Geoduck! Wild and crazy, tasty clam-ish creature we first encountered in Washington State. An intro to its story...
Pondering the incompatible ( to me) pairing of fish and cheese, with the exception of a rich, voluptuous absurd lobster dish, such as Lobster Thermidor with a light gruyere crust maybe, that still I would not cook, but might sample. Grilled mussels do well with grated cheese, too. Neither of the aforesaid strictly speaking are "fish," of course.
(Lobster Mac Cheese seems to be a "thing" these days, I have noticed. Rich beyond comprehension, not that I've tried any... )
Anyway, I was pondering this when I came across the video recipe showcased below on The Guardian by Chef Tristan Welch. It's for mackerel baked with bits of mozzarella, beets and green onions. Oy! Mackerel is an oily fish, terrific smoked, but again, it's rich, and culinarily certainly has no need of additional protein in the form of lovely and adorable mozzarella. No, Chef, no!
Let me know if anyone tries it and adores it.....
The most remote inhabited bit of land in the world, as they say--it's only 1750 miles from South Africa...., Tristan da Cunha is a group of volcanic islands, a British Overseas territory, and lucky enough to wave a handsome 2002 flag featuring the Tristan rock lobster.
Said lobster, along with fish, and 200,000 delightfully-plumed little penguins, are underseige from oil spilled by a tanker that broke up off Nightingale Island, near Inaccessible Island, and cousins to T da C itself, which is home to 275 people. Named by a Portuguese explorer after himself, even though he never was able to set foot on the place, T da C survives because of focused agriculture--potato patches are worked by everyone here--along with fishing/lobstering.
In fact, up until WW2, potatoes were the island's currency. A one penny stamp costing 4 potatoes was designed, a few printed, but likely not used.
The local website of T da C states that a team of penguin cleaning experts is set to leave Capetown to help with the birds of Nightingale, that the fishing areas of the two uninhabited areas are closed, and that the Rockhopper Penguins of T da C itself have kept their toes out of the oil.
Not much word re the rock lobsters, though the season for procuring them apparently is officially over.
NB Even though he springs to my mind, what with rocks and hopping, Republican State Senator Randy Hopper of Wisconsin, whose soon-to-be-divorced wife backs the effort to recall him, is not related to the penguins of T da C.
At the Saturday Market this morning I went nuts---2 giant gatherings of rainbow chard; 2 quarts strawberries; 2 quarts beans; 1 quart mixed squash; 2 heads lettuce; 1 quart Japanese eggplant; tomatoes; pink potatoes; Chioggia beets; Italian parsley....I could barely stagger with it all back to the car....then shot to Mastry's Fish place, hoping for porgie, a delicious white fish I just ate for the first time last week.
"No porgie today, but have you had triggerfish? You will love it," said the woman who sold me the porgie. "We'll ring it up here and you just give the guy who cleans it $2." The triggerfish looks like a large, flat tropical fish to me. ( Duh.)
Having paid for a pound of stone crab, and the triggerfish, I headed out to the shed, the heron and egret hanging out in the parking lot keeping keen eyes on the proceedings. A young guy ahead of me is waiting for his mango snapper to be cleaned. "This is the finest fish you can get here," he says. "Absolutely delicious. But of course everything is so fresh at Mastry's there's almost nothing that isn't good."
Mango snapper next time. And more porgie. And whatever else they suggest. I am putty in their fishy hands.
ps A fish caught in the morning and eaten in the evening, possible where we are spending several months of the year in St Petersburg, Florida, is unlike any other. Maybe this is utterly obvious. The chard, grown with ample water, is twice as large as the chard I can buy in Albuquerque. Obvious.
Albuquerque and St Pete: two unique, interesting places, each with great food. Grand.
Damage from an eight-foot swell that tore apart docks and sank boats after Japan's earthquake, affected Crescent City, and "... essentially shut down the city’s fishing industry, which is one of the most lucrative in Northern California, grossing more than $12 million a year. Most of that comes from Dungeness crab, which is in season," according to a NYTimes report.
