Eat It to Save It: Bristol Bay Salmon Wednesday, Jul 10 2013 

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Fishing for Salmon

The beach calls to many this time of year. I absolutely love the ocean. It’s so intensely primal and the only thing that could remotely come close would be the basic human reaction to fire. I’m pretty certain that if I lived at the beach I’d ditch my red Chanel lipstick pretty darn quick and become someone who fishes a whole lot more and bathes a little less. I love to fish. Mama tells me that the first time I caught a fish I jumped up and down so much my diaper fell off. That’s how young I was! Our whole family loves to fish. The photo below is my grandfather fishing for salmon in Alaska.

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As a cook, I am wildly passionate about sustainable seafood. I am concerned for our oceans. I write about it as often as I can in print, online, and through my blog. I teach sustainable seafood in cooking classes all across the country, and I only buy, cook, and eat sustainable seafood. I do this because I am on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a member of Chefs Collaborative. I “walk what I talk.” According to many scientists and scientific organizations, like Seafood Watch, the Marine Stewardship Council, and the Blue Ocean Institute, frankly, we are seriously jeopardizing the health and welfare of the oceans.

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First, we are eating out of the ocean like it is an endless Las Vegas buffet and it’s not. Second, global warming is not a myth — but it has become a political pawn. According to Dr. Mark Hixon, one of the world’s premier authorities on coral reefs, as a result of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the oceans are becoming warmer and also becoming acidified. Our fossil fuels usage is warming the entire planet, including the ocean. According to Dr. Hixon, scientists don’t argue about this — only politicians. We’re also destroying habitats of thriving fisheries through more direct ways such as direct pollution and runoff. We need to do something sooner rather than later to correct our perilous course.

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There’s a fight going on about runoff and pollution in Bristol Bay, Alaska. This summer, Chefs Collaborative is teaming up with the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association on a series of dinners to help protect Bristol Bay’s salmon. The Bristol Bay region is pristine wilderness untouched by development, stretching from the snow-capped peaks of the Alaska Range, across wetlands laced with icy cold rivers that flow into the Bay. This region is  home to the nation’s largest wild salmon fisheries and one of the best salmon habitats on Earth. If you look at the map below, Bristol Bay is located between the Bering Sea and the Alaska Peninsula in the southwest region of the state. Every year, approximately 37.5 million adult wild salmon return over the course of just a few weeks between the end of June through mid-July.

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However, the Bristol Bay is under threat from corporations that want to build Pebble Mine, an enormous industrial mining operation. The Pebble deposit is a massive storehouse of gold, copper, and molybdemum, located in the headwaters of the Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers, two of the eight major rivers that feed Bristol Bay. If built, this would be North America’s largest open-pit mine and one of the largest mines in the entire world. Due to the size, geochemistry, and location, Pebble Mine would run a dangerously high risk of polluting Bristol Bay – and risk destroying a $1.5 billion commercial and sport salmon fishery that represents nearly 75% of local jobs in Bristol Bay.

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The good news is that you can help, and it starts with the tip of your fork. Buying Bristol Bay salmon provides economic incentive to protect Bristol Bay’s resources.

You’ve got to Eat It to Save It.

What to do? Take action and find out the latest at www.savebristolbay.org and the Save Bristol Bay Facebook page.

Where to buy? Click here for a list of suppliers and retailers suggested by Trout Unlimited. Also, I contacted Sea to Table, a business that partners with local fishermen from small-scale sustainable wild fisheries, finding better markets for their catch. Sea to Table delivers overnight and direct from the source. This reduces time and cost,  allows diners to know the ’who, how and where’ of the fish, and creates a direct connection from fisherman to chef.

Thanks so much for reading. It may all seem very overwhelming, but the choices we make, one meal at a time, add up. Together we can make a difference.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

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Poached Salmon with Herb Mustard Sauce
Serves 4

My grandparents drove their motor home all the way from Georgia to Alaska three or four times. Dede loved Alaska, mostly because he liked salmon fishing. They would fish and then my grandmother would process it in her canning kettle in her tiny motor home kitchen. They’d return with cases and cases of salmon preserved in mason jars. I was in my twenties before I ever tasted commercially canned salmon.

