Health

Teach a Chef to Fish: Sustainable Seafood on the Front Lines at the Boston Seafood Show

By Cathy Huyghe   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
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Sustainable seafood, along with locally grown ingredients, are two trends in the restaurant industry that are here to stay.

Which would be good news for fishermen and farmers – not to mention for the oceans, fish, and community ecosystems – if only our understanding of the science behind agriculture and, to a greater extent, aquaculture, was better.

“Ninety percent of diners want restaurants to serve only sustainable seafood,” Jacqueline Church said Tuesday morning during a panel called Teach a Chef to Fish at the International Seafood Show at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. “But nearly 75% do not know what species are close to extinction.”

That gap between desire and knowledge is a problem. And that makes it an opportunity, as Church sees it, especially in terms of education. Since two-thirds of the seafood Americans consume is consumed in a restaurant, Church sees chefs as the “front line” in an offensive approach to more educated diners.

Bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass are two examples of non-sustainable fish that are nonetheless in high demand. “I hear lots of chefs say their customers won’t let them take those fish off the menu,” said Andy Husbands, chef-owner of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel in Boston. “But we’ve done it, and other restaurants we know [like Fairmont Battery Wharf, also in Boston] have done it and we’re doing fine. Frankly, if a customer demands bluefin tuna, I don’t need that customer.”

“’My customers demand that’ is shallow excuse to keep those fish on the menu,” said Barton Seaver, a Washington D.C.-based chef and host of a PBS series called Turning the Tide, which uses dinner to tell the story of our shared common resources. “Those chefs are selling themselves and the customers short. I’m a hospitality professional, it’s my job to figure out how to eradicate the word No. I didn’t say no to Chilean sea bass, I sold the customer on the solution,” meaning a more sustainable alternative like barramundi.

In addition to the conversation between chef and diner, however, is a lack of knowledge within the scientific community that would actually improve the likelihood of fishing in more environmentally-responsible ways. It was only recently understood, for example, that some popular species like Orange Roughy take up to 30 years to reproduce.

“That’s an example that highlights the need for science,” Church said, “because we nearly overfished it to extinction. Chefs liked the fish, they liked to work with it, and diners liked it but we didn’t understand its life cycle. We don’t have the science yet about how to properly manage it.”

Nor, said Seaver, do we have a cultural understanding of fish as food. “We use different words to identify cow and beef, and pork and pigs. But fish and fish? We haven’t gotten the cultural identity of what fish represents to us.”

The “Dirty Dozen” of non-sustainable seafood species:

   1. Shrimp
   2. Farmed salmon
   3. Bluefin tuna
   4. Eel
   5. Red snapper
   6. Orange roughy
   7. Octopus
   8. Patagonian toothfish
   9. Cod
  10. Shark
  11. Halibut (Atlantic)
  12. Grouper

Additional resources:

    * Fishchoice.com shortcuts the time it takes chefs and consumers to research current information and sources of sustainable seafood
    * My article on sustainable and vegetarian cuisine in Las Vegas, for Grist.org, interviews Rick Moonen, one of the founders of the sustainable seafood movement in the U.S.
    * My article on Community Supported Fisheries in Gloucester on Boston’s North Shore explores the fisherman’s adaptation of Community Supported Agriculture.
    * The Celebrate Seafood Dinner Series at the New England Aquarium highlights sustainable seafood choices.
    * Last year Esquire magazine named Barton Seaver their Chef of the Year.
    * Green Chefs Blue Ocean is a self-paced tutorial for chefs and students to  learn about sustainable seafood and how to implement it in their menus.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Roast Chicken (and a Few Tips) From a Time-Crunched Fitness Coach

By Jennifer Dunn   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
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Tips for edging toward a healthy life, even when there’s no time:

    * Multi-task. When I’m cooking I’ll often listen to a book on tape or I’ll have my son help.  This actually makes it a special and relaxing, and it transforms a chore into an experience.

    * Take advantage of the Internet. Gather healthy recipe ideas. Order produce online from Boston Organics; it’s reasonably priced and delivered straight to my door. Use the internet to make planning and shopping quicker, simpler and easier.
    * Plan, shop, prepare. On a weekly basis — Sunday, say — take time to plan your meals and do all of your shopping for the week. Then go home and prepare as much as you can.  Freeze it, store it, do whatever you need to do. During the week you will be much more likely to serve healthy choices if the food is already cooked.

