Eat Local: Sustainable East End Fish

Monkfish Cioppino | Jim Slezak photo
Monkfish Cioppino | Jim Slezak photo

by Linda Slezak

We all know how important sustainable agriculture is. It protects our farmlands from soil depletion of nutrients and reduces the need for chemical additives and pesticides. The bounty of prime agricultural land and of our surrounding waters here on Long Island is what makes the East End such a special place.

The bad news is that the seas are being over-fished ­— to such an extent that many of our favorite fish species are no longer available. Long Island fishermen are losing income and jobs.

Here’s where sustainable fishing comes in. We need government programs such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) and the National Marine Fisheries Service to monitor the health of our waters, reducing nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and preventing overfishing by monitoring fisheries and providing guidelines for sustainability.

Fish and seafood such as clams, oysters and other shellfish are an important source of Omega-3, an essential fatty acid found in fish, which helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Fish is mostly very good for you. But some fish are high in mercury (a heavy toxic metal), so beware. You can eat less big fish like swordfish and tuna to avoid mercury.

The East End has some world class shellfish — Widow’s Hole and Bluepoint oysters from Greenport and Peconic Bay scallops. These were hard-to-find species not too long ago and are now thriving again due to the diligent efforts of aquaculturists to make their habitats safe and sustainable.

According to a NOAA website,, “90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported. A significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing, and then reimported to the United States.”

If that sounds crazy to you, it’s because it is. Here we are, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Long Island Sound, the Shinnecock and Peconic Bays and yet our supermarkets are selling frozen fish imported from China. We are fortunate to have access to local fish, and with just a little forethought, we can go to our local fish markets, ask which fish are in season and buy and consume local.

Manna Fish Farms, operating off the coast of Shinnecock Bay is developing an off-shore aquaculture facility. This is a very innovative approach that will take farmed fish to a more sustainable level. The plan is to “farm” wild striped bass in deep water using native brood stocks. It promises to be the first organic certified ocean fish farm in the US. The goal, says Donna Lanzetta, CEO of Manna Fish Farms, “is to feed the average person a healthy, sustainable seafood.” For more information on this, go to

Now that you’ve done your due diligence in learning about sustainable fish, here’s your reward: a recipe featuring a local sustainable fish from Chef Jason Weiner of Almond Restaurant in Bridgehampton. I tested this recipe in my own kitchen and used a somewhat different cooking technique. Chef Weiners’ recipe calls for roasting the Monkfish in a very hot oven. I knew that all my smoke alarms would go off if I did that so I adapted it to a home kitchen by heating the casserole on the stove and searing the fish  on both sides before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. Delicious and easy!

* all fish used in this recipe are local and sustainable except for the shrimp

Monkfish Ciopinni

From the kitchen of Almond Chef Jason Weiner

Yield 4 servings

4 ea. 5 oz filets of monkish
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons sliced shallots
1/4 cup diced piquillo peppers
1 teaspoon minced jalapeno
4 basil leaves (torn)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1 oz. White wine
Bread sticks
12 mussels
4 shrimp (peeled and deveined)
8 clams
1/2 # cleaned squid (cleaned and cut into big pieces)

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
Put a large ceramic casserole in your oven until it is extremely hot.
Take it out of the oven and put it on your stovetop.
Season the fish with salt and pepper
Put the olive oil in the casserole.
Carefully add the monk and quickly put the casserole back in the oven.
After five minutes take the casserole out of the oven, turn the fish over.
Now add all the ingredients except for the parsley, basil, and breadsticks.
Quickly return the casserole to the oven for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the shellfish open up.
Take the casserole out of the oven, toss in the parsley and basil.
Garnish with the breadsticks
Put the whole casserole on a trivet and serve family style.

Linda Slezak
Linda Slezak

Linda Slezak is a long time member of Slow Food East End. She has a certificate from SCC School of Culinary Arts and has taught cooking classes for adults.As a Chefs to Schools instructor, she teaches cooking to children in our local schools.

East End Beacon

The East End Beacon is your guide to social and environmental issues, arts & culture on the East End of Long Island.

2 thoughts on “Eat Local: Sustainable East End Fish

  • June 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm

    Can’t wait to try this. On my way to the fish store.
    Thanks for posting!