3 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
2 to 4 sprigs tarragon, leaves coarsely chopped and stems reserved
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 carrot, sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 (5-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
2 cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup Dijon mustard
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the greens

First, you need to prepare a court bouillon to poach the salmon: combine the water, wine, tarragon stems (leaves reserved), bay leaves, peppercorns, and carrot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Then, we set aside some of the liquid to chill the salmon instead of letting it cool in the hot liquid which would overcook it, or, cooling it in cold water which would dilute the flavor. Fill a large, heavy-duty sealable plastic bag filled with ice cubes. Place a bowl over a bowl of ice and transfer several cups of the court bouillon in a bowl. Place the ice pack in the bowl of broth; move the pack around until the broth is well chilled (drain the bag and add more ice to it as needed). Set the chilled court bouillon aside.

Return the heat to high and bring the remaining mixture to a rolling boil. Add the salmon fillets. Cover and simmer for 7 minutes.

To chill the salmon: Remove from the heat and remove the salmon from the poaching liquid. Transfer to the chilled court bouillon and allow the salmon to cool in the bouillon. Cover the fish and broth with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours, or until you are ready to serve. (This helps boost the flavor and allows you to make it ahead without it drying out. )

For the mustard sauce: Meanwhile, put the mustard in a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil into the mustard in a slow, steady stream. Stir in the reserved chopped tarragon leaves. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

When you are ready to serve, put the greens in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Arrange the greens on a platter Remove the salmon from the broth and pat dry with paper towels. Top the greens with the salmon and garnish with the sliced cucumber. Serve, passing the mustard sauce separately.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Photo credits – Virginia Willis

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc.

Wicked Tuna: A Deal with the Devil Monday, Jan 23 2012 

Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society, one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world, works to inspire people to care about the planet.

There were two magazines we weren’t allowed to play with when I was growing up: Southern Living and National Geographic. They were the “important” magazines. They were special. Now, an adult and a chef, I know Southern Living undoubtedly helped fuel my love of food and cooking. But, the magazine that has always been closest to my heart is National Geographic.

My first magazine subscription was National Geographic Explorer and as a child, I cherished each and every one. My memory is fuzzy, but I seem to remember the issues were thin and small, about the size of a half sheet of paper. There was a drawing of a man with a pipe and a hat known as “The Explorer.” Soon, the magazine changed its name to World Magazine, and I continued to read every one, cover to cover. All along, the familiar yellow spine meant for the grown-ups came delivered to our home every month, a gift from my grandparents. As soon as I was able, I read that one, too. I couldn’t get enough of exploring, of seeing different people, places, and things.

My grandparents loved to travel in their motor home. Often, my sister and I or a cousin would travel with them. We’d go away for weeks and months at a time every summer. My older cousin Sam went with them to Alaska, a trip I still yearn to take. The next year, they took me to Newfoundland. While on the ferry off the Nova Scotia coast I witnessed a pod of whales rolling in the deep blue water. Later, my sister and I traveled from Georgia clear across the Southwest then north up into the Canadian territory of Saskatchewan before we headed back across the entire United States to Georgia. A stack of National Geographic magazines with the familiar yellow spine and the appropriate maps for our travels, accompanied every trip. In high school, I remember having the National Geographic map of Europe tacked up on my wall; it seemed a million miles away from my red dirt road in South Georgia, but I knew I wanted to go there, and eventually, I did.

To this day, I don’t read National Geographic magazines – I relish them. Each issue is a journey and exploration into a whole new world. National Geographic fulfilled its mission with me; it inspired me to care about the planet.

Yet, today I feel betrayed, heartbroken, and sick. The National Geographic Channel will debut a show this spring called “Wicked Tuna”, a reality series that follows the lives of tuna fisherman in Gloucester, Massachusetts. According to media reports the series is part of a joint venture between Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the National Geographic Society. Seemingly, the last vestige of what I thought should be beautiful and pure and good is not. It would be comic if it weren’t so tragic and absurd. It seems that the National Geographic channel has made a veritable pact with the devil.

