Archive for the ‘sustainable fisheries’ Category

Basa Fillet in Wine Sauce: A French Recipe with a Peruvian Twist

October 6, 2010

 

A while ago (I’d rather exclude definite time references to avoid feeling old-er) I met with delight a simple yet delicious seafood dish. My friend in her  Coquitlam home made this salmon fillet in Pinot Noir sauce. I loved it so much that she made it a couple times more for me. Then one day I figured I would try a similar recipe changing ingredients, which is the best way to create new recipes and have a lot of fun. So I replaced the salmon for white fish, in this case, Basa, although I have used rockfish (aka snapper) and halibut also. It works out great with all of the above. I am not fond of precise recipes, just because that is the way I cook and also, I believe that every person has a different appreciation for each ingredient, so bare with me. I would suggest try to interpret the recipe in the way you would like the final product to taste like. Here it goes.

Grab a couple 200 gram Basa fillets. For those who don’t like grams or measurement units, grab a couple fillets, each enough to satisfy one person. That would be the average person. Which means nothing really, because the “average” is a figment of one’s imagination. Pretend the average person to be you then and grab those fillets.

The Salmon Pinot Noir recipe included shallots. In this case, just for fun I used red onions. I highly recommend Peruvian red onions from Arequipa province, with no doubt, the best ever. Since they are hard to find, I used Washington State red onions of medium size. They are phenomenally good. Chop one onion fairly fine. Put a dash of vegetable oil in bowl shaped frying pan, wok or similar. On low heat melt a couple spoonfuls of salted butter. Sautee the onions for 2 minutes. Here comes the tricky part. You need to find this product called AJI PANCA. Aji (a-hee) is the word for hot pepper or chili in Peru and in most of the South American Andes. This Panca one is a truly delicious condiment, a little bit like Chipotle but less pungent and not smoky at all. It doesn’t have that bit of bacon like aroma that the Chipotle does. You can buy this Panca pepper paste in Latino shops, there are a few in Metro Vancouver. If you google them up you will find them easy. Slather the fillets with this paste, you can use quite a bit of it. Do not be afraid, this aji is at most mildly spicy but oh, so flavorful. Place said fillets on frying pan or wok and add a quarter of a glass of white wine. This can be dry or off dry. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 6 minutes. I sometimes throw a few capers for that briny, zingy acidity that always seems to enhance fish and seafood flavors. Probe the fillets with a fork; they should flake nicely although Basa will not flake like salmon. It is firmer. You will have to learn this by experience. Serve on fresly cooked basmati rice. I have enjoyed this fish with Alsatian Gewurztraminer or a Torrontes with personality, like the Andeluna.

If you make this you will love it. Let me know what you think. Aji Panca paste is usually sold in little jars like the one shown above. It sells in Vancouver for about 5 dollars. You can also buy it in plastic sachets for a little less.

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Seafood + Wine = Perfect Pairing

July 25, 2010

Summer has arrived in Vancouver. Although the sun has not shown up as much as we would love it to, temperature is creeping up and with it comes the need for lighter, fresher meals to keep the heat at bay. And when it comes to light, cold dishes, nothing like seafood! Lucky for us, we live right on one of the cleanest maritime areas of the world and the quality and diversity of our fruits de mer is second to none. Seafood is still a bit of terra incognita for a large proportion of consumers and when it comes to choosing the best wines to pair with a fish or shellfish dish, the subject can be outright obscure. “White wine with seafood, red wine with meat” goes the old saying, and for the most part it is a solid guideline. Having been raised sea side in Lima, and having worked for my family’s ceviche restaurant, my diet relies heavily on seafood. After moving to Canada, and being a wine apasionado, I have had no alternative but to test and try wines and local seafood in my adoptive homeland, findings that I now share with Everything Wine blog readers.

First of all, and before the season is over, get your hands on some spot prawns, sustainably harvested off the coast of British Columbia. Garlic butter is one of the most popular sauces to accompany this beautifully tender, naturally sweet tasting crustacean. A classic match is a lush, full flavored Pinot Gris, like New Zealand’s Sileni (15.99), Argentina’s Lurton (13.99) or Hungary’s Dunavar, which, at 9.99 offers tremendous value. More adventurous seafood lovers may like to add some wasabi and soy sauce to their garlic butter, which results in a delicious mélange. The cooking temperature takes away some of the wasabi’s aggressive heat but keeps its flavors. In this case a wine with more weight on the palate is in order. Kettle Valley’s Pinot Gris (24.99) is a good call. Even better, try Alsace’s Hartenberger (23.99) or Pierre Sparr Reserve, which at 29.99 has a massive presence on the palate and abundant, flavor-packed fruit that stands up to the spot prawn challenge.
 

