No lost catch here: Enjoy great seafood without guilt
Thursday, June 25, 2009

In one of my food fantasies, I'm living on the sparkling blue waters of Indian Arm fjord, off Burrard Inlet, near Vancouver, British Columbia, in the village of Deep Cove. In the postcard-perfect cove, the halibut boat is tied up at the pier. I paddle my kayak over and buy a few icy fresh halibut steaks to grill ...

I have no worries about whether the fish is line- vs. net-caught, or how much mercury it contains or whether the transaction and my dinner are "sustainable." But that's how it is with food fantasies.

The food reality is, we need to face the issues that come with what's on our plates.

"A Good Catch" is a nice new cookbook that can help you eat well in more than one sense. Subtitled "Sustainable Seafood Recipes from Canada's Top Chefs," the slim paperback shows delicious possibilities even if you do worry about what fish you should not eat.

Vancouver food writer Jill Lambert asked chefs in the Northwest and across Canada for recipes using Sustainable Seafoods Canada's "Best Choice" seafoods -- those that aren't endangered and whose harvesting doesn't endanger the environment.

One of the groups that set those changeable guidelines is the David Suzuki Foundation, a Canadian environmental group whose esteemed founder notes in the foreword, "The problems are many, but we as individuals can help. We can make wise choices about what seafood we eat, and we can translate that care into action."

As Ms. Lambert later elaborates, you can ask -- at the fish market, supermarket and restaurant -- what is this species and how was it caught and where? You can switch from species with issues to "good" options that are in the book -- from Chilean sea bass to halibut, from farmed to wild salmon, from orange roughy to tilapia.

These aren't always easy waters to navigate. While farmed shrimp wreak environmental havoc, farmed oysters, clams and mussels are fine. (The New York Times' Mark Bittman recently opined that he doesn't eat, or promote eating, fish as much as he once did. "The cooking remains unchanged, but the buying has become a logistical and ethical nightmare.")

"We need to broaden our culinary horizons," Ms. Lambert says over the phone. "We need to start looking at a broader range of fish" -- eschewing the big carnivorous fish, such as bluefin tuna, for those lower on the food chain, such as sardines. (The Washington Post recently reported on the West Coast movement to bring back the sardine, by folks who've dubbed themselves Sardinistas.)

A fish lover (and granddaughter of a man who ran a West Coast fish-packing company), Ms. Lambert provides nuggets of practical advice, from how to choose and store seafood to how to cook it. A section in back outlines the Suzuki Foundation's 10 principles for sustainable fisheries, describes various fishing methods, and gives more in-depth (hah) descriptions of various species and related issues.

"We need government action to really make this work. We need better labeling," she says. Meanwhile, she advises, "Do the best that you can. You can't get too bent out of shape about it."

Ms. Lambert, whose Web site is, suggests that consumers stay up-to-date with three other sites:


• and

• (search for the "Seafood Watch" program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is offering its wallet-card guidelines as an iPhone app.)

The meat of this book is the 70-plus recipes. While some are quite chef-y (Pan Roasted Arctic Char with Lobster Mashed Potatoes and Pinot Noir Sauce), I've tested a few nicely simple ones, on this page, that I will make again.

Alas, this cookbook probably would be more useful to me if I did live on or near a coast. But seafood being a global commodity, I can buy fish from anywhere, if I can navigate the straits.

Perhaps my fantasy-from-afar can be an inspiration, as I would like halibut and Deep Cove and all that come with that to be there, even if I'm not.

Grilled Pacific Halibut with Charred Jalapeno-Honey Vinaigrette

PG tested

This recipe comes from Tom Douglas at Etta's in Seattle. "A Good Catch" notes that halibut caught on a long line (with baited hooks) has "some concerns" while you should avoid halibut caught by trawl net. I prefer halibut steaks to fillets, but this sauce would be delicious on either, or on other meaty fish. Or even vegetables. You could grill on gas; I used a grill pan indoors.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • For the Jalapeno-Honey Vinaigrette
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 red jalapeno pepper
  • For the grilled halibut
  • 4 6-ounce skinless Pacific halibut fillets
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

In a bowl, combine shallots, cider vinegar, and kosher salt and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

Whisk in honey, cilantro, Dijon mustard, garlic and the 1/4 cup olive oil. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a small saucepan on high heat. When the oil is hot, add jalapeno and cook, turning often, until charred and blistered on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Using a sharp knife, peel off the charred skin and cut off the core end. Cut jalapeno in half, then scrape out and discard the seeds. Finely chop jalapeno and add to the vinaigrette, whisking gently to combine.

For the halibut, preheat a charcoal barbecue to medium-high. Lightly brush halibut on both sides with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Fold a clean cloth, lightly dip it in olive oil and lightly brush the hot grilling rack, using tongs or oven mitts, if necessary. Place halibut directly on the oiled rack and grill 3 to 4 minutes. Turn halibut over and grill for another 3 to 4 minutes until just cooked through.

To serve, place one piece of halibut on each plate. Whisk the vinaigrette, then spoon over each serving.

Serves 4.

-- "A Good Catch: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from Canada's Top Chefs" by Jill Lambert (Greystone, $24.95)

Salmon and Edamame Salad with Wasabi Mayonnaise

PG tested

This recipe is from Karen Barnaby of The Fish House in Stanley Park, Vancouver. A "Good Catch" notes that wild Pacific salmon has "some concerns" while you should avoid farmed Pacific salmon.

I love canned salmon, which you can increasingly find in smaller cans, like the ones we're accustomed to buying tuna in. It's cheap and easy and good for you and you don't have to worry about how fresh it is. This salad is a great use for canned salmon for a summer supper.

-- Bob Batz Jr.

  • 7-ounce can pink salmon, well drained (and bones discarded, if you prefer)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame (fresh soy beans), cooked and chilled
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons wasabi paste
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted, for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon julienned fresh ginger, for garnish

In a bowl, mix together salmon, edamame, celery, and green onions.

In another bowl, combine mayonnaise and wasabi paste to taste. Gently fold into the salmon mixture. Turn into a serving bowl, then cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld, about 30 minutes.

To serve, divide the salad among 4 plates, then garnish with sesame seeds and ginger.

Serves 4.

-- "A Good Catch: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from Canada's Top Chefs" by Jill Lambert (Greystone, $24.95)

Bob Batz Jr. can be reached at and 412-263-1930.
First published on June 25, 2009 at 12:00 am