or a Grüner Veltliner


*Go to for a video demonstration of cleaning whole squid.

Recipe from Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast (Sasquatch 2011)

Chef Becky Selengut,,

You can support an indie writer (me), an indie bookstore (Powell's) and a great chef (Becky.) Click on the cover to buy.


➊ Check out our first BBQ Bonanza '11 guest post: Vinegary Herbed Goat Skewers, by Mark Scarbrough and Bruce Weinstein, authors of Goat: Meat, Milk Cheese.

❦ ❦ ❦

BBQ BONANZA '11 is sponsored by:

Click on the logo to visit their site.

❦ ❦ ❦




Salmon Farming: Better than Beef?


This data is being widely proclaimed from the rooftops, to Seafood, etc. etc. And while it may be accurate, I think it's also a bit misleading. Aquaculture as an industry is certainly here to stay but once again they offer a statement comparing beef to salmon in terms of food conversion. This gets further reduced to the headline "Salmon is more efficient to farm than Beef." Wow, everyone now wants to eat farmed salmon, right?

Let's unpack the assumptions:
a) that the fish going into salmon feed would not be consumed by people.
This is a handy assumption and perhaps the market is underdeveloped but I"m pretty sure starving people around the world would NOT turn their noses up at this source of protein, IF given the chance. The real issue is that the MARKET for feeding poor people is not a lucrative one. No government or private agency is stepping up to say "we'll pay for this fish and feed people with it." The market IS there for aquaculture.
b) that we are comparing apples to apples.
In fact, beef don't eat beef. Or shouldn't. Are we talking about industrial feedlot confined feeding operations or pasture-raised beef? Those conversion rates would look quite different, I believe, as would the impacts of those operations on the environment. CAFO farms are environmental nightmares. Downstream waste has been demonstrated as the likely source of at least two e.coli outbreaks. Sustainable pasture farms are not environmental nightmares. In fact, in proper balance, pathogens in the soil behind ruminants (not fed antibiotics to offset the health problems from feeding them corn and soy which they are not evolved to digest) is broken up by chickens. The pathogen cycle is broken.
Also, the data is preliminary but it appears that fish poop actually offsets the impacts of our industrial activity on land and "plays a key role in buffering the carbon dioxide that acidifies seawater." It helps mitigate climate change. But no fish means no fish poop. And less fish means less poop to offset the negative impacts of our land-based industry.

So the fish that are removed to feed farmed fish, are not able to help absorb the C02 from our emissions, including those of farming. 

So are we comparing the type of salmon farming that operates as best-in-class against the worst CAFOs? What would this look like if we compared the much larger and more onerous industrial salmon farms as in Chile as against Joel Salatin style farm? We must be clear about WHAT is being compared to WHAT.

c) that we are feeding the world with aquaculture:
when I asked the salmon farm advocates in NB how they could back that statement, and specifically whether hungry nations are being fed this salmon - the answer, of course, was no. It's a very weak argument that doesn't connect dots but an uncritical ear hears "world hunger" and "salmon farm" as if the latter were the answer to the former. Ask them how. Doesn't compute.
Will aquaculture play a role in feeding the world? Undoubtedly.
Is it now a significant source of developed nations' seafood supply? Absolutely.
Can it be done in more environmentally sound ways? YES.
Is SALMON the best species to farm? Doubt it.
Are open oceans the best way to do it? Probably not.
We must look to set international standards for land-based closed containment aquaculture of the SPECIES that have been successfully grown w/o a NET LOSS to the oceans.
That is bigger and much more complex question than simply "Farmed salmon is better (more efficient) than beef."


Mediterranean Mussels & Farro

Maria Speck has given us a great gift; her book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals takes whole grains out of the realm of should and into the province of want. Going from "I know I should eat more of these" to "That looks great - more, please?" is no small feat with something like grains. Whole grains sort of have a small PR problem. If whole grains were a Hollywood starlet, she might be advised to do something slightly naughty to catch a headline. Maybe she could date a bad boy just to get noticed?

Grains have been the culinary equivalent of your plump Auntie, beloved yes, but not one to inspire covetous fantasy. Or, they've been like that Deadhead roommate you once had, who ate everything in shades of gray and brown and dressed the same. All patchouli, unshaven, draped in Indian prints; her Dr Bronner's soap seemed more inspired and flavorful than the food she ate.

With Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Maria Speck gives grains a saucy makeover. From drab to fab, the enticing recipes and gorgeous photos will actually have you skeptics thinking "Hm, I should try this."

Click the image to order from my Powell's Bookshelf. Follow Maria on Twitter @MariaSpeck.


Reprinted with permission from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photo credit: Sara Remington © 2011


✔ Remember these 5 Tips for combining a healthy Mediterranean Diet with Gluten-Free eating? Some of those tips can apply here - though Farro is not GF. For example, Tip #3: Cook once, eat often: you can make a large batch of farro ahead of time and then prepared farro can be quickly combined with a salad or tossed into a soup on any harried weeknight.


PEI Mussels Share the Spotlight with Saucy Grains

Malpeque Harbor, Prince Edward Island Malpeque-wm Just back from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, I'm inspired to incorporate more seafood into our diet. I'm especially fond of the mussels and oysters from PEI. Having a taste of something plucked from the place it grows offers an unparalleled taste memory. Ropes of these beauties reminded me of jewelry. [recipe and giveaway after the break - read on!] mussels


Did you know: Mussels are an excellent lean protein, high in Omega 3s, Vitamin B12 and iron, they're also low in fat. From a sustainability standpoint, mussels are an excellent choice. They grow on ropes (no sand!) and harvesting doesn't damage the habitat. They're filter-feeders so they actually clean their environment.

In this recipe from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, Mussels are paired with farro and Mediterranean flair.


Mediterranean Mussels with Farro and White Wine

Serves 3 or 4 as a light main course, or 4 to 6 as a starter


  • 11/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup farro
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 2 whole peppercorns
  • Pinch of fine sea salt


  • 2 pounds fresh mussels in their shells
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion (about 1 small)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots (about 2 small)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery stalks (1 to 2 pieces)
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 11/2 cups dry white wine
  • 11/2 cups chopped fresh or diced canned tomatoes with their juices, (one 14-ounce can)
  • 11/2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

To finish

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. To prepare the farro, bring the water, farro, bay leaf, peppercorns, and salt to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the grain is tender but still slightly chewy, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, drain any remaining liquid, and set aside.

2. While the farro simmers, rinse the mussels under cold running water, brushing to remove sand and residue on the shells. Remove the beards (hairy clumps around the shell) with tweezers or a sharp knife. Discard chipped mussels. Tap any open mussels and discard if they don’t close. Set the cleaned mussels aside.

3. To make the stew, heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, 1 teaspoon of the rosemary, the bay leaves, chile, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add 1/4 cup of the white wine, and cook until syrupy and the liquid is almost gone, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, the water, the remaining 11/4 cups white wine, the pepper, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, at a lively simmer until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar.

4. Add the mussels and the farro together with the remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and steam over medium to medium-high heat, shaking the pot once or twice in between, until the mussels open, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, and discard any unopened mussels.

5. To finish, add the lemon juice. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust. Drizzle the mussels with the olive oil and serve right away in deep plates, garnished with parsley and with lemon wedges on the side.

To get a head start:

Make the farro, as in step 1, ahead (see page 23). The stew, as in step 3, can be prepared up to 3 days ahead. Reheat before adding the mussels and farro, as in step 4. The mussels should be bought the day they are cooked. For a speedy, light dish, omit the farro altogether, and do not add the water to the stew.

To vary it:

Easily available and affordable pearl barley plumps up nicely to compete with farro in this dish, or simply use leftover brown rice. You will need about 2 cups cooked grain (for cooking instructions, see page 25).

maria_mussels200Maria's Mediterranean Mussels



I love grains with fish. Two simple things together often elevate each other, such is the case with grains and seafood. What is your favorite grain?

Leave a comment with your favorite way to make grains sexy and you will be automatically entered to win a copy of Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

✦ Alternatively, if you're new to cooking with grains, you may leave a question or a recipe request and also be entered to win!


