Author Archives: Ibti

About Ibti

Just your friendly neighborhood food educator.... (http://abikeablefeast.blogspot.com)

Sustainable Fish 101

This past Friday, over a delicious snifter of local brown ale, I joined a dozen other DC-area foodies for a crash course on how to become a more informed, ethical seafood consumer. First, Hellbender‘s operations manager, Bill Mitchell, welcomed the group to the Snail of Approval winning Fort Totten area brewery and spoke about the brewery’s sustainability efforts and partnerships (including hosting educational talks like the one that was about to begin). Then, SFDC board member and local seafood expert, Lauren Parnell launched into a fascinating introduction to the world of sustainable fish….

To be honest, things started out pretty bleak. If you think choosing ethically raised chicken eggs is confusing — should you seek out organic? cage-free? free-range? pastured?? — it pales in comparison to how complicated it is to truly know that you are choosing fish and shellfish that have been responsibly harvested. Even a basic question like “should I choose wild or farmed seafood” has various qualifying criteria that encompass social, environmental, and economic factors. I had read that wild Atlantic salmon was good… but it turns out there is no such thing as wild Atlantic salmon available in the U.S. I thought farmed shrimp were bad… but it depends on where and how they are farmed. Should I just stop eating seafood altogether?? I began to contemplate ordering another beer….

 

As we nibbled on smoked salmon and a tasty salmon spread supplied by Snail of Approval-winning Cold Country Salmon, Lauren talked us through the basics. Though wild-caught species seem like a clear choice, some are overfished or caught using methods that harm other species and destroy the delicate aquatic environment. Farmed seafood is not necessarily bad, and especially species farmed in American waters are a good choice, as the U.S. has some of the best fishing regulations in the world. But the best thing you can do to make sure you are eating the most sustainable seafood choice possible is to educate yourself: ask questions!

Before we headed over to sample delicious raw oysters from local purveyor Sapidus Farms, Lauren gave us some specific tips for choosing well-raised fish:

  1. Know your fish varieties and your fisherman — we do this with meat, don’t we?
  2. Ask questions of local retailers and restaurants — if they don’t have a good answer, don’t buy it. And the more often consumers ask for sustainably raised seafood, the more suppliers will seek it out!
  3. Eat locally as much as possible — support your local fishing economy. In this global economy, and considering comparatively strong regulations in our country, when in doubt, choose American.
  4. Eat a variety of species — not just salmon, tuna, and cod. There are so many tasty fish and shellfish out there!
  5. Eat lower on the food chain — you can never go wrong eating some of the abundance of our Chesapeake Bay oysters, clams, and mussels.
  6. Value quality over quantity — a 4 oz. portion is plenty of protein for a serving of fish. You can feed five people high-quality, wild-caught Pacific salmon for $20/pound, for instance. Consider that “cheap” fish also likely involves a company that disregards the health of the ocean and probably doesn’t pay/treat its workers well.
  7. Frozen seafood is okay — many fishing boats have high-tech flash freezers that will keep fish as fresh as (or fresher than) fish that’s been shipped fresh to the retailer.
  8. Use a guide — I have for a long time liked the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s guide, though note that it only lists the most commonly consumed species.
  9. Look for eco-labels — an imperfect barometer, kind of like buying vegetables that are “certified organic,” but it’s something you can go by when the fisherman or processor isn’t around to ask questions to directly. Lauren recommended the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label as consistently reliable.

She did say there was a low probability that oysters would be overeaten, right? Oh, goodie, those VA oysters from Sapidus looked delicious….

Seasonal Recipe: Classic Gazpacho

This recipe comes from Jose Andres’ fabulous cookbook, Vegetables Unleashed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crustless bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 3 pounds fresh tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup oloroso sherry
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Put all ingredients except olive oil into a blender or food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil, blending until emulsified. Pour the gazpacho into a bowl and refrigerate until well chilled. Taste, add salt and pepper as needed, pour into bowls or cups, garnish as you like, and serve.

 

RECIPE: Baltimore Fish Stew

This recipe is courtesy of SFDC board member and local food historian, Mark Haskell. It is more of a guideline than a precise recipe… which if you know Mark, is very typical of his free-form (and delicious) style. This is the version of the recipe he shared at the March 30, 2019 fish chili event at Common Good City Farm.

