I grew up in Kansas, 1700 miles from the Pacific Ocean and 1300 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. It should come as no surprise that seafood was not part of my family’s diet. In part, our experiences with seafood in restaurants of the Midwest left a bad taste in our mouths. We thought we didn’t like fish. I realize now that we just didn’t like fish by the time it got to Kansas!
Fast forward a decade or two. I am now a lover of all sea creatures, and lucky for me, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area! With access to the best seafood available, it is my personal goal to teach myself how to cook with these amazing ingredients.
I am comfortable with shrimp–who isn’t? Shrimp is easy. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to try buying whole crab, lobster, or even clams or mussels, but I will face that fear eventually–maybe by the end of the summer. I still hesitate at the seafood counter when choosing fish. For one, I am concerned about overfishing and also about levels of mercury. I have become dependent on the Seafood Watch app on my phone. And to make matters worse, I came across an article in the New York Times last week, which exposes the widespread mislabeling of fish. So now, I can’t even be sure that what I buy really is what I think it is. The article suggests buying whole fish to mitigate some of the uncertainty. It is less likely that a whole fish will be mislabeled, though there is still the possibility of mislabeling the method of fishing or source location.
A couple of days after I read that article, we were at a cookout, where our friend, Matt, grilled two whole red snappers he had purchased at the Monterey Fish Market in Berkeley. He rubbed them with something spicy and wrapped them in banana leaves to steam on the grill. Paired with a chunky mango salsa, the fish was amazing. After one bite, I realized the time had come for me to start buying whole fish.
So I’m not sure where to start. I came across this recipe last week as I contemplated how to begin my self-education program. It looks easy–just layer everything into a bamboo steamer. And after watching Matt grill the snapper, I think I could do something like that, too.
Any other ideas? Leave them for me in the comments below. And I’ll keep you updated on my progress.
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