Ed. note: as a Twitter follower pointed out, rather tactlessly, my original title included the words "Meatless Monday" and that would be false as this recipe does contain a non-plant protein. She was "embarrassed for me," so to spare her further trauma, I removed the offending "species-ist" wording. Indeed, this recipe would be wonderful minus the mussels for purists. And, would also be a step toward more sustainable protein for those taking steps toward a truly meat-free Monday. May we all dine with more forgiving and pleasant company.

Goodbye Charlie - What's behind the demise of tuna?


Are we seeing the last of tuna?

This New York Times article Tuna Town in Japan Sees Falloff, seems to answer in the affirmative. The industrial fishing trawlers including those using helicopters and spotting planes are stripping the oceans clean. "Japan...consumes some 80 percent of the 60,000 tons of top-grade tuna caught worldwide." The older fishermen using two-man open boats, hand-held lines and live bait like squid, were fishing in a much more sustainable method. 

The very last of the majestic tuna is being illegally fished with impunity to feed a growing insatiable appetite for sushi. Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, and a fellow sustainable seafood advocate tipped me off to this video. In this segment from 60 Minutes (it's just 12 minutes) you get a good sense of the perverse application of industrial harvesting methods that both reflects, and drives, the market. The giant purse-seining vessels (from almost every country it seems) have allowed for insane increases in the take. The feeding frenzy is both fed and stirred up by the increased global access to tuna. There is even a commodity market that was created by this huge increase in harvest.

Now we face a loss of a species. One can only wonder where are the regulators? How much longer could we all have enjoyed this delicacy if we'd continued with more sustainable fishing methods? Will the tuna recover or be lost forever as a species? Once this predator is gone from the top of the food chain - what will the impact be on the ecosystem within which they live?

When you see the purse seine nets, as deep as a 6 story building, and multiply those nets' take (thousands upon thousands) by the number of countries sending multiple ships -- it boggles the mind. If we could see the ocean's depletion the way we can see, say strip-mining or clear-cutting of forests, would we care more? 

As much as I love maguro, otoro, chutoro, the more I learn about the state of tuna fisheries, the less I have an appetite for it.

What are you doing about tuna? Would you eat other endangered species?

Culinary professionals concerned about making more sustainable choices please join our workshop, Teach a Chef to Fish. Read about it here.


3rd Annual Teach a Man to Fish Blog Event Begins - Now!

In the US, October is National Seafood Month. Back in 2007, we re-christened it National Sustainable Seafood Month. 

This year, the blog event is complemented by a series of chefs' roundtables in three cities and a culinary competition in Boston. For those of you living outside the Boston, Chicago, or Toronto areas, the online event is the way to participate. Here's how.

What is this Sustainable Seafood blog event, anyway?Do I have to dress up for it? Buy a ticket? Find a date?

A blog event takes place in the blogosphere only. You may participate completely nude if you like, or in chef's whites, sweats, goofy shorts. No tickets needed. The only dates you need to worry about are the dates of the event: recipes must be submitted between September 21 and October 31. The other kind of dates, well, you're on your own there.

 What does a blog event look like?

Essentially, it's a contest for food bloggers/ home cooks/ chefs/ food writers / whomever to enter a recipe on a theme and a photo of the dish. The prize, if you will is being featured in the round up and having a lovely post to link to on your blogs. For last year's round up see: Teach a Man to Fish 2008 Round Up.

Why this, why now?

October is National Seafood Month and the oceans need our help now more than ever. See Goodbye Charlie on the demise of bluefin tuna.

Do you have a snappy name for this event? And what is Sustainable Seafood anyway?

We've all heard the adage: "Give a man a fish and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you'll feed him for a lifetime."

Teach a Man to Fish is about sharing questions, answers, tools and resources; sharing recipes and deepening our proficiency with incorporating more sustainable seafood choices into our day-to-day dining, shopping, cooking habits.

One speaker described sustainability as borrowing from the interest and not the principle, which I kind of like. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program site for info and a free pocket card. Now, we also have iPhone Apps and FishPhone and many other places where we can find information about sustainable seafood. You can also see our Resource Guide from last year's online event.

I'm in! Now, what do I have to do?

1. Prepare a recipe using sustainable seafood.
2. Send a photo (200 x 300 pixels) in an email to me.
3. Subject line should read: "Teach a Man to Fish" Include your blog or website URL; your name; country.

