Friday, August 22, 2014

Aquaculture: A Deeper Dive

In some of my prior posts I’ve briefly addressed the topic of farmed vs. wild seafood. Both can be healthy, sustainable and environmentally friendly, but much of the information available in the mass media still suggests that all farm raised seafood is bad. Today I hope to offer some insight as to why it's simply not true. 

What is aquaculture?

Aquaculture or fish farming is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of plants and animals in all types of water environments including ponds, rivers, lakes, and the ocean. Aquaculture produces food fish, sport fish, bait fish, ornamental fish, crustaceans, mollusks, algae, sea vegetables, and fish eggs, and can be done in a freshwater or marine environment.

About half the seafood consumed worldwide (including the US) is farm-raised. Since harvest from many wild fisheries has peaked, aquaculture is seen by industry experts as an effective way to meet the seafood demands of a growing population. Aquaculture is therefore the fastest growing form of food production worldwide.

Marine vs. Freshwater

Marine aquaculture can occur in the ocean (in cages, on the seafloor, or suspended in water columns) or on land in systems such as ponds or tanks. Recirculating aquaculture systems that reduce, reuse, and recycle water and waste can support some marine species. U.S. marine aquaculture produces mainly oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and salmon but also produces smaller amounts of cod, moi, yellowtail, barramundi, seabass, and seabream.

Freshwater aquaculture produces species that are native to rivers, lakes, and streams. U.S. freshwater aquaculture is primarily catfish but also produces trout, tilapia, and bass. Freshwater aquaculture takes place primarily in ponds and in on-land, manmade systems such as recirculating aquaculture systems.

What Should You Look for When Purchasing Farmed Seafood?:

When purchasing farm raised fish look for a closed containment system vs. right along the ocean shore, and vegetarian fish (like catfish or tilapia) or shellfish that feed on plankton in the water. If you do eat carnivorous fish or those higher on the food chain pay attention to feed ratio (varies by type of fish) and quality of feed.

What Resources are Available to Learn More?

There are several publications and resources available to determine whether a particular species is over fished, and when it is better to buy farmed. Some of these resources include:

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) has a ton of information available on their website. Their mission is "to transform aquaculture towards environmental sustainability and social responsibility using efficient market mechanisms that create value across the chain".

MBA Seafood Watch: The Monteray Bay Aquarium’s Seafood watch program has plenty of free resources available including downloadable pocket guides by region and a mobile app. Use the guide as a quick pocket reference or search for a type of fish in the app (like bass) for example and you’ll get a list of good choices (ex: US or Vietnamese farmed Barramundi) vs. those to avoid.

Good Fish: is a cookbook with recipes using sustainable seafood and tons of great information on how to buy responsibly. I reviewed this book on 8/1/14, you can read my full review here.

My fellow SSBA Member Richard recently put together a list of some of the third party certifications that currently exist for both wild fisheries and seafood farms.

Your Grocery Store or Local Fish Market: When I did my post on where to buy sustainable seafood, I found that stores with robust sustainability programs had lots of information available on their websites.

Up Next Week: A Review of a CT restaurant with a commitment to sustainability

What do you want to read about seafood and / or sustainability? Leave your topic suggestions in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WGBH Food and Wine Festival Coming & A Special Discount!

I'm so excited for the Third Annual WGBH Food and Wine Festival, an amazing three day festival this fall 9/11 - 9/14. I attended the first festival a couple of years ago and had a great time at the Artisan Tasting. You can read my two posts on the tasting and chef demos here.

This year I'm planning to attend the Chef's Gala on Thursday night, and because I hope to see all of you there I'm offering 20% off your ticket price! To get the discount, simply use my code FOODBLOG when you place your order for tickets online.