Two years ago, Nat Geo proclaimed the “Eleventh Hour” for tuna and sharks. On its own website, National Geographic states: Bluefin tuna have been eaten by humans for centuries. However, in the 1970s, demand and prices for large bluefins soared worldwide, particularly in Japan, and commercial fishing operations found new ways to find and catch these sleek giants. As a result, bluefin stocks, especially of large, breeding-age fish, have plummeted, and international conservation efforts have led to curbs on commercial takes. Nevertheless, at least one group says illegal fishing in Europe has pushed the Atlantic bluefin populations there to the brink of extinction. 

It’s an absolute disgrace. It’s wicked in the true sense of the word, evil and morally wrong.  The producer, Craig Piligian of Pilgrim Studios is quoted as saying, “Commercial tuna fishing is brutally competitive. With its limited season, the intelligence and prowess of the fish, and the sheer fact that they’re worth so much, the livelihood of each vessel’s crew can be made or broken in a month.” 

National Geographic is capitalizing on and exploiting the very species they have declared to be on the verge of extinction.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch states consumers should “Avoid” all bluefin tuna, referencing the near collapse of bluefin populations worldwide. Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration seeking an endangered status for the fish, claiming the species faces possible extinction because of overfishing and habitat degradation. Ocean Conservancy states the species is overfished. The Pew Charitable Trust states, “Some species of tuna, such as the valuable Atlantic bluefin tuna, are dangerously over-exploited.” Pew’s Global Tuna Conservation Campaign is urging countries fishing for tuna to “enact strong measures that will lead to the recovery of severely depleted Atlantic bluefin tuna population, including suspension of the fishery and prohibit take of Atlantic bluefin tuna on its only known spawning grounds.” The list of organizations against bluefin fishing goes on and on and on.

As a chef and food writer, I care about the food I prepare, the food I eat. I work to educate my students and readers about responsible and sustainable food. As the National Geographic Society mission states, I work to inspire people to care about the planet.

John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society should hang his head in shame. At minimum, he and the National Geographic Channel have some serious explaining to do. If you’d like to let the National Geographic Society know what you think of Wicked Tuna, please shoot them a note to comments@natgeochannel.com

Sincerely,
Virginia Willis
Chef and cookbook author

CC:
Editor, the Washington Post
Editor, the New York Times

Photo credit: Virginia Willis

UPDATE: 1/24/12 MANY OF THE COMMENTS BELOW ARE FROM HARD-WORKING FISHERMEN WITH FAMILIES TO SUPPORT. VERY CLEARLY, WE DISAGREE ON CERTAIN POINTS. THE DIALOGUE HAS BECOME QUITE HEATED. WHILE I DO NOT APPRECIATE NAME-CALLING AND PERSONAL SLURS, I DO APPRECIATE THE PASSION AND EXPERIENCE THAT THEY BRING TO THE CONVERSATION.THANK YOU FOR READING.

BIG Catch on the Full Moon & 10 Wild Shrimp Recipes Friday, Aug 12 2011 



Primal Urges

We’re in the middle of summer and there is a full moon this weekend.

For most folks that’s enough to generate a powerful urge for a barefoot stroll on the beach in the soft light of la belle lune. Perhaps a stolen kiss? A wishful glance? A passionate embrace? Ah, no sweet, dear romantic one.

It means a darn BIG shrimp haul.

A full moon means hundreds of pounds of shrimp on slick, wet deck. It means being at work at 4:00 am, the emptiest, loneliest time on earth. It means mud, sweat, and possibly, blood. It’s dangerous work.

So, what does this have to do with the moon?

The Earth and the moon are attracted to each other, and are constantly pulling at one another, just like magnets … or lovers on a beach. Gravity holds everything solid on earth in place — but that means the moon is able to pull the non-solid, the water. As earth rotates, the ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, and then back to high tide.

You with me?


Last summer I was able to go out on a shrimp boat. It was then that I learned that a full moon typically produces a higher shrimp catch.

First, let me briefly explain the life cycle of a shrimp. Riveting stuff, I know. Just pretend you’re on a romantic moonlit beach.