Also - be sure to tell your friends and write about the event on your blog, Tweet and Facebook us. The more traffic, the better for all of us and for getting the message out.

Other details:

  • Sign up for my newsletter (free, private, fun) to ensure you get updates on the event and follow me on Twitter.
  • I'll be collecting entries for about four weeks. I tried to limit it to two weeks last year, but there was just too much interest. Oct 31 is the hard deadline. Full Stop. (I have to finish the edits while I prep Thanksgiving, you know.)
  • The "round-up" (where I take all the entries, edit info submitted with them, resize photos, then post on this blog) will take more or less time depending on how many entries there are and how many other jobs (read: paid jobs) appear in the roundup phase. Sorry, just being honest. It will also depend on how compliant people are. If you send me photos that are too big or some odd format, it will take longer. JPEG or GIF no larger than 200x300, please.
  • No, I'm not shilling for a product, a particular aquarium, or sustainable program or chef or restaurant. Yes, there are some that are near and dear to my heart. Just ask.


If you are a chef: please join us for the workshop called Teach a Chef to Fish, info here.

If you are a culinary student: get ready to enter our first sustainable seafood culinary competition, sign up for the newsletter here to keep on top of news.


What is Teach a Man to Fish?

  • Almost 90% of diners say they want restaurants to serve only sustainable seafood, but nearly 75% are unaware which fish are close to extinction.

Well-intentioned chefs who want to source more sustainable seafood have had to rely on a "trust your purveyor" sourcing practice, with mixed results. State-of-the-art resources are available now for culinary professionals. We'll hear from leaders on key sustainable seafood issues, then practice menu makeovers working in small groups to makeove" menu items using the new tools and group input.

Chefs will leave with a sustainable seafood toolkit, and a solid understanding of how to begin building a more sustainable seafood menu - one dish at a time. They’ll also take away discounts from sponsors on various sustainable seafood product, in addition to a solid understanding of the fundamentals of more sustainable sourcing for the professional kitchen.

What are Teach a Man, and Teach a Chef, to Fish?
As the sustainable seafood event, Teach a Man to Fish enters its third year here on my blog, we are adding a live event this year to bring the tools, information and resources directly to chefs. Adding Teach a Chef to Fish to our sustainable seafood events, I'm addressing chefs because they are the ones who introduce us to new foods. Chefs also have more buying power, and impact on the oceans, than a whole kitchen of home cooks.

Teach a Chef to Fish includes live events in three cities and a culinary competition. Here in Boston, in Toronto and in Chicago, the Chefs' Roundtable events will bring experts and chefs together to get an overview of sustainability issues and learn what others have done to take the first steps toward more sustainable sourcing. This is also a working session and we’ll put what we learn into practice.

  • The Fairmont will open with their story of how the resorts integrated sustainability into their practices, starting 20 years ago and how the Battery Wharf property decided to remove Bluefin tuna and Chilean Seabass from the menu.
  • The New England Aquarium will share insights from their sustainable sourcing initiatives and give examples of what innovative companies are doing to help busy culinary professionals adopt sustainable seafood sourcing practices.
  • We’ll hear about sustainable aquaculture from Australis Barramundi, The Better Fish. Not all aquaculture is problematic. We’ll learn why and how this fish is an example of a sustainable aquaculture.
  • We’ll introduce new tools like the joint venture between Blue Ocean Institute and the Chefs Collaborative called Green Chefs, Blue Ocean. We’ll review their seven part online tutorial. We’ll walk through the new sourcing service, FishChoice. Now in Beta, FishChoice aims to give culinary professionals real-time information about sourcing sustainable seafood from a large database of purveyors, many of them already familiar names.
  • Chefs will have the rare opportunity to shape the service by offering feedback. They’ll gain insights into workable solutions to offering the sustainable seafood diners prefer.

The chefs will then work together, using the new tools to apply their creativity to recipe makeovers. They will work through actual menu items together, to take the first steps toward a more sustainable menu.

Other ways to participate:
For students of local culinary schools and their alumni, we’re holding our first annual Teach a Chef to Fish Culinary Competition. Our host for the Teach a Chef to Fish competition is the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.

