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, Fishwatch.gov, “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 mannafishfarms.com.
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
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
4 shrimp (peeled and deveined)
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 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.