Shrimp spawn about 4 miles out off the coast of Georgia. Each female lays between 500,000 to 1 million fertilized eggs that drift along in ocean currents and hatch within 24 hours. During the next month or so, the larva continue to grow, eventually migrating from the ocean into the brackish marsh. There, as juveniles, they feed on algae, small animals, and organic debris for 2-3 months until they mature. Once mature, they return to the ocean as adult shrimp.

Shrimp season usually starts in late spring or early summer and lasts until December. The opening of the season is determined by the amount and size of the shrimp harvested within 3 miles of shore. The season opens when it is determined that there are enough fully grown shrimp that have come out of the marsh.


Full Moons and BIG Hauls of Shrimp

Now that you understand the basic premise of gravitational pull and tides, let me explain about the moon. A spring tide is when the sun, moon, and Earth are in alignment creating extra-high high tides, and very low, low tides. Shrimping is often best on the “spring” tides that coincide with both full and new moons. (A neap tide is  when the tide’s range is at its minimum.)

Check out my nifty graphic from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. (You have no idea how excited I am this works.)

Why? The short answer is that the full moon creates the most water movement and sweeps the most shrimp out of the marsh into waiting nets.

Don’t you love knowing that?!

It’s empowering to understand where you food comes from, why, and how. And, you know I am fiercely passionate about sustainable seafood. Mama and I both love fried shrimp—we can’t go to the beach without enjoying a meal of fried shrimp. It’s sad how many of those beach restaurants are serving imported shrimp. I like to put my money where my mouth is and try to patronize restaurants that are supporting the local fishing industry. Read up on what Seafood Watch has to say about shrimp.)

I can’t write about summer and walking on the beach with your sweetie without a recipe for fried shrimp! Scroll down where you will find there’s a whole mess of wild American shrimp recipes for you to try!

Please share with me your photos, comments, and reactions to the recipes. I love hearing about what folks are doing. And, please keep in touch on Facebook, too.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

PS Thanks to everyone helping me make the transition from newsletter and subscribing to my blog.

PSS Here’s a little lagniappe about shrimp from the Southern Food Ways Alliance.

Better than Bubba’s: Ten Wild American Shrimp Recipes

FRIED SHRIMP
Serves 4

1 pound large shrimp, tails on, peeled and deveined
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Canola oil for frying
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Using a medium bowl, combine egg, beer, cornmeal, flour and baking powder, season with salt and pepper, mix until smooth.
Heat oil in deep fryer to 350°F. Add shrimp to batter and stir to coat. Working in batches, carefully drop shrimp in oil. Fry until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

GRILLED SHRIMP AND TOMATO SALAD
Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil plus additional for brushing the tomato and the shrimp
1 ½ pound jumbo shrimp (about 16), peeled and deveined
½ cup plain Greek-style yogurt
¼ red onion, finely chopped
½ stalk celery, finely chopped
¼ jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
½ bunch of flat parsley, finely chopped
2 large garden-ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered

Preheat grill to hot. Season shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides. Brush the tomato with a little oil. Place shrimp on the grill and cook for 1 ½ to 2 minutes on both sides. Remove the shrimp from the grill. In a bowl mix together yogurt, red onion, celery, jalapeño, cumin, honey, orange juice, parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and tomatoes; stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve immediately.

SHRIMP & GRITS WITH COUNTRY HAM

Serves 4 to 6

4 1/4 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup stone-ground grits
2 tablespoons corn oil
4 ounces country ham, cut into thin strips
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pounds large (21/25) shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a large saucepan over medium high heat, bring chicken stock, milk, butter and garlic to boil. Gradually whisk in corn grits. Return to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to low, simmer uncovered until grits thicken, whisking often, 45 to 60 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add ham and cook until crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a plate. Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to large bowl. Add white wine and boil until reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Add drained diced tomatoes and half of reserved ham. Simmer until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add parsley, chives and shrimp, simmer until shrimp are warmed through, about 2 minutes. If needed, thin sauce with reserved tomato juices. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon grits into shallow bowls. Top each serving with shrimp mixture. Garnish with remaining ham and serve immediately.

