When I shop for fish I have a couple things in mind when I head to the fish counter. My requirements are:
- Must be fresh
- Must be local (we live on the coast for goodness sake)
- Must be under two digits a pound.
- Must be fish I like
Must be fresh
I am not a fan of frozen foods except peas and ice cream. I really dislike fish that has been frozen. I know some of it is practically frozen on the boat, my husband watchesDeadliest Catch, but really deep-freeze frozen or previously frozen fish just doesn’t taste good or feel good on the palate. Be sure to read the signs carefully, and if you have questions ask! The fish mongers are usually more than happy to answer. You can ask to see the piece of fish and go ahead smell it if you like. Fish that is fresh has a clean scent not a “fishy” smell.
Must be local
When it comes to fish, it’s quite easy for us to be locavores. We live near the ocean. Of course, you can decide how far your locavore zone goes. There was a great story by Mark Bittman about Monkfish in The New York Times last October tracking it’s ridiculous journey from Monkfish to Lotte. We’re having local monkfish, purchased at Whole Foods Market tonight as well as mussels from Maine.
Must be under two digits a pound
There is a little refrain in our household that states, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.” This goes back to a time when my husband and I had just started new jobs and the dot com market was dying a rapid death. My husband wasn’t sure where his company stood. I had always firmly believed in buying organic food and I refused to buy farmed fish having had several roommates from British Colombia who knew the fish farms quite well. My husband wasn’t quite on board. So one day he came home, glanced at the grocery bill and said, “We have to start buying cheaper fish.” I refused to back down, if you know my family you understand, and pointed out that perhaps the many bicycles he owned and maintained and the cable bill are better things to cut back on than things we put in our body. In any case, we kept our jobs, we kept the bikes and we do buy cheaper fish, we just don’t buy salmon that often, and we don’t buy farmed fish.
Mussels and baguette with salted butter make up one of my favourite cheap feasts. You can get mussels from 3.69/ bag. A baguette is a couple of dollars, and if you’re lucky you have a stick of local butter in the door of your refrigerator.
The monkfish just made it at $9.99 a pound. I bought a little less than a pound for the two of us because it’s quite a hearty fish.
Must be a fish I like
I like a lot of seafood. I really don’t like swordfish and I’m not a fan of fish that seem to have more bones than flesh. I love flounder and any other delicate white fish. I love trout and other lake fish, but those are hard to find at the store. My dad used to take my brother and I fishing every summer in the Muskokas. We would catch and eat Pike and I think rainbow trout as well. To this day, it is the best fish I have eaten. I really like salmon but I can live with just having it a couple times a year. I love scallops and steamers. I make clams every once in a while with pasta because my husband loves clam sauce. As you can see, I’m not too picky when it comes to fish. I even recently bought a whole fish (I think it was flounder) and had the fish monger fillet it for me. I’m not ready to handle the entire thing alone even though, as I learned at dinner with one of my dad’s students, the cheeks are one of the best parts of the fish.
So if you want to shop for fish like a chef then be sure to have some things on hand at home: leeks, onions, lemons, and perhaps some tomatoes or peppers, bacon or pancetta is good too. Head to the store and see which fish looks fresh with the right price. Ask a few questions if it’s new to you: What does it taste like? How do I prepare it? Then bring it home and look through your cookbooks while the kids do their homework or play or look it up online to find an easy preparation. I’ll post my monkfish recipe soon.
Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)
Peta 2 has their vote going on for the 2008 World’s sexiest vegetarians. Peta has their list of 2008 top 10vegetarian friendly ball parks. And examiner.com‘sBoston Vegetarian Examiner has a great list of vegetarian prix fixe menus available to ring in 2009. I’m sure that in the coming days some people are planning to start a vegetarian diet, be better vegetarians, or just choose to eat better in the coming year.
I have been vegetarian and vegan in my life not for ethical reasons, but because I’ve never been a fan of meat and dairy’s never been a fan of me. At some point, when I learned that I was allergic to dairy and soy I decided that I don’t eat enough beans and lentils to be healthy and decided to cook meat. My children eat meat, although not much because they prefer other things. I love fish and hope one day they will learn to eat seafood other than the perfect Wellfleet clams that my daughter ate off my appetizer plate at Craigie St. Bistrot (now Craigie on Main). She then asked, “Can we just ask the waiter for some more?” and I had to explain it wasn’t the kind of restaurant or food that we could just ask for some more.
Recently, the Boston Vegetarian Examiner wrote about Veg-friendly options for New Year’s Eve prix fixe dinners. I wanted to add a couple more restaurants to this list. They may not have specific New Year’s Eve menus but they do have fabulous vegetarian tasting menus.