Chef’s Gala Reception
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Dress code: Cocktail attire, business attire

7-10pm open to general ticket purchasers

Tickets, general admission: $150
The event is held inside the WGBH Calderwood Studio, and Atrium

Imagine 25 of the best chefs from the far corners of New England under one roof! Don’t miss this incredible gastronomic adventure in food, wine, and craft beer! The Chef’s Gala Reception is an elegant evening with 25 unique stations showcasing cuisine of local chefs/restaurants paired perfectly with selected wine and a few select craft beers from 25 featured artisans. Meet and mingle with your favorite chefs, and discover new favorite restaurants. Learn about the magic of pairing various dishes with the perfect wine to enhance flavor, and your experience.

*Must be 21 to participate

The Artisan Taste
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Dress code: Business casual-casual

Two Sessions: 1pm-3:30pm and 5pm-7:30pm
Tickets for one 2 1/2 hour session: $50 for members and $60 for non-members
Located in back WGBH visitor parking lot

Experience a wide variety of artisanal foods featuring New England’s renowned restaurants, chefs, and local producers.
  • Exhibitor tables featuring more than 100 wines from around the world, local food purveyors, and local fare.
  • Clarke Sub-Zero Wolf Celebrity Cooking Stage to include two chef demonstrations during each two and a half hour session.
  • Interactive displays and sponsor activations and entertainment will be included on the stage between each of the cooking demonstrations

*Must be 21 to participate

Farmer’s Market
Sat. 9/13 11am-5:30pm and Sun. 9/14 10am-3pm
FREE event, open to the general public
Will feature 15-20 farmers/vendors with a wide assortment of fresh produce, spices, herbs, and baked goods. Check the website for updates in the coming weeks ahead with a complete list of participating vendors
(will be located in front parking lot by Newbury Comics and our parking garage in same configuration that we had in the 2012 Wine Fest)

Brunch Bar
Sunday, September 14, 11am-1:30pm
Tickets: $40 for members and $45 for non-members
Dress code: Business casual-casual

We’ve taken the guessing out of where to have brunch with this exclusive event. Have Sunday Brunch at the Brunch Bar with more than 100 different restaurants, artisan food producers, craft breweries and wines serving up sumptuous tasting-sized portions of foods from the exotic to down-home. The event features live chef demos, live music and an unbeatable way to travel New England in the span of a couple hours.  

Also on Sunday Sept. 14 are two
Food & Wine Festival Seminars
These will be located inside Cahners Conference Room, Reno and 3rd fl cafe

Pickled: Preserving the honored tradition     
Sunday, Sept. 14, 2-3:30pm
Donation: $25
Capacity: Capped at 40 guests

Presented by Tia Pinney, Naturalist/Adult Program and Eco-management Coordinator from Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary

Join us for a visually, aromatically, and gastronomically exciting event, as we explore a plethora of pickles with our friends from Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. The art of pickling has made a comeback in recent years with the popularity of the do-it-yourself movement. This class will provide you with the basic skills you need to pickle a wide variety of fruits and vegetables at home.

We’ll review the elements that go into crafting a good pickle, including acid, flavorings, spices, produce choices, preparation, and storage. You will have a chance to sample some delicious pickled fruits and vegetables during the seminar, and you’ll even be able to take home your own pickled creations at the end of class. Bring your appetite, and get ready for this adventure in pickling.

Shaken & StirredSunday, September 14, 2:00-3:30pm
Capacity: Capped at 40 guests

The dedicated staff from the James Beard Award-winning Kenmore Square cocktail lounge, The Hawthorne, is calling class into session to teach guests a little about the history of the cocktail, and the style and technique that go into mixing a drink. Katie Emerson, The Hawthorne’s bar manager, will cover ratios for a few original classic cocktails, while mixing up a classic Bee’s Knees. Katie will provide the details needed to assess your home bar, and the tools to customize cocktails using three basic formulas for a variety of delicious and time- honored variations. You’ll leave armed with the fundamentals to mix the perfect cocktail and a few goodies to take home to your own bar. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Easy, Lightened Up Biscuits and Gravy

          Sadly, there's no universe in which biscuits and gravy will ever be healthy. But, when I got the craving recently I decided to make them at home rather than go to a restaurant where they'd likely be laden with butter, heavy cream, and served with even more fattening food.