FRIED COCONUT SHRIMP
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups sweetened finely shredded coconut
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 pounds 26-30 count shrimp, peeled, de-veined tail on
4 cups peanut oil, for frying
3/4 cup plain low fat yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons shallot, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Madras curry powder
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the coconut and panko together in a shallow dish or pie pan. Scatter a handful of the coconut mixture over a baking sheet. Set aside. In another shallow dish, lightly beat the egg whites. Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Dip shrimp in egg whites to coat completely; lift from whites (shaking off any excess), and dredge in coconut mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet.

In a large, deep heavy-bottom pan, heat peanut oil over medium heat until 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Cook half the shrimp, lightly shaking to separate shrimp, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer shrimp to paper towels to drain. Return oil to 350°; repeat with remaining shrimp.

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, lime juice, minced shallot, curry powder and chopped cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve as a dipping sauce with the coconut shrimp.

SPICY TOMATO BBQ SHRIMP
Makes about 2 dozen hors d’oeuvres

1 small onion, quartered
3/4 cups distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple juice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons ground celery seeds
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoons cayenne
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled, leaving tails intact, butterflied, and deveined
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place ingredients in a blender or food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a non-reactive saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low. Simmer, stirring, for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Store refrigerated in an airtight container. Sauce may be prepared up to 1 week ahead.

Prepare a medium-hot fire and oil grill. Starting at the tail end of each shrimp, thread the shrimp on the skewers. Brush with barbecue sauce and arrange shrimp on a large platter. Just before grilling brush the shrimp again with the sauce. Grill shrimp on a rack set over hot coals until just pink, about 1 minute per side. Serve warm or at room temperature.

SHRIMP CAKES
Serves 6

1 pound large shrimp, raw, peeled and de-veined
1 large egg
1 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
zest from ½ lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
2 tablespoons canola oil

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the shrimp a few times to coarsely chop. Add egg, chives, lemon zest and juice, mustard, cilantro, hot pepper sauce, salt, and pepper. Pulse just until blended. Add 1 cup panko and pulse just until mixed in. Form mixture into twelve 3-inch-diameter cakes. Place remaining panko in a pie plate. Crust the shrimp cakes with panko. Transfer to waxed-paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. (Can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.). Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, fry cakes until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.

SAVANNAH MARINATED SHRIMP

Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 pounds large shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
3 onions, preferably Vidalia, very thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and very thinly sliced
4 bay leaves, preferably fresh
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

In a large, nonreactive bowl, layer some of the shrimp, onions, bell pepper, bay leaf, garlic, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper. Create several layers of these ingredients until the remaining amount is used. Set aside.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the vinegar, oil, and lemon zest and juice. Pour this marinade over the shrimp mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp is pink and opaque, at least 6 to 8 hours. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper before serving.


MAMA’S SHRIMP CREOLE
Serves 4 to 6

11/2 pounds large shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
1 onion, preferably Vidalia, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups water, plus more if needed
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped, for garnish
Rice Pilaf, for accompaniment

Place the shrimp in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate to marinate while you prepare the vegetables.

In a heavy-bottomed skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, an additional 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, sugar, water, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer until the oil rises to the surface, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. (Use more water if the sauce gets too thick.) Add the shrimp and cook until pink, 3 to 5 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Garnish with the green onions. Serve with rice pilaf.

SHRIMP QUESADILLA
Makes 8 wedges

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 poblano pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
8 large shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 large flour tortillas
1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped scallion
2 tablespoons salsa
2 tablespoons sour cream
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add onion and pepper and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Remove to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until pink and tender, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Do not over cook. Remove to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

In the same skillet, heat the remaining 1tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Place one of the tortillas in the pan. Top with half the cheese, onions and peppers, shrimp, then the remaining cheese. Cook for 2 minutes (until underside is golden brown). Place second tortilla on top and flip the quesadilla over. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove. Slice into wedges. Top with sour cream and salsa. Serve immediately.