"On Wednesday, hundreds of crab traps were stacked in the harbor parking lot. Randy Smith, a commercial fisherman who specializes in shrimp, crab and bottom fish, said he had escaped Crescent City Harbor early on Friday after being warned that big waves were headed his way. For the 15 hours, he sailed the California and Oregon coasts before mooring in Eureka, Calif., some 65 miles south of here.
Mr. Smith, 53, said that running his ship, the Misteasea, out of Eureka would cost more in fuel and mooring and for care of his crew. “I can fish out of Eureka, but that’s not going to solve my problem,” he said. “It’s going to change all of our lives for a while.”"
Apparently wave action in this harbor continues to cause difficulty for this picturesque northern California town.
Mastry's Seafood and Tackle in St Petersburg, since 1975. Inside, huge coolers with fillets, whole fish, and pink Gulf shrimp. If you buy 10 pounds, the mullet is only $1.19 a pound, baby!
We bought a dozen pink Gulf shrimp, cooked up some short grain rice with garlic, onion, green onion, red pepper, parsley, yellow tomatoes, veg broth, water and white wine, boiled the shrimp lickety split, and indulged. For greens? Baby bok choy. Plus, a decent rose wine!
If you can find this place, Linger Lodge, nominally in Bradenton, Florida, you'll be glad you brought the entire family, kids, aging Aunties and all. There truly is something for everyone, even laundry nuts. Since this is a campground/RV park, you can toss your scummies in a machine while you wait for your order of frogs' legs.
The Lodge is set on the Braden River, alive with fowl and gators--they had not yet woken up from winter when we were there--and the kayaking is dandy. You can rent a log cabin, sheets provided, or park your RV. Or simply eat at the restaurant, and then stroll past assorted dead animals, preserved lovingly by a former owner, the taxidermist.
A WaPo piece today relates that the US government is set to be one of the biggest purchasers of post-oil gush Gulf seafood products, " including fish, shrimp, oysters, crab cakes, and packaged Cajun dishes..." The foods will be available at 72 commissaries up and down the East Coast.
Reporter Mary Foster goes on to write that "extensive testing has indicated the food is safe." She says nothing about who tested the seafood, how it was tested, when, and where.
Hey--many of us want to eat Gulf products, and most definitely want to support the fishers, packers, wholesalers and restaurants dependent on income derived from their sale.
'"A recent Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board survey found 70 percent of people are still nervous about eating Gulf seafood," said executive director Ewell Smith. "And that's with all the testing that has been done and is still being done," he said.' ( By whom? Where? Which?)
Wary. Nervous. Poorly informed. Lacking confidence in the "testing." That's where I am. University of South Florida scientists, as well as a University of Georgia oceanographer both found oily sediment on the Gulf floor that they then matched to oil from the BP blow. And study of the never-bef0re-encountered dispersants issue is ongoing as well.
A North American native, the blue/purple Concord grape was developed by a transcendental fellow named Ephraim Wales Bull in Concord, Massachusetts. Working with seeds from native wild grapes, Bull experimented, and after planting 20,000 cuttings, he finally claimed success in 1853 by winning a grape competition at the Boston Horticultural Society.
According to the history posted at The Concord Grape Association, Mr. Bull never harvested much financial success for his efforts. " He sowed--others reaped," is apparently carved on his tombstone.
That said, I bought some delicious C. grapes this morning at the growers market and recalled my mother explaining to me back in the day--I was 5?--how to eat them. Pop the grape in your mouth, squeeze it open with your teeth, swallow the juice and the gooey center containing the seeds, and spit out the skin. Today I decided to research that notion--just checking, Mom!--and found that some people do that, some chew the gooey middle and spit out the seeds, some like the combo of juice and tangy skin, etc etc. Methods to suit all tastes.