First, a bit of context: There are few examples of typical Baltimore Fish Stew recipes according to most culinary historians, but numerous anecdotal stories, and mentions can be found in
Chesapeake history. Fish Stew often used the chili that we now called the Fish Chili
because it was so ubiquitous an ingredient in the stew – thus the name. Baltimore specifically and the Chesapeake region in general used to be a major region for processing fish and shellfish, and before refrigeration was widespread, a lot of the catch was salted and pickled
to preserve the fish for storage  and shipping. Various forms of stew also used whatever
local, seasonal ingredients were available – i.e. in the summer more fresh tomatoes,
okra, fresh peppers, etc. — and in the winter more preserved ingredients like preserved
tomatoes, chiles, dried beans, rice, etc.

Baltimore Fish Stew with Chesapeake Fish Chiles, Our Recipe

Ingredients

  • Salted white fish (such as haddock or cod), soaked to at least 24 hours, changing water a few times to rid excess salt
  • Dry beans, soaked and cooked according to variety
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Dried fish chilies, or sauce
  • Crushed garlic
  • Dried herbs to taste
  • Diced onions, celery, carrots, turnips, potatoes, or other vegetables of your choice, and/or cooked rice/barley/legumes if you like
  • Vinegar, and/or beer, wine or brandy
  • Fish or shellfish stock
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, sorghum/honey/sugar – helps balance out chili and flavors
  • Oil, butter, or rendered fat to sauté veggies, and to enrich final stock

Directions

  1. Cook beans til tender with some oil/fat and seasonings (not salt). Cool and then salt to taste.
  2. Poach soaked fish with some garlic, onions and herbs, just til tender and able to flake, then remove any remaining bones and skin. Cool, then set aside.
  3. In a big pot sauté veg until tender (not garlic, will burn), start with onion and potatoes.
  4. Add Vinegar and/or other liquids to deglaze (clean and cover pan), cook for a minute or two to take edge off vinegar and cook off alcohol.
  5. Then add stock, tomato, garlic, chili, and herbs – let it all simmer, allowing time for flavors to “marry”. taste from time to time, see what it needs more of – to your taste.
  6. Add cooked fish and beans and let simmer together – then start seasoning (careful with the
    salt – balance with a sweet), then add more of what you want.

* Note: add more stock moisten or stretch, If too liquid crush some of the beans and
potatoes – or add some tomato paste.

Exploring the Fish Pepper’s Deep and Delicious Roots

On March 30, more than 50 food and garden lovers reveled in the first signs of spring and lounged on picnic benches decorated with cherry blossom bouquets at Common Good City Farm, while SFDC Board member and local food historian Mark Haskell and Soilful City‘s founder Xavier Brown expounded on the incredible local history of fish chilies.

Attendees learned about the Caribbean heritage of these Slow Food Ark of Taste peppers, their connection to enslaved people of the Chesapeake, and why they are called fish chilies in the first place. Xavier also introduced his business and let us try his DC-grown and produced Pippin hot sauce using fish chiles — a varietal that honors Philadelphia-area artist, historian and health advocate Horace Pippin. We learned how Xavier’s program works with community members all around the DC area to produce these delectable hot peppers, which are made into a variety of small-batch hot sauces.

After the official talk, we all dove into a feast, including big pots of traditional Baltimore fish stew, featuring, of course, a healthy dose of fish chilies. (I think we all went back for seconds…because slow foodies know that the best way to preserve culturally significant foods is to grow and eat them!) What a beautiful, educational, and delicious afternoon.

Now that spring has sprung, be on the lookout for other outdoor events coming soon. Sign yourself up for our free monthly newsletter and/or follow SFDC on social media to learn the latest!

Feb 25: Celebrate with the newest Snail of Approval winners

Join Slow Food DC on Monday, February 25 to honor and celebrate our 2018 Snail of Approval winners! Thanks to your nominations, we’re recognizing 14 additional restaurants, producers, farmers, and distillers for their commitment to support good, clean, and fair food in our region.

Come out to enjoy delicious and seasonally-inspired food and drink provided by 2016 Snail winner Urbana Dining & Drinks, while you mix and mingle with others dedicated to shaping our food community. There will also be a silent auction featuring food-related items, and other surprises from our local food purveyors.

Tickets are available here, with early bird pricing through February 10.

Congratulations to this year’s Snail of Approval winners:

Aperto
Caboose Brewing Company
Centrolina
Chaia Tacos
Clagett Farm
Cold Country Salmon
Don Ciccio & Figli
Eat & Smile Catering
Kyirisan
One Eight Distilling
Owl’s Nest Farm
Republic Restoratives
Sally’s Middle Name
The Salt Line

For more information on the Snail of Approval program, and to see a complete list of winners, check out: http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-of-approval/.