SHRIMP BUTTER

If making seafood stock with crustacean shells and not fish bones, the lobster, crawfish, and shrimp shells may be used to make Crustacean Butter. (Blue crab shells are too hard, but king and snow crab legs are fine.) Classic French technique instructs to grind shells with cold butter then work through a tamis. The few-and-far-between more modern recipes suggest using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  The former is far too labor intensive and not nearly enough flavor is extracted for all the effort. If using lobster or crawfish shells, discard the claws, they are too hard, like crab. Crush the shells with a mallet. Set aside. I first place my mixer on a rimmed baking sheet. This seems to help with containment. Place 1 pound of crushed shells or shrimp shells in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment with 1 pound of cold unsalted butter cut into chunks. Attach the guard, or carefully wrap a kitchen towel around the mixer. Start the mixer on slow so you don’t wind up with crustacean butter smelly bits everywhere. Work it on slow for at least 5 minutes. Mix the shells with the butter until the butter is pale coral colored and fragrant, pausing the machine to occasionally scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, about 20 minutes. Transfer the butter and shell mixture to a medium heavy-duty saucepan. Place over low heat to melt and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Strain though a fine mesh sieve. Place the liquid in a bowl over a bowl of ice or cover and refrigerate to solidify. Once the butter has solidified into a solid layer remove it with a slotted spoon and transfer it to a clean saucepan. Discard the remaining liquid. Heat the crustacean butter over low heat to melt and remove any moisture. Strain the melted butter through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a measuring cup or Mason jar. Store covered up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Makes 1 1/4 cups of pure seafood gold.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com. Thanks so much.

Green Means Go: Easy Summer Salmon & Seafood Watch Thursday, Jul 14 2011 

Isn’t that photo mesmerizing? Ethereal. Beautiful. No, don’t worry. I’m not about to tell you how to cook jellyfish — although they are caught off the coast of Georgia and sent to Asia, where they are preserved and served in all manner of ways.

There’s nothing as primal and pulling as water, especially the ocean. When I was a little girl and we’d go to the beach, I wasn’t happy until I had my feet in the water. I’m still that way to this day. If I am near the ocean, I am in the ocean. If I see a creek or a babbling brook, I want to wade in it.

The part I love the most about water is that I love to fish. Now, I am pretty high energy and don’t sit still too much. If I were to stand still on the edge of a body of water, I’d settle down for a little bit, but eventually? Eventually, my mind would be assembling lists and I would be thinking of all the things I need to do. I get restless. However, put a pole in my hand and I’m happy and content. I’ll sit still for hours and hours. My mind frees and it’s the most peaceful thing in the world to me.

There was a pond at my grandparent’s house and although we no longer own the property, it remains one of my most favorite places on earth. I was practically born with a fishing rod in my hand. One of my first memories was falling in the pond, the murky brown water, and the adults scampering to fish me out of the pond.

Mama said the first time I caught a fish on my own I jumped up and down so much that my diaper fell down around my ankles.

Like I said, I was born to fish.

I was also taught to respect the pond. Dede, my grandfather, explained not to keep bass that were too small. We were taught to recognize when females were swollen with eggs and release them back into the water. Fishing around the laying nests in the shallow end in the spring was forbidden, and sometimes, Dede would toss some of the bream (pronounced brim in Georgia) onto the bank if he felt like their stock was overpopulated and they were too skinny. We were taught to respect the pond and the fish it held. If a fish was hurt or maimed, we kept it regardless of size, and we always ate the fish we caught.

To this day, when I kill and gut a fresh fish I have caught, I thank that fish for its life.

About 12 years ago, I read a book that changed my life and the way I eat fish. The book was Cod: The Biography of the Fish that Changed the World by Mark Kurlansky. Not only did I quit eating cod, I started thinking about just what the heck we humans were doing to our oceans. I started applying that same respect for the fish in my family pond as I did for the fish in the ocean.

This curiosity eventually led me to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and their sustainable seafood advocacy program called Seafood Watch.

Fish and shellfish are part of a nutritionally sound diet. Seafood is high in protein, low in saturated fat, and contains heart-healthy omega-3s, which help boost immunity and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other ailments. Omega-3s are especially important for pregnant and nursing women and young children.

The deal is, according to Seafood Watch, nearly 75% of the world’s fisheries are fished to capacity, or overfished.