Chewing or not chewing the center is akin to the oyster dilemma. It was my Dad who taught me about sliding the oyster off the shell and into the mouth, there to be chewed lightly if you were him, or swallowed whole in all its sea watery-chilled goodness, if you were me, and 11.
Now that I have come of age, I ,too, chew my oysters, lightly, and also chew my Concords, maybe every other time.
( Bull's first Concord grapevine, courtesy USDA.
Eat more veggies, ginger, turmeric, blueberries, whole grains and fish, cut way back on red meat, dairy, and trans fats, and, presto, you will be entering the anti-inflammation zone. It's all in a book aptly called The Anti-Inflammation Zone, by Barry Sears. Now this diet is not aimed at "weight loss," apparently, but people do lose weight on it. And, by yes, reducing inflammatory-ness, one takes a firm step towards preventing all manner of disease, including heart ailments, cancer, even Alzheimer's.
The LA Times did a piece on the anti-inflammatory trend and the author noted that the Mediterranean diet really does closely resemble the a-i edibles approach, except possibly for the heavy use of ginger and turmeric.
Is this yet another recycling/repackaging of common-sensical eating? And what about the Inuit?
Curiously, what was common and sensible eating for the northern-dwelling Inuit many years ago-- their traditional diet---hints at the positive role of fatty fish as described here in Discover magazine, in 2004.
"Today, when diet books top the best-seller list and nobody seems sure of what to eat to stay healthy, it’s surprising to learn how well the Eskimo did on a high-protein, high-fat diet. Shaped by glacial temperatures, stark landscapes, and protracted winters, the traditional Eskimo diet had little in the way of plant food, no agricultural or dairy products, and was unusually low in carbohydrates. Mostly people subsisted on what they hunted and fished. "
Here's the fishy kicker. "... like a “natural aspirin,” adds (Professor Eric) Dewailly, omega-3 polyunsaturated fats ( from fish and sea mammals) help put a damper on runaway inflammatory processes, which play a part in atherosclerosis, arthritis, diabetes, and other so-called diseases of civilization."
Named by British voyager Bartholomew Gosnold after his mother, Martha, in 1602 the island of Martha's Vineyard apparently was rich in luxuriant grapevines. As rich in grape, as the Cape nearby was rich in cod. Gosnold named Cape Cod, as well. Such an observer of food, our little-remembered Gosnold, and food available in such abundance in the not-yet-even colony of Massachusetts.
Gosnold, an attorney with a bent for sea exploration, returned to England intent on recruiting stout souls to help found the Virginia Colony. Five years after his New England sojourn he died in or near Jamestown in 1607, a swampy site he thought rightly to be unsuitable for habitation. Most of the original Jamestown settlers died of famine, and its accompanying scurvy and dysentery.
The tale of why settlers in a land filled with vegetation, game and fish died of hunger even in the summertime is fodder for many books, including Jamestown, the Buried Truth, in which we learn that dogs and cats were eaten by the afflicted Jamestonians.
The Obamas ( and Bo) need not fear hunger during their stay on the Vineyard, however. 35 year-old West Tisbury Farmers Market is right down the lane from their lodgings.
Dubious Distinction Foodie Awards: The " fattest state" continues to be Mississippi, with ' Bama making a run at being number one. All that fried chicken? Colorado is the skinniest. ( Vermont??) Fat, salt, and corn syrup over all.
Meanwhile, those who try to eat fish to keep the pounds off need to be wary of where they buy. The just released Greenpeace report titled Carting Away the Oceans wallops Trader Joe's and Costco bigtime, as having no seafood sustainability programs, a "willful disregard for our oceans," and no apparent desire to improve. Whole Foods does well on this point, as do SuperTarget stores--even Walmart is not too shabby in this area. Read the report here.
Oysters are not for everyone. Many the friend has wrinkled a nose when I suggested, '"How 'bout some oysters?,” though there are exceptions. Years ago we were with a bona fide oyster pal eating at his favorite joint in New Orleans—the spectacular bivalves were maybe 25 cents each, with an equally non pricey pitcher of beer.
