I’m pleased to announce that The Manhattan [food] Project has become a blogging partner of The Sustainable Seafood Blog Project, and as such you’ll start seeing more content around sustainably-sourced seafood and ways to enjoy it at home. Both Michael and I do what we can to buy as much sustainable seafood as we can and during the week we stick with tried-and-true favorites like trout, skipjack tuna, striped bass, and Pacific cod, while on weekends we may also indulge in some bivalve action. Since our move we’ve also been eating quite a bit of local rockfish and though it is a bit of a strange fish to get used to from a cooking perspective, it’s extremely delicious.
The mission of the Project is to band together bloggers who want to help promote the message of sustainability when it comes to seafood, and moreover inform and encourage consumers to be asking for more sustainably-sourced seafood at their local stores. The market is an extremely confusing one, because it isn’t so simple as buying certain fish and avoiding others; sustainable fishing practices are also scrutinized to ensure that the surrounding aquaculture is disturbed as little as possible. Monterrey Bay’s Seafood Watch is an exhaustive source on identifying the best fish choices out there, while Greenpeace publishes an annual scorecard listing the best and worst retailers to buy seafood across the country. The latter has wrought some serious changes over the years regarding what consumers have available to them in-store; most notably, Trader Joe’s earned a ranking of 17th out of 20 chains evaluated back in 2008 while as of 2014 they have moved up to fourth on the list and have a “Good” rating.
We’re fortunate to live near several retailers either on the Good or Passed list and we also have a great local market that stocks a nice variety smaller whole fish that are not only sound choices ecologically, but also typically quite reasonable in price. I had grand plans to include a recipe for one of these little guys with this post, but it still needs a bit of work. I was inspired by a tapa we had in Barcelona at the Bar Roca in the Hotel OMM: a small sardine deep-fried with lemon peel and a basil leaf. It was so delicate–easily the most aesthetically interesting bite of the whole vacation–but still extremely delicious due to the simple flavor combination, and I wanted to capture some of that magic with a pan-fried small fish. I have some ideas on how to bring it about, but in the meantime I went a slightly simpler route and made a shallot, lemon, and basil vinaigrette for some Bluepoint oysters because even Mondays require fresh seafood cocktails from time to time. The local produce stand had a pretty ripe tomato that was just begging to be rubbed on some bread, so I figured that would give the interlude a little more substance.
Like any recipe that has you pickle shallots in vinegar, this benefits from the shallots sitting in the fridge for a few hours at least and adding the lemon zest and the basil chiffonade right before serving to keep them from being overwhelmed by the vinegar, and then finishing it all off with some sea salt because oysters always benefit from a touch of sea salt. It’s sharp and flavorful without being too much of either, and I’m looking forward to honing my shucking skills as we head into more seasonably warm temperatures.
In fact, Dana over at I’ve Got Cake has a bourbon and oyster recipe I’m dying to try, and I actually will now that I don’t feel completely inept in shucking oysters.
In the meantime, please check out my fellow bloggers who have also joined this initiative as Project Partners:
Oysters with a Cava, Shallot, Lemon, and Basil Vinaigrette
makes enough for a dozen (or maybe even a baker’s dozen) oysters
- 1 large shallot, minced finely
- 3 tablespoons cava moscatell vinegar (sourced from Fairway Market and available online)
- Zest of one lemon, preferably via a microplane
- 12 basil leaves, chiffonade
- 12 shucked oysters
In a small ramekin, combine shallots and vinegar, mix well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours if possible. Before shucking oysters, add basil, lemon zest, and sea salt and mix well to combine. Place oysters on a plate–use either crushed ice or rock salt to keep them upright–and add vinaigrette to each oyster. Serve immediately with white wine or cava and some bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, if desired.