Oysters deserve a post of their own. The mind boggling diversity and their aptitude to reflect the “sea-rroir” make the bivalves analogous to wine. East and West coasters taste different, and within the West Coast, they will have different taste and texture depending on whether they come from farms in Washington, Oregon or British Columbia. Keep in mind that in the case of oysters, farmed is better than wild for a number of reasons that would take too long to discuss here. Suffice to say that environmentally farmed oysters take the pressure off natural stocks, besides the fact that they are fed only clean ocean water and nothing else, no vitamins, hormones, antibiotics or dyes. Although Chablis (the real thing, from France, not the spurious sweet plonk made in California) is the classic match, we will look here at the best pairing for West Coast slimes: Sauvignon Blanc. Effingham oysters have a distinct savory taste, which calls for a wine that reflects that character. Wither Hills Rarangi, from Marlborough (26.99) comes immediately to mind. For the budget minded, Southern France’s Tariquet (15.99) will rise up to the job. Kumamotos and Kusshis have a sweeter, fruitier profile. Riper fruit is what you should look for in your Sauv Blanc. Napa Valley’s St Supery (37.99) is an excellent choice. A bit pricey, point taken, but then you are slurping the aristocracy of mollusks. Not convinced? Go for Argentina’s Mapema (20.99) or Paula (16.99). If you are rooting for Chile and not Argentina in the World Cup and don’t want to buy a Tango wine, then grab Casas del Bosque (17.99), a delicious Sauvignon of high fruit profile and persistent acidity.

Dungeness crab is another critter that British Columbians love to have on their table. The white, firm meat is packed in both legs and body. It is so tasty that for the most part all you need to do is cook it in boiling water (crustaceans have well developed nervous systems so please put them to “sleep” in the freezer for 20 or 25 minutes before you scald them). Dungeness, like King Crab, has a distinct touch of sweetness sparkling over the rich flavor and texture. Find a wine of analogous fat character, like a good Chardonnay. Los Alamos (14.99), Liberty School (23.99) or Oyster Bay (19.99) will do the job. For those who don’t mind a touch of sweetness in their wine, the Madrone (which is blended with 8% Muscat) should be the perfect match at 18.99.

Before closing this note, how can you write about West Coast seafood without mentioning the king of our waters, the mighty salmon? Here is when you can bend the white-for-fish-red-for-meat rule. Barbequed or poached salmon will be enriched by a fleshy Chardonnay but it has enough flavor to stand up to lighter reds. First in line, C’est la Vie, an idiosyncratic Southern French blend of Pinot Noir and Syrah is a great candidate at 16.99. A soft Pinot Noir, like the Tabali Reserva (29.99) or the Coldstream Hills (33.99) are also great picks. For the budget minded, the J.P. Chenet Limited Release (1.99) or the Morande Pionero (15.99) are the ones to look for. Look for troll caught salmon, as it is the tastiest and the fishing method is environmentally responsible.

 Grenache (aka Garnacha) is another red that enhances strong flavored fish. Seared Albacore tuna, which is harvested sustainably in British Columbia (barbless hooks minimize bycatch of other species) pairs wonderfully with a light Grenache like Vive La Revolution or Spain’s No Time Garnacha (both at 15.99). Not into light reds? No worries. You would still have a good pairing with something like the Wallace Shiraz Grenache (29.99).

Seafood and wine pairings are a bit tricky but when you find the right match, they are so terroir oriented that the synergy is rarely found in other pairings. And when you go seafood shopping, don’t forget to look for sustainable harvested fish and shellfish. That is the only way to keep the bounty of our oceans healthy and available for us and for future generations.

Say NO to Farmed Salmon

May 7, 2010

Sea lice infestations are one of the consequences of salmon farms in BC

We all love seafood, fish, shellfish and so on. The problem is, our love for seafood is destroying entire marine and riverine ecosystems. We are not talking small change here. Trawlers have destroyed ocean floors on areas of inimaginable size in every continent. Pirate fishing fleets scour the oceans, international waters and destroy not only the fish species they target, but on their haste to make a quick fortune they kill innumerable seabirds, turtles and all kinds of creatures captured as bycatch. On the other front, fish farming, which could be an alternative to natural stocks, can also be a curse. Salmon farming for instance, has very negative consequences on both, the ecosystems in places like British Columbia and Chile AND on the fisheries of poor nations. This is because in order to feed the penned salmon, astronomical amounts of school fish must be caught elsewhere. Usually elsewhere is poorer nations that need to sell whatever resource they have in order to keep their heads above the water. All the anchovy, sardine and other small fish that are used to make fishmeal to feed salmon (chicken and turkeys too, for that matter) is caught in the seas of countries like Peru. Farmed salmon consumption is objectionable from every point of view. It doesnt provide “much needed jobs” in remote areas; in fact, it provides only a few jobs. We contribute massive amounts of tax dollars; our governments should see that those dollars create sustainable jobs in those remote areas instead of sending soldiers to kill Afghans in some war in which Canada has nothing to do. That costs billions. Just to mention one misuse of our tax dollars. Back to the subject of interest. Salmon farming only benefits a few huge companies at the cost of destroying bays and possibly being one of the main causes for the collapse of the wild salmon stocks. We are taking fish away from the table of a poor Peruvian or African kid to feed expensive salmon that not everyone can afford in Canada. Or in the USA. Or anywhere. Farmed salmon should be out of your shopping list. So should Chilean Sea Bass. Monkfish. Skate. And a hundred more. The world’s fisheries are in real, actual trouble. This is not science fiction, just check your United Nations FAO fisheries status online documents to understand what is going on.