           I tried this quick easy recipe that seems reasonably low calorie for such an indulgent dish, and used pork sausage from Jones Dairy Farm, which is about as healthy as sausage get. It's made with only four ingredients, and even allowed on the Whole 30 diet. The biscuits were packaged; not quite as healthy but still reduced fat and about 150 calories each.

Serves 6, each serving about 425 calories (servings are based on the gravy, you will have a couple of biscuits leftover if you buy a package)

1 package of sliced biscuits (Pillsbury or similar)
1 12 ounce roll of pork sausage
2 cups 1% milk
2 tablespoons of flour

1. Bake the biscuits according to instructions on the package (about 15 minutes).
2. Crumble and brown sausage in a skillet over medium heat
3. Remove sausage from the pan, leaving the drippings
4. Whisk two tablespoons of flour with the sausage drippings until it thickens
5. Slowly whisk in two cups of milk and bring to a boil
6. Lower heat and simmer for two minutes
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste
8. Add sausage back and serve over one biscuit sliced in half

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pan Seared Flounder with Mango Salsa


          If you read my post last week, you know I was planning to write about Aquaculture or farm raised seafood. But, on the spur of the moment this week I came up with a recipe for flounder that turned out so well I just had to share it! 

          Flounder is a flatfish, or a white fish flaky similar to sole, turbot, or halibut. It's currently in season in New England, and I purchased it at Whole Foods for $14.99 per lb. I served this with mango salsa, watermelon and cucumber salad, and quinoa salad. All of the ingredients came to about $40 and this was easily enough to feed four people (or two with ALOT of leftovers)!

          I paired this with an orange wine,  Ageno Emilia Bianco, which complemented the mango and red onion perfectly. 

Flounder Recipe:

1 lb of fresh flounder, fileted without the skin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 mango diced
1/2 red pepper diced
1/2 red onion diced
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1: Spray a large frying pan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat
2: Add flounder to the pan, drizzle with olive oil, and add a little salt and pepper
3. Cook for 5 minutes turning carefully about 1/2 way through
4. While the fish cooks combine mango, red pepper, red onion, and cilantro in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
5. Top Fish with Mango Salsa

Watermelon Cucumber Salad Recipe:

1/2 watermelon cubed
1 cucumber diced
1/4 cup of feta
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine watermelon, feta and cilantro in a large bowl
2. Mix olive oil, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl to make the dressing
3. Toss the ingredients with the dressing

Quinoa Salad Recipe

1 box quinoa
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cucumber diced
1/2 red pepper diced
1/2 red onion diced
1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the box, substituting broth for water
2. While quinoa is still warm add feta, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper
3. Cool in the fridge for 20-30 minutes
4. Once quinoa is cool, add peppers, onions, cucumbers, cilantro, and lemon juice

Up Next Week: Aquaculture Overview: Sustainable and Responsible Farming Methods

What do you want to read about seafood and / or sustainability? Leave your topic suggestions in the comments section!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Easy Taco Seasoning

          This is going to a be a quick post with no pictures, because I wanted to share a super easy recipe I'm currently obsessed with: Homemade Taco Seasoning. I'm not sure why I never thought to try this before, but I will never used those prepackaged seasonings loaded with sodium and MSG ever again! I've used this several times already for two delicious (and also very easy recipes).