Update on the 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill passed was signed into law on December 20, 2018 – nearly three months after the last farm bill had expired. The farm bill, despite the name, actually covers nearly all things farm and food related, and affects each of us in some pretty big ways. One thing residents of the DMV might be excited to know is that the new bill creates an “Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative” competitive grants program with $10 million in funding. The bill also instructs USDA to create a new “Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production” — a 10-pilot Urban and Suburban County Committee — as well as a community compost and reducing food waste pilot.

The farm bill affects how Americans farm and who has access to resources, nutrition and anti-hunger programs, farmers markets and local food systems, and so much more! Right now, however, we’re in limbo until the partial government shutdown ends. Once the government is back in business, USDA will start the rule-making and implementation phases – we know that sounds boring, but it’s actually very important! This part of the process is where stakeholders like you get additional chances to weigh in and shape things by submitting formal comments and recommendations. For new programs (like the aforementioned urban agriculture initiatives), this kind of engagement can be particularly important!

For the latest Farm Bill analysis, news, and engagement opportunities, we recommend these great resources: 

 

Seasonal Recipe: Winter Fruit Torte

This recipe, from the Bread and Beauty cookbook, celebrates the simple and subtle flavors of winter fruit. All 120 recipes in the book are arranged by season, reflecting the way local food is available and when it is most delicious. Each chapter includes profiles of the farmers, producers, and people who make the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve an active and meaningful place, along with essays on the Reserve’s issues and history.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 3 TBSP white sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup sweet white wine

Cake

 

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 11 TBSP unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 TBSP sweet wine

Preheat oven to 325˚F.

Butter and flour a 9-inch springform cake pan. Wrap it in foil or set it on a jelly roll pan to catch any leaks. Set aside.

To make the filling, toss the fruit slices with the sugar, cream, and wine. Set aside.

To make the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fully blended. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl to make sure they are completely incorporated. Fold in half of the flour mixture, then blend in the wine, and then the remaining flour to make a smooth batter.

Spoon half the batter into the prepared pan and spread the fruit mixture and some of its liquid on top. Spoon the remaining batter as evenly as possible on top (it will smooth and expand as the cake bakes) and trickle on the remaining cream.

Bake for one and a half hours, until the cake is risen, browned, and a cake tester comes out clean. Run a knife between the cake and the pan to loosen the cake. Let it cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes and then unmold.

You Need a Farmer Three Times a Day

“A guy was just trying to buy some organ meats. I figured he must be part of your Slow Food group,” smiled farmer Greg as he welcomed us to Rocklands Farm this past Saturday.

Around 10:30am — yes, on a Saturday morning! — 20 or so fans of local food gathered to begin a walking tour and introduction to the regenerative farming practices of the Poolesville area family farm. In a fun and engaging way, Greg gave us the rundown on his farm’s philosophy and practices. He explained that cultivating an appreciation for nature and a sense of wonder, and later a reverence for good food (even if it’s only one out of every 5 or 10 meals in our busy lives), will lead the next generation to become the environmental stewards we need to keep our planet healthy.

As Greg spoke of his early experiences in Kenya connecting farming and community, he explained the philosophy of what they are attempting to do at Rocklands. Immersive regenerative agriculture is a step beyond sustainable farming: it creates more for the next generation, not just maintaining the assets of the land but leaving the land better. The Rocklands team utilizes the concept of bio mimicry — the way that plants and animals naturally interact and thrive — to graze cattle, sheep, and chickens using minimal infrastructure and capitalizing on animals’ instincts to roam, scratch, eat a variety of grasses or bugs, and stay in groups. The resulting land is lush and fertile, and just a single acre of the 70-acre farm can absorb a LOT of rainwater — 20,000 gallons, in fact, after a solid 1-inch of rainfall. We need more of these kinds of farms (and farmers) in this age of climate change, declining green spaces, and increasingly heavy storms!

After the walking tour, we were invited indoors to a feast of a lunch, sourced from Rocklands and nearby farms and inventively prepared by Chef Michael of Pizza Brama, accompanied by Rocklands’ own wines. While he apparently makes a killer pizza, our tastebuds were first wowed by Chef Michael’s seasonal appetizers including shaved radish, fennel, and kohlrabi salad with a honey tarragon vinaigrette; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots with sage and garlic; and a mushroom medley featuring lion’s mane, oyster, and maitakes tossed with parsley, arugula, and a sherry-lemon vinaigrette. The gustatory delights continued with a kale-arugula lasagne and a Rocklands lamb lasagne. As we nibbled, Michael waxed poetic about his love for quality ingredients and the relationships he’s built with local producers. “You need a doctor once a year, but you need a farmer three times a day. Think about that.” We did. And then had a second helping.