Programs such as the Seafood Watch or the Marine Stewardship Council offer information to help you choose seafood that’s good for you — and good for the oceans. Using a simple red means no, yellow means caution, and green means go color system, Seafood Watch recommends which seafood to buy or avoid, helping consumers and businesses become advocates for ocean-friendly seafood.

These recommendations are available online, in printed pocket guides, or even downloadable on mobile devices. Whole Foods Market has started labeling their fish with the Seafood Watch color coding system as well as the MSC-certified seal of approval. The choices we make as consumers can make this situation worse, or improve it. Seafood Watch recommendations consider the fishery, habitat, species, management, and a host of other factors that affect each species.

Another book that has had a huge impact on me and my opinion and my seafood choices is called Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food written by Paul Greenberg. It’s about the 4 archetypes of fish flesh — starting at the shore with salmon and moving further out into the ocean with bass, cod, and then finally tuna, the fish that swims the length of the ocean. It’s brilliant. I was fortunate enough to meet Paul at Cooking for Solutions, an event held to raise funds and awareness about Seafood Watch and sustainable seafood. (Here’s a snap of me serving up shrimp and grits and fried catfish for the Savor the Gulf Coast Champagne Breakfast.)

In Four Fish Paul examines and explores the fish that dominate our menus. How many times have you seen salmon on the menu at a fish shack on the Gulf? Too many. Paul’s tale about catching a bluefin tuna is so real, so well told, you will feel the rocking of the boat. It’s powerful. This book will make you think about what fish you choose to eat, that’s for sure. Let me put it this way, I read it twice, back to back.

Earlier this week I cooked for a business luncheon. It’s been pretty warm, so while I was planning my menu, I was thinking about cold poached chicken or salmon with an herb salad with fresh greens from the garden. When I went to the store, I saw fresh sockeye salmon. I always look for fresh, not frozen, wild salmon and when I see it, I buy it. There are seasons for harvesting and catching fish just like there are for zucchini or apples. Sockeye salmon has a full flavored firm flesh. It’s the second most abundant Alaska Salmon species. (There are different salmon species just like there are different kind of apples, too.) The distinct, deep red flesh retains its color throughout cooking.

Poaching is a fantastic way to make an easy make ahead summer lunch or supper. I made mine the night before and chilled it in the refrigerator overnight. That way, I had precious little to do right before the big lunch. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Let me know what you think.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

PS On a whole other note, in the film “The Help” from DreamWorks Pictures and Participant Media, the food on the dinner table tells a story much deeper than the list of ingredients. Drawing inspiration from the film, TakePart brings you Every Recipe Tells a Story, a series featuring the stories behind the recipes. I was fortunate enough to be included, as was my friend and colleague, Sherri Brooks Vinton. Please check it out.

Poached Sockeye Salmon
Serves 4

3 cups water
2 cups dry white wine
2 to 4 sprigs tarragon, leaves coarsely chopped and stems reserved
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 carrot, sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
4 (5-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced, for serving
Mayonnaise, for serving
Dijon mustard, for serving

To poach the salmon, combine the water, wine, tarragon stems (leaves reserved), bay leaves, peppercorns, and carrot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes to make a flavorful court-bouillon. Season with salt and pepper. Have ready a large, heavy-duty sealable plastic bag filled with ice cubes. Make an ice bath to cool the salmon by transfering several cups (or more, if needed) of the broth to a large heatproof bowl. Place the ice pack in the bowl of broth; move the pack around until the broth is well chilled (drain the bag and add more ice to it as needed). Return the heat to high and bring the remaining mixture to a rolling boil. Add the salmon fillets. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from the heat and remove the salmon from the poaching liquid. Transfer to the cooled broth and allow the salmon to cool in the bouillon. Cover the fish and broth with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours or overnight until you are ready to serve.

When ready to serve, using a slotted spoon, remove the fish from the liquid. Pat dry with paper towels. Place on a chilled platter and repeat with remaining filets. Scatter cucumber slices over. Serve immediately with mayonnaise and mustard on teh side.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, virginiawillis.com Thanks so much.

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