Recipe from a fitness coach: Roast Chicken

Ingredients:

    * 1 small or medium organic, free-range chicken
    * 1 large red onion, roughly chopped
    * Half a cabbage, roughly chopped
    * 7-10 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
    * 1 lemon
    * Ample olive oil
    * 1 T. balsamic vinegar (optional)
    * Celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper
    * Red wine or balsamic vinegar and water (optional for gravy)
    * Rice flour (optional for gravy)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475° F.

Heap the onion, cabbage and garlic in the middle of a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. If you like, you can also drizzle your balsamic vinegar over the veggies as well.

Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. With a sharp knife, prick holes in the lemon and stuff it into the cavity of the chicken.

Cover the outside of your chicken with olive oil and rub thoroughly with Celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Then place the chicken on top of the bed of veggies in the pan.

Pop the pan in the oven. Reduce the heat to 400° F. Baste after about 40 minutes.

Total cooking time should be about 1 hour and 20 minutes. (I like to use a meat thermometer to check it; just insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken’s thigh, without touching the bone. Take the bird out when it reads 175° F. The internal temperature will continue to rise.)

Cover your bird with foil and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Carve it up and serve on a platter with your favorite steamed veggies and wild rice.

Bonus gravy:

Remove excess fat by skimming it off the top of the pan.  Put the pan on a large burner and bring it to a simmer. Mash up all the vegetables with a potato masher. Add a few glugs of balsamic vinegar and a half-cup of water, or you could use a half-cup of red wine.

Let the gravy simmer for a few more minutes, then sprinkle about one tablespoon of rice flour over the pan. Whisk vigorously until you reach the desired thickness and then remove it from the heat. Let it cool for a few minutes and then press it through a strainer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

It’s that easy.

Jennifer Dunn, Certified Personal Trainer, is the guest author for today’s Foodie Blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, where we explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Healthy Habits Kitchen: A different kind of take-out

By Cathy Huyghe   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
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It isn’t just the cooking that makes healthy eating untenable. It’s also the shopping, organizing, and clean up that needs to happen in addition to the cooking.

Those are exactly the things that Susan Schochet and her staff at Healthy Habits Kitchen do (exceptionally well, I might add). Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley offers meal assembly and preparation services for individuals and families, which removes the stumbling blocks from regular healthy eating.

“Meal assembly” works like this. You schedule a time to come to the Kitchen. You choose which meals you want to prepare. When you arrive — as I did last week, along with my two children — your station is set, your ingredients are portioned, and you’re ready to fly into the preparation of healthy, quick meals.

The process goes super-fast. The ingredients are at your fingertips and the recipe is right in front of you, printed out and standing in a plastic clipboard. And you aren’t expected to clean up. And –bonus — the average price per person for a meal at Healthy Habits Kitchen is less than $4.

Susan Schochet holds an assembled meal kit that her customers take home and store until they're ready to cook the meal.

There were unexpected bonuses from my trip to Healthy Habits Kitchen, both during the assembly and during preparation at home. First, the kids loved being at the Kitchen. It’s a neat, organized space, their roles were clear, and Schochet clearly has a lot of experience dealing with young people.

Leo takes a break from meal assembly to lick a spoon of honey.

A second bonus is the peace of mind when you know you won’t be home to cook for your family. Anyone at home is empowered to put a healthy meal on the table. All of the ingredients are there, plus clear instructions for cooking the meal, all stickered to the Ziploc bag holding the kit.

The third bonus was a certain sense of confidence. You start to think, “It really isn’t so hard to cook good, healthy food.” You can imagine getting the hang of it. And maybe, little by little, you start taking steps to replicate the process for yourself. That would be the healthy habit-forming part of a Healthy Habits Kitchen experience. And it’s a consequence Schochet, with her passion for sharing healthy cooking, wouldn’t mind one bit.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer: Goodies for a cause

By Cathy Huyghe   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
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The thing about fundraisers is that you have to give something — cash, normally — in order to get. And what you get is often intangible: a good feeling or the sense that you’ve done something worthwhile.

This week, the “get” is a little more tangible and a lot more tasty.

Starting today and going through Mother’s Day on Sunday, some 150-plus restaurants, bakeries, and cafés all over greater Boston will donate 100% of the proceeds from designated desserts to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

It’s called Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer, and in the past 10 years it’s raised almost $400,000 for the cause.