For home cooks, chefs, foodies, writers...we are holding the third annual Teach a Man to Fish Blog Event as usual, right here.

Started in 2007, Teach a Man to Fish is the sustainable seafood event that brings together chefs, home cooks, conservationists, food writers, and fishermen to learn from each other how to incorporate more delicious and sustainable seafood choices into our lives.

Who is involved?
So far, we have sponsors including The Fairmont Battery Wharf hosting our Chefs' Roundtable in Boston. Fisher & Paykel is our host in Chicago and Toronto. The Fairmont has had a green policy long before it was popular. The Fairmont Battery Wharf removed Bluefin Tuna and Patagonian Toothfish (Chilean Seabass) from their menu. Fisher & Paykel's state-of-the-art technology to make appliances that are eco-friendly, efficient, and beautiful. Australis Barramundi, The Better Fish, a leader in sustainable aquaculture, will share their expertise and their fish with us.

When are these events taking place?

  • Boston: Teach a Chef to Fish Roundtable: Monday September 28
  • Teach a Man to Fish - blog event - September 21 - October 31
  • Teach a Chef to Fish - Chicago - TBD
  • Teach a Chef to Fish - Toronto - TBD

Cost for the Chefs' Roundtable is $50 half of proceeds will be donated to the NEAQ. Pay and register here

Sponsorship opportunities are available.

About Sponsors:
Fisher & Paykel - Commitment to energy efficiency and preservation of the environment are integral to both corporate guidelines and the culture of Fisher & Paykel Appliances. For over 75 years, Fisher & Paykel have been innovators, envisioning eco-friendly and energy efficient appliances before going green was popular. We’re delighted to have Fisher & Paykel as our first corporate sponsor for Teach a Chef to Fish.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is the first hotel company to formally commit to using sustainable seafood choices in support of a global effort to conserve precious marine species. Fairmont Battery Wharf, one of the brand’s newest properties, is a strong advocate of this mandate; starting with its Executive Chef Brendon Bashford. Chef Bashford, along with his talented and culinary team, continuously assesses where he can make a difference through responsible food purchasing practices.  With Fairmont’s commitment to ocean sustainability, Brendon works with reputable suppliers who purchase fish that are resilient to fishing pressure and harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats.
The purpose of is to connect commercial seafood buyers with the most environmentally preferred and sustainable seafood suppliers. Sustainable Seafood is fish and shellfish that is caught or farmed in ways that maintain healthy populations and have minimal impact on the environment. FishChoice is a nonprofit, conservation minded, organization. is for Commercial seafood buyers looking for sustainable seafood products.

Australis Aquaculture, Ltd. (ASX: AAQ)
An award-winning provider of healthy, sustainable seafood, marketed under the banner of The Better Fish®, Better Tasting, Better For You, Better For Our Environment. The Company spearheaded the introduction of fresh barramundi as a growing culinary trend in North America, and is expanding its product line to include frozen barramundi and basa fillets for the retail and foodservice markets. Australis is a recognized leader in sustainable aquaculture through its pioneering practices in recirculating technology, and is expanding the supply of is sustainable line via proprietary production and sourcing operations in Southeast Asia.   
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) was created over twenty years ago as a cooperative partnership between the Alaska seafood industry and state government to advance the mutually beneficial goal of a stable seafood industry in Alaska. It is Alaska’s “official seafood marketing agency”, and is established under state law as a public corporation. Alaska has mandated by Constitution since 1959 that “ utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle.” Alaska’s successful management practices are considered a model of sustainability for the entire world.


90% of Diners Want Sustainable Seafood in Restaurants

...But 75% don't know which species are near extinct....

Here is the body of an email blast I sent out when I read this report this morning. It's (fish)food for thought. 


? ? ? 

I wanted to share this news with my FoF's (Friends of Fish), restaurant friends, chefs and food writers. World Ocean Day helped raise some interesting dialog about corals, bluefin campaigns and sea turtles.

Teach a Man to Fish 2009 is gearing up for this Fall's sustainable seafood event and I'm pleased to give you a little inside scoop: one of my key areas of focus for this year will be a tool kit for chefs. Chefs are at the forefront of our efforts. They bring us new and exciting dishes to try and change our home food buying habits by introducing us to new things. Other exciting news about this year's event soon...

