The recent locavore soiree with sweeping views of the blue Pacific aptly titled, “Fishing for the Future,” drew a lively, packed-as-sardines crowd that started at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Sumner Auditorium, and then flowed to the Robert Paine Scripps Forum. The UC San Diego philanthropic event hosted by SIO benefited the state-of-the-art Marine Conservation and Technology facility currently under development.
Speakers, panelists, culinary talent and guests read like a Who’s Who of sustainable rock stars.
A dedicated crew of distinguished marine scientists and professors embarked on a noble voyage casting out their knowledge of sustainable practices, responsible aquaculture and oceanic stewardship, sharing exciting marine research programs, experiments, stats and data, and prudent advice on becoming a mindful pescatarian.
Then savvy fishmongers, visiting chefs, local purveyors, restaurateurs and mixologists shared their edibles and cooking skills, along with a generosity of spirit. Their common goal — to bolster the quality of our lives and the health of our oceans and planet — would be fulfilled in part by replenishing the biodiversity in our waters to feed a swelling global population, and preventing certain species from extinction so future generations won’t be deprived of these nutritious sea treasures.
At the helm, Margaret Leinen, SIO director and UCSD vice chancellor for Marine Sciences, was particularly excited about “people paying attention to the future of fishing — how we will get seafood in the future, what its quality will be, and how fishing will impact ocean ecosystems.”
Other panelists and speakers shared illuminating commentaries about the importance of education for all, a dutiful apprenticeship for budding fishers, along with seeking solutions to challenging sustainability problems. Dr. Sarah Mesnick, ecologist at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center and an adjunct SIO professor believes: “we have to rethink our seafood system,” which includes reducing waste and fully using fish, adopting the “nose to tail principle.” We shouldn’t be fish snobs, and enjoy only fillets from a select few species. She urged pescavores to embrace “underloved or unfamiliar fish species” like opah or moonfish, with an assortment of delectable cuts, including the loin and belly.
Theresa Sinicrope Talley, coastal specialist with California Sea Grant, piped in that there are at least 100 wild, plentiful, local species that fish lovers can explore beyond the handful of habitual choices, usually salmon, shrimp, tuna and cod.
While Gerard Viverito, corporate chef and culinary advisor to BlueNalu, and an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America, enlightened guests with his tutorial on cellular fisheries. Unlike the “Impossible Burger” that mimics meat, cell-based seafood is harvested from real tissues that multiply under controlled conditions until a mass of protein is grown.
Although this may sound fishy to the layperson, Chef Viverito has kitchen-tested his Petri dish fish by creating poke, kimchi and fish tacos from yellowtail tissues that maintained a firm texture, and delightful taste and aroma like the real McCoy — whether cooked or marinated raw. As well, cell-based fish do not contain mercury or microplastics, and give ocean species a chance to regenerate to replenish the ecosystem.
Strolling the lavish reception, discriminating foodies chatted with marine biologists, professors, and graduate students at the interactive lab stations, while they indulged in artistically-plated dishes showcasing sustainably-sourced ingredients prepared by celebrated chefs at gourmet food stations.
These included grilled sweet and spicy ginger Thresher shark tacos (Hector Casanova, executive chef/owner of Casanova Fish Tacos), smoked yellowtail on a panzanella salad with pickled onions and walnuts (executive chef Steve Riemer of Catamaran Resort and Spa), Ahi tuna with micro arugula, Calabrian chilies in a caper citrus dressing (Giuseppe Ciuffa, executive chef/owner Giuseppe Restaurants and Fine Catering), and a silky stew of line-caught swordfish in Thai coconut curry sauce (Christina Ng, executive chef/owner Chinita’s Pies).
All entrees washed down nicely with lemon vodka seaweed cocktails (Cutwater Spirits) sipped through eco-friendly bamboo straws, of course. On-hand for scientific amazement and amusement was a 30,000 year-old ice core from Antarctica in case mixologists ran short of cubes.
Meeting, greeting and tasting at this event made me feel empowered as part of the solution to the problems that plague our seas and marine life. Now for a final sustainable contribution, see the recipe (opposite page) for an easy and elegant ceviche recipe from Chef Casanova that you’ll fall for hook, line and sinker.
Recipe: Sustainable Baja-Style Opah Ceviche
• Ingredients: 1 pound opah loin; 10 limes; 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped; 2 white onions, diced; 1 bunch cilantro, chopped; 2 cucumbers, diced; 2 avocados, cubed; 4 Serrano peppers, minced; salt and pepper to taste.
• Method: Chop opah into half-inch cubes. Set aside in a glass bowl. Juice limes, and add to fish. Marinate 15 minutes. Mix vegetables and cilantro in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with fish. Chill. Serve with tortilla chips.
Recipe courtesy of Chef Hector Casanova
— Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and see more recipes at freerangeclub.com