We know the oceans are in trouble. We also know we have to eat. Knowledge is power and reading any one of these books will give you the knowledge we need to make powerful choices at the fish counter. Some are older, some are new; four are cookbooks and one – Bottomfeeder, by Taras Grescoe – is page after page of important information. If you only read one of my recommendations, for the love of Mother Earth and her oceans, make it Bottomfeeder.
Bottom Feeder; How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood by Taras Grescoe (2008, Harper Perennial, $19.95)
Equal parts cautionary tale, travel log, and gourmet dining diary, author, Taras Grescoe, pushes all the buttons: one minute I was happily supping vicariously along with him, the next I was covering my mouth in horror. The chapter on Asian farmed shrimp actually made me lose my dinner – I mean literally. Lesson learned the hard way: do not read this important book while eating…especially shrimp. At the back, a very handy appendix with shopping guide.
Lure; Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast by Ned Bell and Valerie Howes (2017, Figure.1, $38.95)
From West Coast chef, Ned Bell, and Toronto writer, Valerie Howes, this attractive book is loaded with gorgeous photography and mouth-watering recipes featuring sustainable Pacific seafood.
Excerpted from Lure by Ned Bell and Valerie Howes. Photographs by Kevin Clark. Copyright 2017 by Chefs for Oceans, recipes copyright by Ned Bell. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
A Good Catch; Sustainable Seafood Recipes from Canada’s Top Chefs by Jill Lambert (2008, Greystone, $24.95)
This one goes back a while, but it still stands up. With a forward by David Suzuki, this no nonsense book includes recipes for “best choice” seafood from east coast to west, as well as freshwater fish from the Great Lakes.
The Ocean Wise Cookbook; Seafood Recipes that are Good for the Planet edited by Jane Mundy (2010, Whitecap Books, $34.95)
With lovely photography, delicious recipes, and handy how-to graphics and step-by-step instructions this beautiful book is great for both the gourmet home cook and beginner. If you find purchasing, preparing and cooking seafood and shellfish intimidating, this is the guide book for you; if you find keeping current with the latest species to avoid and how to substitute it, daunting, there’s help in here for that, too.
The Oyster Companion; A Field Guide by Patrick McMurray (2018, Firefly, $19.95)
Oysters occupy a whole seafood subcategory unto themselves. They’re a food that has sustained humans since we descended from the treetops and congregated by the seashores. An acquired taste to be sure, and once considered workingman’s fare – along with lobster – oysters have something of a cult following. And why not? They’re healthy, delicious (I think so, anyway), plentiful and sustainable, versatile and diverse. Champion oyster shucker, McMurray, explore the oysters’ fascinating history, nature, and lore.
I am more of a sipper than a shooter type of guy, but it is fun to come up with new and different drinks for guests on request. While traditional shooters involve vodka, we’ve concocted a variety that match and include the oyster as a main ingredient.
Vodka Shooter: There are many variations on this one, so have fun. Use a firm, plump East Coast oyster big enough to fill half the glass. Top with chilled vodka and go! For a twist, add fresh lemon and/or lime juice, hot sauce, and some of our Horseradish Vodka
Gin Shooter: I’d pair gin with the C. gigas Pacific oyster, which is small enough to fit in the glass. Just fill and serve. For a twist, add a little lemon or lime juice, our Cucumber Gin and a splash of tonic water.
Shooter Royale: One day I came up with this multi-layered drink. Take a few of your favorite oysters of different sizes, layer them in a tall glass with vodka, and top with a little cocktail sauce and lemon and lime juice.
Beer Shooter: The boys at Shaw’s of Chicago tell me that the oyster-and-beer shooter was invented in San Francisco in the gold-rush days to satisfy prospectors looking to spend their money.
Excerpt From: Oyster Companion: A Field Guide by Patrick McMurray,Copyright Info: Published by Firefly Books Ltd. 2018 / Text © 2018 Patrick McMurray / Photo Credit: Patrick McMurray
Spaghetti with Clams, Chili, and Olive Oil
Sorry folks, gone are the days of shopping with one’s eyes closed – especially at the fish counter.
- 3 lb live clams such as little neck, Manila, or savory (purple varnish)
- 1 lb dried spaghetti
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- ¼ cup clam juice
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 3 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons
- Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
- Warm crusty bread, to serve
Rinse the clams under cold water for at least 5 minutes, and discard any that are open and won’t close when tapped or that have broken shells. Scrub off any debris.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and salt generously.
Add the pasta and cook until al dente, according to manufacturer’s instructions. Drain the pasta.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large shallow sauté pan over medium heat.
Add the shallots and sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic and chili flakes and sauté for another minute. Add the clams and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the clam juice and wine, cover, and allow clams to steam for 2 to 3 minutes or until opened. Discard any that haven’t opened.
Stir in the cooked, drained pasta, parsley, and lemon zest and juice.
Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Divide among bowls and serve immediately with buttered slices of warm bread
From Hudson, Quebec, now living in Port Hope, Ontario, Signe is a restaurant chef-turned-writer who tells award-winning stories and creates delicious recipes for LCBO’s Food & Drink, Manna Pro Hearty Homestead, The Harvest Commission, and Today’s Parent; she published her first book – Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs; Keeping Chickens in the Kitchen Garden with 100 Recipes – in 2015.