Friday, August 21, 2015

Eat Them to Save Them & Giveaway!

I was in Alaska recently to go fishing and watch cooking demos, but more importantly to learn a bit about how Alaska helps to promote sustainability, protect the fisheries and in turn, the ecosystem. The effort that goes into maintaining the health of fisheries in Alaska is astounding and something I didn't really appreciate until I met and spoke with environmentalists, biologists, state officials and even politicians, all committed to the long term health of the fisheries. 

Salmon fishermen are projected to harvest a billion pounds of salmon or 221 million fish this year in Alaska and yet consumption of seafood continues to decline in the US and is considerably behind chicken, pork and even beef. In Alaska, those responsibly harvesting seafood take a vested interest in maintaining it. What I learned about the sustainability of salmon fisheries has applications well beyond seafood. We all want more sustainability and biodiversity in our food and to preserve traditional foodways, but how? Sometimes if you love it, the best thing you can do is eat it. 

Sustainable Seafood
Choosing sustainable seafood is getting easier to do. If you enjoy fishing, check out Trout Unlimited. It’s an organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.

When it comes to eating seafood, one easy way to choose sustainable, is to choose Alaska Seafood which is also wild and natural and represents 60% of the seafood consumed in America. For seafood beyond Alaska, talk to your local fishmonger or explore the SeafoodWatch program to learn more about making the best seafood choices.



Heritage Breeds of Animals
The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is dedicated to supporting biodiversity through various projects including the Ark of Taste and Earth Markets. Another organzation that specifically preserves and promotes rare and heritage breeds of livestock is the Livestock Conservancy. They even have a gene bank that saves the genetic material of rare breeds.

For consumers, bookmark the Eat Well Guide, which has 25,000 free listings of farms, farmers markets, restaurants, co-ops, and other places that offer locally grown, sustainably produced food.

Heirloom Varieties of Produce 
Remember when all the tomatoes in the supermarket tasted bland? The tomato selection has improved, but for even tastier tomatoes, head to the garden.

One of the great joys of gardening and even shopping at a farmer’s market is enjoying varieties of fruits and vegetables that aren’t commercially grown on a large scale. Not all varieties of produce ship easily or have reasonably long shelf life.

By supporting farmers and growing your own heirloom varieties, you can help preserve biodiversity. 

Gardener Giveaway! 
Gift Pack containing: 
1 Seeds of Change canvas shopping bag
4 packs of seeds
$25 Seeds of Change gift card

Take a look at the fun 2 minute video above featuring Hugh Acheson, and let me know in the comments what about it made the biggest impression on you. I will chose one winner at random on Sunday August 30th, 2015. You must be a US resident to win and have a US mailing address. Include your email in the comments form, only I will see it. Do NOT write your email in the body of your comment or it will be visible to everyone. 

Disclaimer: Giveaway courtesy of Seeds of Change, I was not compensated in any way, shape or form for this post. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Slow Roasted Alaska Halibut with Fennel & Tomatoes Recipe

When I was growing up we had a second freezer that I swear was packed full of halibut. My father got it somewhere and we ate it for what seemed like years. I remember that it was dry, tough and somewhat stringy. Was it terribly freezer burned? Only recently my mother told me it might not have been halibut. What it actually was will forever remain a mystery. But it was years before I tried halibut again and imagine my surprise to discover that it is a delicate, creamy and luscious fish.

Recently I was in Alaska to learn more about seafood so naturally I went fishing. Our boat caught a tremendous amount of halibut. Halibut can be very big fish and now I've come full circle and am enjoying having a freezer full of it. I believe the secret to cooking halibut is to be extremely gentle. It cooks up wonderfully when roasted slowly and is much harder to overcook at low temperatures. In this recipe you roast vegetables at high heat, give the fish a little rest at room temperature with a  spice rub and then coat the fish with the juicy vegetables to help keep it moist while cooking it ever so slowly.

In 2014 Americans ate over 100 pounds red meat and about 100 pounds of poultry per capita, but only around 14 pounds of fish and seafood That's a shame because seafood is really good and even a small serving can be very satisfying. I find about 4 ounces is plenty.

Some more things to know about Alaska seafood 

* It's healthy--3 1/2 ounces cooked halibut has 140 calories, 27 grams of protein and 460 mg of Omega 3

* It's easy to cook

* It can be prepared very quickly

Note:  If you don't have cherry or grape tomatoes, just use diced Roma tomatoes instead.

Slow Roasted Alaska Halibut with Fennel & Tomatoes 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb
2 cups halved cherry or grape tomatoes 
4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 halibut filets, about 4 - 5 ounces each
1/2 teaspoon paprika—any kind is fine, smoked, sweet or hot
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 450°.

Lined a roasting pan or baking dish with foil. Layer on the fennel then garlic and top with the tomatoes Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile combine the paprika, salt, and onion powder. Pat dry the fish and sprinkle evenly with the spice mixture. Let the fish rest at room temperature while the vegetables are roasting. 

When vegetables have roasted for 15 minutes, remove them from the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees. Push the vegetables to the side of the pan. Place the filets in the center of the pan and pile the vegetables on top of the filets. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Alaska Seafood for hosting me on my trip to Alaska. I was not compensated monetarily to write this or any other post on Cooking with Amy. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Refreshing Drinks for Hot Days

I always have a pitcher of  unsweetened iced tea in the refrigerator and this Summer I’ve been experimenting with making shrubs. I’m not a soda drinker, so these drinks appeal to me because they are very refreshing and not very sweet. 
Teapigs is a British tea company operating in the US. They make a most unusual line of matcha drinks. One has grapefruit, another apple and one has elderflower. None of them have any added sugar, just the natural sweetness from fruit juices. I tried all three and I’m hard pressed to say which I like best. They are each quite good. I like the bitter edge to the grapefruit, the fruitiness of the apple and the floral quality to the elderflower. They are a bit pricey at about $3.99 each, but such a nice treat. Think of it as a healthier indulgence than a cappuccino. It’s available in many locations.



