Sustainable Seafood

by Penny & Ed Cherubino

This began as a column about a book, Two If By Sea: Delicious Sustainable Seafood by Barton Seaver. As we learned more about the author, we realized it would also be about a philosophy of sustainability as a whole and about Seaver’s way of changing how we think about dinner.

In his Ted Talk, “Sustainable seafood? Let’s get Smart,” Seaver grabbed the audience’s attention and ours when he said, “Forget nuclear holocaust; it’s the fork that we have to worry about. We have ravaged our earth and then used the food that we’ve sourced to handicap ourselves in more ways than one.” Of course, he was talking about a world in which we have famine and obesity, scarcity, and incredible waste.

While his current book is about seafood, his message on sustainability is strong on eating vegetables. As a chef, he learned that reducing the size of the portion of protein he put on a plate and increasing the portions of healthy plant products was a win for everyone. He made more money and his guests enjoyed a better meal. He says, “We must continue to eat the best seafood possible, if at all. But we also must eat it with a ton of vegetables.”

Sustainable Reference

Two If By Sea: Delicious Sustainable Seafood approaches that smaller portion of protein on our plates in many different ways. There are recipes that will make you want to eat more mussels and oysters which are not only sustainable seafood, but also actually help repair the damage we do to the seas.

To entice you to eat more mussels, Seaver has created a fabulous chart that will enable you to create an endless variety of mussel dishes by varying the cooking liquid, herbs, spices, vegetables, and fats.

Another section takes both the familiar fish that most of us favor like shrimp, salmon, haddock, cod, and tuna, and place it in categories such as “Flaky White Fish,” “Steak Fish,” and “Orange Fleshed Fish.” Alongside the fish you are used to ordering, Seaver tells you about fish that might be new to you like dogfish, whiting, tautog, eulachon, and wahoo. In each case, he describes the flavor, texture, and gives tips on how to cook it.

In the techniques chapter, you’ll learn more about ideal cooking methods for fish like roasting, sauteing, frying, steaming, boiling, broiling, smoking, and grilling.

In interesting side notes, he provides really important and under-discussed pointers like how to reheat fish, how to use leftover fish, and seafood safety tips.


Seagreens and Sides

Finally, since Seaver wants you to put more than protein on your plate, he has included a set of sides and sauces and a whole chapter on what many say is one of the important future foods, seagreens. Seaver calls them, “… an incredible culinary opportunity” and “well worth exploring.”

We both love the flavor that rockweed adds to the traditional New England clam bake. Now we are ready to try more kelps. He has told us how to buy them, how other cultures use them, and how to prepare them in ways familiar to us like sea lettuce sautéed in butter or bacon fat.

We’ll end this piece with the words Seaver used to end his Ted Talk, “… if we all take only what we need, then we can begin to share the rest, we can begin to celebrate, we can begin to restore. We need to savor vegetables. We need to savor smaller portions of seafood. And we need to save dinner.”

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