  • June 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    The name Monkfish comes from euerpean fisher people. It is technicly an Angler Fish. Lying in wait for it’s prey, sometimes in very deep water. I remember it became popuular in the 1980’s when fishing picked up in the Hudson Canyon’s deep waters.
    A white flesh cooks upvery firm, hence the name, poor mans lobster.
    Lophius americanus
    American Monkfi
    “Bellows-fish” redirects here. For the fish with a long second spine on its dorsal fin, see Bellowsfish.
    “Headfish” redirects here. It is not to be confused with Fish head.
    “Satchel-mouth” redirects here. For other uses, see Satchel-mouth (disambiguation).
    Lophius americanus
    Temporal range: Pliocene-Recent, 5.3–0 Ma
    Lophius americanus.jpg
    American angler
    Scientific classification
    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Actinopterygii
    Order: Lophiiformes
    Family: Lophiidae
    Genus: Lophius
    Species: L. americanus
    Binomial name
    Lophius americanus
    Valenciennes, 1837 [1]
    Lophius americanus is a goosefish in the family Lophiidae, also called all-mouth, American anglerfish, bellows-fish, devil-fish, headfish, molligut, satchel-mouth, or wide-gape. It is native to the eastern coast of North America.

    Contents [hide]
    1 Description
    2 Distribution and habitat
    3 Behaviour
    3.1 Feeding
    3.2 Breeding and lifecycle
    4 Food use
    5 Sustainable consumption
    6 Notes
    7 References
    The American anglerfish is unique in its appearance and has no relatives with which it can be confused in the areas where it is caught. A fish of lesser importance than other food fish in the region, such as cod, its various names suggest its unusual appearance – a very large mouth, more than twice the width of the tail, with several spines and strong teeth, enabling it to snare prey larger than itself. The body is flattened dorsoventrally to allow it to hide on the sea floor. The front of the head carries erectile spines, the primary of which has a flattened end to resemble a small organism or piece of algae. The pectoral fins are like wide fans behind the head, and the pelvic fins are like small hands below the head.

    The American anglerfish can grow to a length of 140 cm (55 in), but 100 cm (39 in) is a more usual size. The greatest recorded weight is 22.6 kg (50 lb) and the greatest recorded age is 30 years.[2]

    Distribution and habitat[edit]
    The American anglerfish is found in the western Atlantic from Newfoundland and Quebec south to northern Florida, but is commoner in the more northerly parts of its range, north of Cape Hatteras. It is a demersal fish living close to the seabed at depths down to about 2,000 feet (610 m).[2] It is found on sand bottoms, gravel, shell fragments, mud and clay.[3]



    Various sizes of Lophius americanus
    The American anglerfish is an ambush predator. It spends most of its time on the seabed partly covered in sediment waiting for suitable prey to pass. It can swim slowly or “walk” with the help of its pectoral fins. Its diet normally consists of fin and ray fish, squids, cuttlefish and occasionally carrion.[3] After storms it has been reported on the sea surface where it has been recorded as catching seabirds.[4]

    Breeding and lifecycle[edit]
    Spawning takes place in the summer with a peak in May and June. The eggs are large and are believed to be unique among fish in being attached to a floating mucus veil. The number of eggs in a veil can range from 1 to 3 million and the veil drifts on the surface of the sea. The eggs hatch after 6 to 100 days, depending on the sea temperature, and remain protected within the veil for a few days, absorbing nutrients from their yolk sacs. They then become pelagic and join other fish larvae in the “ichthyoplankton community”. The larvae feed on zooplankton and look quite different from the adult fish, being laterally compressed and having long dorsal and pectoral fin rays. When about 7 centimetres (2.8 in) long they become juveniles, changing their appearance over a period of several weeks into the adult shape and starting to live on the seabed. They grow fast in their first year and more slowly thereafter.[3]

    Food use[edit]
    The flesh of the anglerfish is located primarily in the body, less so in the “shoulders” and cheeks. The flesh is very white and moist, becoming quite firm when cooked. It is served both in soups and grilled, and is similar in texture to the flesh of crustaceans. Fillets are thick and boneless resembling crab or lobster tail. Connoisseurs believe the liver is also excellent. The fish is covered with a soft, scaleless, elastic skin, under which another thin edible membrane covers the flesh. Though much less so than in cod, one can sometimes find parasitic worms in the flesh of anglerfish, whose opacity can make them easier to find. Worms are usually found between the skin and outer portion of the flesh ranging in size from a few millimeters to over one inch.

    Sustainable consumption[edit]
    In 2010, Greenpeace International added Lophius americanus or the American anglerfish to its seafood red list. “The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.”[5]


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