If you’ve been to Rome in the Summer, perhaps you’re familiar with the lemon and coconut stands found in piazzas. The CEO of Jones Soda Co. is married to a Roman and discovered the drinks on one of her many trips to Italy. Lemoncocco might sound weird but is absolutely divine! It’s got the slight velvety creaminess of coconut and sharp tang of lemon. It’s not carbonated. It’s less than 100 calories for 12 ounces. It’s available in Calfiornia, Washington, Oregon or you can order it online.


A few months ago I got to be a judge at a beer festival. I was really happy to find out I’d been assigned to the category “Summer sippers” because it was a particularly hot day and I got to try the most refreshing drinks. The winner was not a beer at all, but a flavored cider. The judges chose Lemon Saison from Common Cider. Recently Common Cider sent me some other flavors. 

The ones I’m most fond of are Blood Orange Tangerine and Lemon Saison which isn't surprising since I like citrus flavors. They are both crisp and refreshing with a bit of effevessence, but not too much and only about 6.5% alcohol. No artificial flavors or colors. Check the online locator to find them (California and Nevada only so far). 

Another cider I’m very impressed with is Golden State Mighty Dry Cider. It’s made by the same folks who make DeVoto Cider, which produces exquisite all estate ciders that in are in somewhat limited supply. 

Golden State uses all West Coast apples of many different varieties. It clocks in at 6.9% alcohol and has no added sugars or water or concentrates. It’s a very pure and unadulterated product. It's great on its own, is also amazing when combined with a fruity shrub. It's a hard cider, but much better than most you may have tried before. 

At the Fancy Food Show in January I tried Belvoir presse style drinks with elderflower.  I’m a big fan of elderflower which is much more popular in Europe than it is here. It’s a little bit fruity and pleasantly floral. It pairs well with lemonade and mixes beautifully with white spirits like gin. 

The two flavors I've tried of Belvoir are the Elderflower and the Elderflower and Rose. Both are floral, very refreshing and have just a hint of lemon juice to balance the sweetness. They are labeled lemonade in the US, but really are more like a floral sparkling drink. Look online to find where to buy them.







Disclaimer: Some of these products were provided to me as samples or I tried them at an event. I was not monetarily compensated to write this or any other post on Cooking with Amy. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Alaska Seafood Moqueca Recipe

I'm just back from the incredibly wild and unspoiled state of Alaska. I was on the trip with food writers and chefs as well as a seafood importer. I got a chance to talk with a lot of people involved with Alaska seafood including a biologist, a conservationist, a manager from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the proprietor of an oyster farm and even a senator and commercial fisherman. I was impressed with their efforts to keep the seafood industry sustainable and environmentally friendly.
My itinerary was jam packed. I flew in a sea plane over glaciers, foraged along the seashore and into the forest, fished for salmon and halibut (and caught one of each). I tasted all five species of salmon, and I also got a chance to observe some cooking demonstrations where I picked up some great cooking tips. One recipe I couldn't wait to try at home came from Chef Fernando Corsi, who lives in São Paolo. It was his version of a very traditional Brazilian recipe called moqueca. If you look for recipes online you will find they vary greatly. I think it might be more about technique than anything else. Vegetables, coconut milk and aromatics are layered in a clay pot and topped with seafood. But you can make it any pot you happen to have. 

Americans eat less seafood than other proteins like chicken, pork or beef and that's a shame because seafood is really healthy and delicious. Almost 60% of the seafood in the US comes from Alaska and is wild, natural and sustainable.

Chef Fernando Corsi used local Alaskan fish and shrimp rather than what he would find in Brazil and emphasized how flexible this recipe is. Not only is it a satisfying combination of flavors--tomatoes, onions, peppers and lime, cilantro, garlic and ginger, it's also because it is extremely quick and easy to make. Served with rice it's a terrific one pot meal. Could it help convince you to eat more seafood? I certainly hope so!

Note: One key ingredient in Moqueca is dende oil, but the chef showed us how to use turmeric and any plain oil instead. If you have palm oil feel free to use it.

Moqueca
Serves 4

Ingredients

5 Tablespoons coconut oil, or other vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons turmeric
2 teaspoons grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, red or white, sliced into rings 
2 bell peppers. sliced into rings 
1 small hot chile such as serrano, sliced
2 medium sized tomatoes, sliced into rounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 can coconut milk 
Sprigs of cilantro, chopped
3/4 pound shrimp, peeled
3/4 pound firm white fish such as halibut or cod, cut into bite sized pieces
Juice of one lime

Instructions 

Heat the oil in a medium heavy pot. Add the coconut oil and turmeric. Add the ginger and garlic and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes. 

Layer in the onions, tomatoes and peppers then season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes.

Season the seafood with salt and pepper and add to the pot along with the coconut milk. Cook just until the fish is cooked through. Stir in the lime juice then taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Garnish the stew with the chopped cilantro and serve over rice.

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Chef Fernando Corsi for the recipe and to Alaska Seafood for hosting me on this trip. I was not compensated monetarily to write this or any other post on Cooking with Amy.