Craigie on Main
This is one of neighbourhood gems that is not quite in our neighbourhood anymore. We went there recently and really enjoyed our meal (more about the Craigie experience in an upcoming article). It is not well advertised, but Craigie on Main does have a Vegetarian prix fixe meal that is available for $61. My children’s grandparents have dined with us there and they are both vegetarian and really enjoyed their meal. Chef Maw’s kitchen is not the kind of place where they just put together a couple sides and take out the meat from a couple dishes to get Vegetarian food. It is definitely a special night out with amazing food. Chef Maws uses the best ingredients available. I used to live not to far from Lyon and I have to say that the food at Craigie is the best French food I’ve had outside of France.
As stated on their website, “Tony Maws is a non-traditional chef – an “idealist with a kitchen” might be a more appropriate job description. His ideology: that local, seasonal and sustainably sourced ingredients are intrinsically better, and that these ingredients form the most significant part of what makes great food great.”.
The non-vegetarian New Year’s Eve menu can be ogled online, and a vegetarian menu will be available but has not yet been set.
Oleana is another wonderful restaurant that has a menu to tantalize the palate. This summer, we dined there again with grandma and grandpa who happen to be vegetarian. At the time, they had a special vegetarian set up to support Verill Farm after their devastating fire. On their regular menu, they have a special Vegetarian tasting menu that offers so many different ingredients and flavours without overwhelming the diner. The tasting menu includes five mezze and a dessert and is available for $42.
The Elephant Walk is a French-Cambodian restaurant. It is not a fusion restaurant, but rather has a wonderful French side of the menu and a tempting Cambodian side of the menu. Elephant Walk has won citysearch’s best of 2008 for their Vegetarian Food. You can read about what makes their vegetarian options that much better on their blog. The quality of the ingredients is fabulous and they have just recently lowered their already reasonable prices for such a dining experience. They have some special menu items for New Year’s Eve and offer a prix fixe menu year-round that has a vegan or vegetarian option for each part of the prix fixe menu. They also offer a gluten-free menu at each of their locations.
Now you have a great many fabulous restaurants to choose from. You’re on your own, however, trying to get a reservation for New Year’s eve let alone a babysitter. Don’t worry though. These restaurants have great food year-round and offer their vegetarians fine dining choices year-round as well.
Bon appetit et bon année. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)
On my gift wish list this year I have two items: green pans and some smaller cast iron pans. I cook primarily with one of our Teflon pans or our only large, extremely heavy cast iron pan. There is a time and ingredient for each of these.
The problem is that I have been meaning to replace most of our Teflon pans because they are scratched and I know that can’t be good for the food that is being cooked in the pan and most importantly for my family ingesting the food (and then some).
The non-stick solution is to replace the old Teflon pans with “green” pans that don’t contain the harmful chemicals PTFE – the chemical found in traditional degradable coating, or the ecologically damaging chemical PFOA.
The best solution is to have a good stock of seasoned cast iron pans. The iron is good for you (at least so far as we know), the pans are pretty much indestructible, and there is no coating to damage or worry about. You can get these locally at Tags and many other hardware or kitchen supply stores and the range in price is enormous.
Füri Knife Set for Children
Rachel Ray has a young chef’s knife set. It is a great gift for children who are really interested in cooking. The perfect gift for your little sous-chef. The set includes: the tadpole Füri knife, the knife guard, and a reversible cut-proof glove. Perhaps this gift is more for the nervous parent than the eager sous-chef, but I think a little extra safety doens’t do anybody any harm. In addition, a portion of the proceeds go towards Rachel Ray’s Yum-O Foundation.
Fruits & Passion – Cucina
I received some free samples of Fruits & Passion’s Cucina line as a Bzzagent, which is a program that does word of mouth marketing. I am a very strong “scent snob”. I don’t like anything overly scented and definitely not artificial. The soap I received was their coriander and olive tree scent. I was really skeptical since I’m only recently a fan of coriander in my food let alone anywhere else. I fell in love with it. Since then, I have visited the store to get myself and some friends and family some of their products for holiday gifts. The Cucina line is really unique. The scents have a good balance and the soap is not too harsh. Both the children and I have used it without any problem. If you are looking for a hostess gift or if you want to give a subtle hint to your husband, perhaps some dish soap in his stocking, then visit Fruits and Passion at the Natick Collection or online. I have to admit that I’m the one in the family who would need the dish soap in my stocking. My husband does dishes around here and he’ll use anything we’ve got, but he definitely notices the “nice stuff”.
Local Gift Certificates
Last but not least, for your local friends and family, teachers, the mailman, whoever you would like to celebrate this season, think about getting them a gift certificate from a local spot. You can find suggestions of great local eateries and food stores in the For More Info box of most of my articles. Cambridge Local First is also a great resource.