Some of us managed to save room for the apple spice layer cake, loaded with sauteed apples, mascarpone whipped cream, and cranberry preserves. As we poured a bit more wine and lamented that we hadn’t saved quite enough room in our bellies to eat an entire slice of the decadent dessert, we were treated to a discussion with Claudia and Ellen, who had put together a beautiful book based around their experiences at the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve. More than just a cookbook, Bread & Beauty traces some of the Reserve’s history, but also the contemporary challenges faced by family farms trying to establish a new generation, new farmers seeking land and markets, and the shared community efforts required to preserve this special place. Many of us left with signed copies of the book… and a plate of layer cake for the road. A delightful end to a wonderful event.

Many thanks to the team that put together this beautiful, informative, and delicious event! For more upcoming Rocklands events, check out their calendar here.

Seasonal Recipe: Pumpkin Curry

FoodPrints, the educational program of Snail of Approval recipient FRESHFARM, gets DC public elementary school students excited about growing, preparing, and enjoying fresh, local, healthy foods. What better recipe to celebrate all three – fresh, local, and healthy – than a pumpkin curry? We’re smack dab in the middle of winter squash season, which generally runs from October to December. Pumpkins are nutrient-packed, providing a healthy dose of Vitamins A and C and potassium, not to mention dietary fiber. And they are unquestionably delicious and versatile, as the star ingredient in recipes ranging from pie to this hearty, savory curry. This recipe appears in our November 2018 newsletter.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive or coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
  • 2 curry leaves if available (or use 1 tsp curry powder)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 oz. creamed coconut (this is not the same thing as coconut milk!)
  • 1/2 cup hot water

Directions

Peel and remove the seeds from the pumpkin or butternut squash. Cut into 2 inch cubes.

In a heavy bottomed frying pan, over a low heat toast the coconut until lightly browned. Put the garlic, onion, and toasted coconut into a blender and grind into a smooth paste.

In a pan heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and cook covered on a low heat until the seeds sputter. Add the curry leaves, spices, and salt.

Add the coconut paste and the pumpkin to the pan. Lastly add the creamed coconut and the water, bring to a rapid boil.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve with rice.

Seasonal Recipe: Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Dijon Mustard Ice Cream

Those who were able to join our summer happy hour in August at Snail winner Garrison Restaurant will remember this delightful and refreshing gazpacho. While the gazpacho showcases the ripe sweetness of the tomatoes, the savory mustard ice cream provides a pleasant and creamy balance. Chef Rob Weland has graciously agreed to share his recipe and he notes that in our region, heirloom tomatoes can be enjoyed throughout September and beyond. This recipe appears in SFDC’s October 2018 newsletter.

To Make the Gazpacho
Serves 12 (can be halved)

  • 6 cups fresh plum tomato
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red onion
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped red peppers
  • 4 cups English cucumbers (cut into one inch chunks)
  • 3 cups mixed heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Tobasco
  • 3 T Banyuls vinegar
  • 2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil (organic if you have it)
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 3 sprigs Thyme (leaves only)
  • Salt to taste

Combine tomatoes, onion, peppers, cucumbers, garlic, herbs, tobacco, and salt in a large pot or other container that can comfortably hold all the ingredients.

Blend ingredients with large immersion blender until well liquefied. While blending, slowly add in olive oil until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Transfer mixture to a blender in small batches and puree on high for 1 full minute.

Add vinegar and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you want your soup to be extra smooth, pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any sediment, before adding the vinegar and lemon juice.

Refrigerate in airtight plastic container until ready to use.

To Make the Dijon Mustard Ice Cream

  • 6 cups half & half
  • 1 jar (7oz.) strong mustard (such as Dijon or mutarde forte)
  • 18 egg yolks
  • Salt & pepper

Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl to cool your custard quickly when it comes off the stove. Set an empty bowl inside or on top of the ice water bath. This will be used to cool the custard when it comes off the stove.

Mix cream and mustard in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover and let infuse 10 minutes.

Place yolks in a third bowl and whisk until slightly thickened. Drizzle in half of warm cream from the saucepan and whisk. Return mixture to saucepan.

Place saucepan over medium heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until mixture thickens and covers the back of the spoon. Remove from heat immediately and strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into your empty bowl placed over the prepared ice bath; stir custard until cold.

Cover custard and refrigerate overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker for 10-15 minutes, or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

To Serve

Place one scoop of ice cream into a bowl, and cover with gazpacho. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.