A Perfect Sushi Wine

April 17, 2010

Wine to pair with Sushi? Well, that is the 100 million dollar question. When I first tasted Torrontes I thought the varietal was a serious candidate. Of course, Sushi is such a wide umbrella term that is rather simplistic to say “this wine pairs with Sushi.” But some wines get closer to the job than others. Torrontes, with its ripe apricot palate and floral and spice aromas, definitely qualifies for the job. But its bubbly incarnation, the Deseado Torrontes, is really the wine that stands up to the challenge. Sweetness matched by incisive acidity, fruity and muscaty, Deseado meets the diversity of flavors accompanying a set of rolls, nigiri and oily tempura snacks. Available in Vancouver for 22-26 dollars, this is the ultimate Sushi wine. Gochiso Sama!

ps. while you eat your sustainably fished albacore tuna, the bluefin tuna species, perhaps the most majestic animal in the oceans is being caught to extinction by greedy northamerican and japanese fishmongers. let’s put a  stop to it! write a letter to your MP and demand Canada supports a total ban on bluefin tuna fishing

Not by Wine Alone….

July 20, 2009

Fish Ceviche for TwoDSC04449

With the summer coming on hard on British Columbians, red wines yield the right of way to a constellation of whites and rosés. Local brews and imports from all over the world offer endless possibilities to the wine enthusiast. What about food? No one should be too excited about oven-roasting a piece of lamb in a day with temperatures well over 25C. Salads and cold dishes are the order of the day. In hot days like these, seafood, preferably slightly cooked or just plain raw acquires an appeal that is hard to match. One of the tastiest seafood dishes is ceviche, basically strips of fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juice and spiced with hot peppers.

Although it is made in a variety of styles, depending on the country where it comes from, Peruvian ceviche shows the highest expression of the seafood flavour, due to its minimalist approach. Central American, Ecuadorian and Mexican ceviches call for long marinating periods that go from one to several hours. Recipes include tomato juice, tomato, avocado, olives, green onion, celery, capers, onion and a whole array of other vegetables and even spices. In Peruvian ceviche the fish meets the citrus juice only minutes before serving. Once on the plate, there is only the fuits de mer, the condiments and a few plumes of crisp red onion.

The Recipe

Half a pound of white fish fillet of, preferably sole or basa–ideally halibut- is cut into strips 1 cm long by 1/2 cm thick. Salt, ground black pepper and chopped hot pepper (all to taste) are then combined in a bowl with the fish strips. Put away in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. The heat will depend on how one likes it. For less hot ceviche, jalapeños works well. Habaneros and red Thai peppers are hotter. Avoid using pre-made hot sauces, as they usually have sugar and vinegar and will overpower the delicate flavours of the seafood.

Bring the ceviche mix out and add lime juice. IThis is a crucial step, because many inexperienced cevicheros over-acidify their dish. Every lime or lemon has different intensity of acidity, so it is better to approach this with caution. Add the juice gradually, stirring the mix. When the juice reaches the level of the fish, add no more. Stir, take back to fridge and let marinade for five minutes, if you are into raw fish (think Sushi) or 15 to 20 minutes if you like it “well done”. The citric acid of the juice will “cook” the fish, turning it an opaque white. Bring the marinade out, stir and taste.

This is the moment to adjust the acidity. Add some more juice if necessary. If it tastes excessively acidic do not panic. Remove some juice with a spoon and replace with cold water. Always adjust the salt after you adjust the acidity. You will find that you need more salt than you would normally use. This is because the intensity of acid and heat numb your taste buds. Adjust heat to taste and return to fridge. Cut very thin slices of red onion and dip in cold, salted water for a few minutes. Take a sprig of cilantro, remove stalk and chop leaves only, very finely. Take ceviche marinade out of fridge, mix in cilantro and serve topped with a handful of (well drained) onion slices. Serve accompanied with boiled and cooled potato, sweet potato or cassava root. Tortilla chips are also an option. Pair with chilled white wine. Torrontés from Argentina, German Riesling (off-dry or halbtrocken Kabinett) and Kiwi or Chilean Sauvignon Blanc are traditional matches. For the more adventurous, a bubbly, like Italian Prosecco or Moscato d’Asti are interesting choices, specially if the garnish is sweet potato. If you like your cebiche really spicy hot, forget about the wine, as your taste buds won’t sense its delicate flavors. Go for a cold beer.