It’s hard for me not to get despondent as I learn more and more about the plight of the world’s oceans. In many ways we’ve made our oceans garbage dumps, polluting them with trash and toxic chemicals. Fortunately, there’s so much we can do as consumers to help reverse this trend. Our everyday food choices are incredibly powerful; we just need to get educated and commit ourselves to making a difference.
If you have a chance to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you’ll surely be inspired to protect our oceans. The aquarium publishes the authoritative Seafood Watch guides that tell you which seafood choices are the most sustainable, taking into account the health of fish populations and the impacts of fishing methods, including bycatch (species that are caught and killed accidentally), habitat damage (some fishing methods, like bottom trawling, destroy important ocean ecosystems), and aquaculture operations (some fish farms generate lots of pollution, use antibiotics and other chemicals, and use more wild fish than they produce).
In the Fish and Shellfish chapter of my new cookbook, The Earthbound Cook, I tell the story about the first time my daughter, Marea, discovered the wonders of the ocean. She was 13 months old and her eyes were filled with the joy of a young child. As I watched her playing on the beach, I felt the strong pull to preserve this natural beauty. We pointed to the ocean and told her that was the fishes’ real home, creatures she had seen only in books or aquariums. For days, she kept saying, “Shhhhh, shhhh” and we soon realized that she wasn’t telling us to be quiet; she was saying “fish” and just couldn’t quite manage the “f” sound. After “mama” and “dada,” “fish” was her first word!
Many years later, that memory still reminds me of just how fragile our oceans are and how important it is to protect them for future generations. Watching a child dance on that boundary of land and water is a perfect image of the direct link between the health of our oceans and the health of all life on our planet.
The oceans supply more than 50 percent of the Earth’s oxygen — that’s more than 2½ times the amount produced by the rain forests. And like the rain forests, what we know about our oceans is dwarfed by what we’ve yet to discover. If our oceans continue to deteriorate, food sources, medicinal compounds, and vital knowledge about our planet are just a few of the things we could lose before we ever discover them.
Happily, one of the best ways to protect our oceans is by choosing environmentally responsible seafood. Like the organic movement, the sustainable seafood movement is profoundly influenced by consumer demand. Once we start asking for sustainable seafood and stop purchasing those foods that deplete species or damage our oceans, we’re well on our way to reforming an entire industry and ensuring that our children and their children will inherit healthy oceans and bountiful sea life.
Coconut Crusted Salmon
Currently, Seafood Watch lists the following salmon as your best choices: wild-caught Alaska Coho, Chum, Keta, King, Pink, Red, Silver, Sockeye, and Sake; or US-farmed Coho and Silver salmon from self-contained tank systems.
This is the kind of crusted fish dish that’s seen on menus at high-end restaurants, yet this recipe is surprisingly easy. It’s quick enough to whip up any time you crave a special treat — or want to impress dinner guests. The Asian-inspired crisp topping of coconut and Japanese tempura-style bread crumbs contrasts beautifully with the flaky, nutrition-rich salmon. This is the perfect time to use your favorite cast-iron skillet, which will go seamlessly from stovetop to oven. A light drizzle of Coconut Chile Sauce makes a beautiful presentation and tastes sublime.
Continue on to Coconut-Crusted Salmon recipe.