Generally I do not accompany shellfish with beer— crisp white wine or champagne, lemons, black pepper, a good baguette and butter, yes. On our trip around France working on a book about food heritage---buy it—we sampled the best.
My first venture into mega oyster land was here in Florida, where they grow their own, 90% of the FL crop, in Apalachicola. We had joined friends at a Chinese bigger-than-Tao's Buffet, and were tucking into the clams in broth, mussels, shrimp wrapped around scallops, lightly battered and fried, when we were urged to try the oysters.
As I tend to avoid these huge places, having once experienced a bizarre post-buffet reaction, I hesitated re the oyster array. ( I never try the sushi, however fresh and delectable looking.) To my surprise, the oysters appeared to have been opened moments before, and a huge bowl of lemon wedges perched beside the their tray. They looked fine.
Alas, these easily renewable, sensibly processed oysters had no taste. Zero. And not a hint of the sea. No fresh ocean-breeze scent, no salt water hint. Zip. I tried two, just to be fair. Nada.
The clams, on the other hand, most likely also farmed, were delicious.
A huge billboard near Bradenton, FL, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, reads www.groupersandwich.com.
Tap that in and you will be looking at ads for 3 not so memorable restaurants. Everybody wants grouper sandwiches here but few get them---Florida grouper, that is. Pricey per pound retail, true FL grouper is caught on hooks and is acclaimed broiled or blackened on a toasted roll, with cole slaw on the side. Other grouper can be bought from South American waters.
But it's the faux fish that still anger Florida fish mongers, restaurants owners, and diners. Asian catfish, tilapia, and other lesser known swimmers attempt to masquerade as the firm, thick and tasty white fish. Apparently half of the food misrepresentation suits filed with the state government concern grouper.
The other day, lunching outside and watching the swoop of pelicans, I ate a delicious g. sandwich.
Maybe I'm channeling my inner Jew, but I just decided it would be fun to make latkes and zucchini cakes for a casual Christmas supper--served along with the smoked salmon I'm still awaiting from my sister-in-law. Full fat yogurt will stand in for sour cream, and the Empire apples I found somewhere will be coaxed into apple sauce. Along with a bottle of bubbly I picked up at Trader Joe's, this sounds perfect to me. No lengthy hot oven activity, just loads of grating by hand. Simple food, fibrous and satisfying. (Chile powder will play a role!)
Parking before starting a morning stroll along one of America's more pricey strips of waterfront at Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg, FL, I noticed a woman and two cute dogs in the next vehicle. It appeared they were living there.
She got out and I got out, we exchanged "Good morning" greetings, and I walked over to peer into the shallows at silver schools of fish hanging like clouds over the heads of the much bigger sheepshead or convict fish, dressed in their usual snappy black and white stripes. Then I turned back to the reed-thin woman and asked, lamely, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, apparently, you are living in your car."
"You got that right!"
So....her life was in confusing flux, one of her children might come down from Michigan to help her, her dogs' toenails needed clipping, she wanted to air out her bedding, and, thank God, she made coffee every morning here at Coffee Pot Bayou, cleverly and illegally, by setting up her own Mister Coffee machine on a picnic table and using electricity from a plug presumably readied for Christmas lighting.
I noticed good rings on her left hand, and traces of a decent dye job on her hair, and officially met her dogs, Suzy and Banjo. We'll call the woman Barb.
I suggested that the Quakers, among others, distributed food on Friday afternoons, but couldn't recall the exact location.
"I would have to drive there, wherever, most likely, and I'm way low on gas." We laughed together, at the irony of having a movable home that was a liability if it could not move, since Barb could be in trouble with authorities if she tried to spend the entire night on C.P. Bayou.