Seasoning (makes enough to generously season about 1lb of ground beef):
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1. Brown and drain 1 lb of ground beef on medium high heat
2. Mix seasoning with 3/4 a cup of water and add to the beef
3. Reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed
4. Serve in warmed tortillas with your favorite toppings

Mexican Chicken:
1. Melt one tablespoon of butter in a frying pan
2. Cook your favorite pieces of bone in chicken (I prefer thighs) skin side down on high heat until the skin gets crispy (about 5 minutes)
3. Cut up one onion into large pieces
4. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and top with onions and seasoning
5. Bake for 40 minutes

Friday, August 8, 2014

Where to Shop for Sustainable Seafood


          One of the reasons I often hear people cite for not shopping sustainably hat they don't have time or it's not convenient. They're busy and want to get all of their grocery shopping done at once, in one place and not have to think about things like farming or sourcing methods. After doing some research (mainly on the websites of major retail stores), I found it's not as difficult as you might think. While I would always suggest supporting your local fisherman and markets whenever possible, there are plenty of major chains (both regional and national) that make it easy to shop responsibly. 


Whole Foods
Whole Foods:  is committed to sustainability and only sells seafood that meets their high standards. In short, you could shop for just about anything at Whole Foods and not have to think or worry about  where it comes from.

Whole Foods collaborates with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), an organization that promotes sustainable fisheries and responsible fishing practices worldwide to help preserve fish stocks. Certified fisheries are able to use the MSC eco-label to signify to consumers that the product was caught using environmentally sound fishing methods and responsible practices.

All of the wild-caught seafood at Whole Foods comes from fisheries that are certified sustainable by the MSC or rated Green or Yellow by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program . Whole Foods does not carry Red rated seafood, which indicate the fish is overfished or caught in methods that are harmful to the environment.

All of the farm raised fish at Whole Foods come from farms that meet rigorous standards including no antibiotics, no GMOs or added growth hormones, and minimal impacts on the environment. Whole Foods hires third parties to conduct regular audits of the fish farms they source from to ensure these standards are being met. You can see a complete list of the standards here.

Trader Joe's
In 2010, Trader Joe'spromised that all seafood in stores would be sourced using sustainable methods by 2012. The latest update I could find online was about a year ago (July 2013) with product specific updates for the steps they've taken to improve. These steps include no longer sourcing swordfish from southeast Asia, switching from long line to pole and line caught tuna, and developing standards for farmed shrimp. While it wasn't clear if they met the 2012 goal, they are definitely taking steps in the right direction. I would recommend Trader Joe's as an option for shopping for seafood sustainably, but maybe armed with a bit more information about what to look for and potential red flags.


Wegman's: qualifies for the MSC certification referenced above, and has high standards for both wild caught and farm raised seafood suppliers. In 2009 they began working with Trace Register, a company that recognizes the importance of understanding exactly where food comes from and how it has been raised, caught, harvested, shipped, etc. As of October of 2013, 100% of Wegman's  aquaculture products were completely traceable.

Best practices for wild caught include: meeting all regulatory and licensing quotas recording catches accordingly, all product fully traceable back to the original source, no bisulfites or sodium tripolyphosphates used in processing, etc.

Best practices for farm raised include:  < 3% escapement with improvement goals, < 1.3 lbs of wild fish used in feed to grow 1 lb. of farmed fish, areas under pens are checked for effects from feed/fish waste after each harvest. etc.

All Wegman's suppliers are subject to third party audits to ensure compliance with food safety regulations and Wegmans Best Practices

All seafood products sold in Hannaford stores are fully traceable to the wild fishery or farm, and Hannaford ensures that seafood products sold throughout their stores are harvested in a sustainable manner and only source from fisheries and farms that adhere to policy requirements and minimum standards such as traceability, Wetland Conservation And Biodiversity Protection, Fishmeal and Fish Oil Conservation, and more. 