There can be no doubt that there is a wave (pun intended, and forgiven, I hope) of interest in sustainable well as a lot of confusion. It's my goal to help people sort through the information and mis-information, to enable them to make choices that are in healthy for themselves, their families and the oceans. People will engage in these difficult discussions and change their own buying behavior only when they feel they have information they can trust. But they do want to make better choices.

What can you do?

If you're a restaurant or chef - take one step: replace a menu item that's made with endangered fish, with a sustainable choice. Tell your purveyors to bring you more sustainable options.  The Fairmont Battery Wharf has taken the lead here in Boston removing Bluefin Tuna and Chilean Seabass (Patagonian Toothfish) from their menu. Their seafood pact is rolling out this Spring corporate-wide.

If you're a home cook - add one new sustainable dinner to your rotation this week. Need a recipe? Check here: TAMTF 2008 Round up.

If you're a food writer - see if you can incorporate the sustainable seafood message in a story. People are hungry for more on this topic!

If you're a sustainable seafood producer - be sure to ask about sponsoring Teach a Man to Fish this year. There are many ways to get your products in front of my readers and TAMTF participants.

For further assistance or information:

Be sure to check my website for updates and news about Teach a Man to Fish. There's a ton of resource material in my resource guide from last year's event. You'll find links to all the top sustainable seafood organizations, as well as some surprises and new tools.

Remember to learn what you can, share what you know, and eat and drink good stuff!

Salmon Sadness and Unagi Updates

Sad News for Salmon, Salmon Fisheries

People love salmon. Almost everyone does. The problem is that our reluctance to branch out and try other fish, like Arctic Char which is an excellent and sustainable substitute, has put such pressure on the salmon fisheries that we are eating them into extinction. Troublesome aquaculture of this species has not helped matters and there seems to be ample evidence that our dams may be damning the salmon for good, eliminating their spawning grounds. No spawning = no salmon. It's a pretty simple equation.

If you must eat salmon, please understand the choices you're making and the impact they have. Why not choose wild Alaskan Salmon? And, why not choose another delicious and sustainable fish?

The PBJ - Portland Business Journal reports that "For the third time in four years, the federal government has declared Oregon’s commercial salmon industry a disaster."

"Disaster relief money supports the fishing industry’s infrastructure — to pay boat payments, maintenance costs and moorage fees — while salmon fishing families collect no income. Fishery advocates say the disaster relief will buy time to restore damaged river systems."

Maybe someone who knows more than I can tell me about how this helps the salmon or the fishermen?


Photo courtesy of Matthew Demers. Wild Alaskan Salmon courtesy of: Gulkana Seafood Direct.

CONTEST - You Pick the Next Unagi Alternative!

Read all about Unagi and kabeyaki and this fun new contest on Casson Trenor's Sustainable Sushi blog. It's promoting alternative choices to this popular sushi selection. Enter and you may be the one to pick the next star on the Unagi alternative hit parade. Casson already used my favorite - sablefish - as an example so that's off limits. But enter now and you may win dinner for two and a signed copy of Casson's book. I wanted to drop a photo here but haven't gotten permission from the artist yet. Click here to see a Gayle Wheatley's rendering of danger.

On May 15th, Casson will take all the suggestions to Chef Kin Lui at Tataki Sushi Bar.  He will look at the list of suggestions, try them out as kabeyaki-style dishes, and choose a favorite.  Casson will post a picture of the winning dish on his excellent site: Sustainable Sushi. Read all about it here.

People often want me to tell them what's okay to eat and what's not. I try to decline. Each of us has to decide where we will draw our lines. I see my job (most of the time) as providing resources and information for you to make your own values-based decisions. Sometimes I make exceptions. Like tuna. These majestic fish are nearly gone. Only some species, harvested in some ways are acceptable. There are ample resources to check - see my resource guide here.

How about mackerel?

Mackerel is a sustainable choice and broils well due to its fat content. It holds up to saucing in this kabeyaki manner and is my vote for an Unagi alternative. Here is one recipe from last year's Teach a Man to Fish - the entry is from Stuart Brioza:

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Jung.