So I gave her some $$$, and she and the doggies sputtered swiftly out of the parking lot. After the gas purchase, Barb said she would head to McD's for a cheeseburger. She said she could get it for a buck.
Earlier I had read on-line about economists predicting a 7% rise in food prices in 2009--food from cows, poultry and hogs--because of higher feed costs. So much for the cheap burger.
Maybe by 2009 Barb will have found her way. It's only two months away.
( Thanks to arichny.blogspot.com/.../
Pelicans, those long jawed feathered diving machines, are a particular delight to observe here in Florida, whether gobbling their food, perching on docks or skimming low over the waters of the Gulf. "A wonderful bird is the pelican, his bill can hold more than his belican...," as the Dixon Merritt limerick begins. Pelicans eat fish, of course, but also shellfish, amphibians, and as they are described as "opportunist feeders," teacup dogs on waterfront walkies should beware...
We suppose someone somewhere must have eaten a roast pelican--one would surely overflow even a hefty turky roasting pan, but have found no actual evidence of same. Shipwrecked sailors? And a birding blog reference suggests that elephant seals might well dine on pelicans.
But, in any case, the usual pelican thing is fish eating. Here's a look at some of the tamer p'cans, rallying round the feeding guy's box on The Pier, a magnificent construct that stretches a quarter of a mile from the palm-lined promenade of St. Petersburg out into Tampa Bay.
Having finally found two reputable fish markets near my rental in St. Pete, FL, now I stand paralyzed in front of their numerous offerings. We all knew about mercury in fish, right, but largely ignored it? Recent articles on mercury, by Marian Burros in the NYTimes, among others, have poked us into researching what fish we can eat, either on an eco-friendly basis or a health basis.
Char, bass, trout, croaker? Wild Pacific halibut? Striped bass? None of my personal faves in that list, save pink trout. Then there's klip, a delicious firm, white fish we had last week. A rockfish from S. Africa, Google tells me. OY. NG. Croaker? One website tells me this fish is "full-flavored." This could be an iffy choice, then. Char, too, is apparently "strong."
Clearly I need to find a local fisherperson and grill her/him as to what's coming out of FL waters. With a tad of butter and Meyer lemon from our own small tree.
O the sirens of Florida, the graceful behemoths that lie like gray logs just under the surface of the water. We recently examined manatees up close at the Tampa Zoo, where those under repair and rest after injury from boat propellers and other human hazards, chomp down barrels-full of lettuces. They and their gizzard-possessing fish friends, the local leaping mullet, are vegetarians of reknown.
From manatees.net--"Manatees eat over 60 different species of aquatic and semi-aquatic plants. Their diet includes manatee grass, turtle grass, various species of algae, mangrove leaves, and water hyacinths. They may consume 10% of their body weight daily in vegetation. Their digestive system allows the bacterial breakdown of cellulose in the hind-gut. To accommodate the great volume of high-fiber food they eat, manatatees have intestines up to 150 feet long."
The other night I bought sea trout at the local fish market, a steal at $3.99 a pound. A friend had suggested it, having had some once, well-seasoned and tomatoed and cooked fresh from the water. I cooked it in an iron skillet, with lots of chopped garlic, some oil and butter, a dash of white wine....cooked just right, dare I say, in terms of texture and so on. It was a somewhat "assertive" fish said one guest, yet very tasty. But another found it way too "fishy." So much so that she ate only one bite.
Mind you, by "fishy" here we mean with more inherent flavor. A fish that stinks is not a fresh fish, period! Fishy fish are more oily than, say flounder or halibut, and usually cost less than the rest--mackerel is a good example. Smoked mack is $7.99, smoked salmon, $15.99 at Ted Peters Smokehouse.
It had been so long since I dived into the uber fishy I wasn't even sure how I felt about sea trout. I think it would be better a second time with a real tomato-rich Provencal style of preparation. Sea trout definitely did not remind me of the ( dreaded) catfish, a critter that too me always has a bizarre texture and a "soapy" aftertaste.