Hannaford has partnered with third parties like the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and the Global Aquaculture Alliance to ensure that all suppliers are adhering to these minimum standards.
 Greater Boston

Roche Bros
Roche Bros is a local grocery chain based in Wellesley, MA with about twenty stores in Eastern MA. Roche Bros has a program in partnership with local seafood supplier Foley Fish called the Sea Trace Program, which gives consumers more insight into where their seafood comes from. Shoppers can scan the QR (Quick Response) codes for select species to see a photo of the fishing boat, the location fished, and a description of the fishing gear used. Roche Bros also offers plenty of information in-store, including a sustainability video and consumer brochures to help customers learn how their selections are sustainably fished and naturally processed.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point. There are countless local shops and suppliers where you can buy local and from the fisherman directly.

Up Next Week: Aquaculture Overview: Sustainable and Responsible Farming Methods

What do you want to read about seafood and / or sustainability? Leave your topic suggestions in the comments section!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Night in Tuscany at the Boston Wine School

          Last week I had the opportunity to attend a wine class and dinner at the Boston Wine School in Allston. Boston Wine School offers a wide variety of classes in a fun, casual, and relaxed atmosphere-what they call a 100% snob free zone. Classes include general introductory or 101 style classes, as well as themes like all Italian, Spanish, or French tastings.

          I attended A Night in Tuscany which included a variety of Tuscan style red wines and dinner by Bottega Fiorentina in Brookline.

          The evening started off with a glass of 2012 Villa Antinori Toscana, a light sparkling white from central Tuscany. I'd had this before, and it's definitely one of my favorite Italian sparkling wines. There were plenty of hors d'ouvres to enjoy with the wine including Sopressata, bruschettini con pomodoro e cannellini (tiny bruschetta with tomatos and white cannellini beans), and fresh focaccia.

          Next we sat down for an informal classroom style session where the instructor started by going over the seven "S's" of wine tasting: see, sniff, swirl, smell, sip, savor, and spit (optional). See the wine by tilting your glass and observing the color on the outer edge- this will tell you a lot about the wine including its age. Take a quick sniff to judge whether the wine is corked (it will smell moldy), swirl to aerate the wine which brings out more if it's natural aroma and then really smell it, and finally taste and notice the favors (fruity, spicy, floral, dry, oaky, etc). I skipped the step of spitting out the wine (obvi!)

          We repeated these steps for several different Tuscan wines, and tested each of them with bites of meat and cheese to see what paired well together and how the food and wine changed each other's flavors.

Meat and cheese plate: Speck (smoked proscuitto), ricotta freca, pecorino pepato, parmagiano reggiano

          The wines we sampled were all Sangiovese or a blend that included the varietal. It was interesting to see how the same grape can taste completely different based on the age, how it's produced, and what it's blended with. We tried:
  • 2012 Gini Sangiovese
  • 2010 90+ Cellars "Lot 63" Chianti
  • 2011 Erik Banti Morellino di Scansano
  • 2010 Gracciano della Seta Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
  • 2010 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico
          The 90+ was definitely the wine with the most interesting story; 90+ Cellars is a Boston based company located right upstairs from the Boston Wine School. 90+ works with name brand wineries to repackage and sell surplus wines under the 90+ label. Wineries don't have to discount their wine and erode the brand, and consumers get to enjoy name brand wines at a discount. While the label will include some basic information, part of the fun is you never know exactly what you're going to get (although you can find the wines you love again by looking for the lot number on the bottle).

          My favorite wine we tried was the 2010 Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico which tasted earthy with hints of leather, berries, and dried plum. Like most of the wines we tasted this was very affordable and retails at aroun $12-$15.

          After the class portion was complete, we enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner with another taste of our favorite wine, plus a bonus white or red to pair with the food. I chose the 2009 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, which went very well with everything.

Pasta rosette: baked lasagnette with tomato and cheese sauce
Pollo Cristina: chicken baked with nutmeg and wine, Spinaci alla fiorenta: baked spinach and cheese
Dessert Affogato with vanilla soy ice cream and french press decaf
          The classes at Boston Wine School are fun for a night out with girlfriends or a date. It's a great way to learn the basics of wine tasting in a friendly and casual atmosphere.