I suspect its success has a lot to do with the kind of desserts — very tangible, very tasty — that are on offer. The list is heavy on chocolate (souffles, bouchons, tortes), fresh fruits (raspberries, strawberries), cupcakes, cheesecakes, and even whoopie pies (one version crafted with pink filling, another served straight up with milk).

Comfort food galore.

Check out the full list of restaurants and zoom in on one in your neighborhood.

Then stop in. And enjoy the feeling that you’ve done something worthwhile — for breast cancer research, and for your belly, too.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Resveratrol the old-fashioned way

By Cathy Huyghe   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
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There’s not a wine drinker among us who hasn’t heard of the potential health benefits of resveratrol — you know, the chemical compound found in the skin of red grapes and, it follows, in red wine as well. The possibility of resveratrol having anti-aging effects and cardiovascular benefits is just too tantalizing, and it’s been a hot topic in the scientific community in recent years.

Makes for great dinner conversation over a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, yes?

Well, call me old-fashioned but I prefer to get my resveratrol the way Bacchus intended. As popular as it may be in supplement form, I’d rather find it in my glass. So long as there’s a good red to drink, and I’m happy and among friends, I figure a long and healthy life is headed my way anyway.

I’ll leave research to the scientists — including some of our neighbors over in Technology Square in Cambridge — who’ve seen a tough week for resveratrol-related studies.

Imagine this. A group of scientists at Sirtris Pharmaceuticals decided to get up-close and personal with the chemical composition of red wines. Not because it’s happy hour, and not because they prefer red over white. They’re doing it because it’s their job.

Intrigued? Well, in 2008 Sirtris was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, and GlaxoSmithKline has continued to research a proprietary version of resveratrol called SRT501. That is, perhaps, old news to some of you.

The new news, reported on by a number of sources this week, is that the clinical trial of SRT501 has been halted due to possible safety concerns. It’s a setback, to be sure — but it’s all part of the research process.

And it’s certainly no reason to set down the syrah.

We may not have discovered the fountain of youth just yet, but the right glass of wine certainly can feel like it. And perhaps we needn’t look for it at all.  Just remember the words of Oliver Goldsmith: “I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.”

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Reducing your handicap on high-alcohol wines

By Cathy Huyghe   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
1 Comments   1 comments.

Given the choice between an 11% abv (alcohol-by-volume) wine or one that’s 15.5%, I’m much more likely to go for the one with less alcohol. It’s not that I’m a lightweight – I can handle the alcohol – but more often, it has to do with the sweetness of a non-dessert wine that such high levels of alcohol manage to convey.

Fortified wines — such as sherry, port, and vermouth– are another story, because alcoholic spirits have been intentionally and traditionally added. But I feared that my preference for lower-alcohol wines in general handicapped me when it came to fortified wines.

Take Cognac.

At first, when I took a sip of it, I managed to inhale at exactly the wrong time so the aroma – the highly alcoholic fumes – reached my nose and my palate too soon, interrupting the taste and leaving me with the unappealing impression of a hygienic solvent.

Which was not such a good thing.

So I did what any eager learner would do. I sought out opportunities to inform myself about the subject in question. In this case, “informing myself” meant tasting as many Cognacs as often as possible, and that practice did, in fact, reduce my handicap on high-alcohol wines.

Here was the meat of the “lesson plan,” pieced together over several weeks of tasting with friends, at home, and at public tastings at wine shops around town.

    * Frapin Grande Champagne V.S.
    * Frapin VIP XO
    * Grand Champagne Château Fontpinot

Here was the catch: my handicap (that is, my negative reaction to the high alcohol) lessened in inverse proportion to the price of the bottle in question.

In other words, I liked the more expensive cognacs the best.

Oy.

The VIP XO, for example, at $199.99 per bottle retail, was rich and structured and long on the finish. (Some people call it “masculine” though I have no idea what that means.) It was easy on my nose and very smooth going down without any of the raspy heat of examples I had tasted earlier.

So what was the takeaway? What was the lesson of this experiment?

The lesson, fortunately, is not to buy only very expensive bottles of Cognacs.

The lesson, rather, is to keep tasting, keep learning, keep differentiating, and keep experimenting until something – like the Frapin VIP XO – clicks into place.

It’s an exercise, this “try, try again” thing – otherwise known as reducing your handicap.

I’m game.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.
 

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