November 17, 2017

Food Front: Ned Bell nets sustainable seafood ideas

Chef Ned Bell has become a passionate advocate for sustainable seafood, and his new cookbook, Lure, is packed with delicious ideas for cooking it at home. PHOTO: Courtesy of Figure 1 Publishing

New cookbook, Lure, goes beyond the shrimp ring

By Joanne Sasvari

The West Coast bouillabaisse from Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast by Ned Bell. PHOTO: Courtesy of Figure 1 Publishing

’Tis the season of festive cocktail parties and bountiful family dinners and joyful holiday brunches. And that means it’s also the season of what chef Ned Bell calls “the shrimp ring drama.”
“Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in North America for a reason,” says the Ocean Wise executive chef. “The frozen shrimp ring is $9.99. You go to your buddy’s place and you pick it up because it’s easy and cheap.” Easy and cheap it may be, but shrimp is also one of the most dubious seafoods you can consume. Most of it is imported from countries such as Thailand, where shrimp farming destroys huge swaths of coastal mangrove forests, dumps tons of pollution into the ocean and spreads devastating diseases. It’s even been linked to human slavery.
That shrimp ring doesn’t seem so tasty now, does it?
Luckily, there are plenty of better alternatives for all the parties ahead, and Bell explores many of them in his essential new cookbook Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast (Figure 1 Publishing).
Winter, he says, is the ideal time to sample new seafood options. Perennial favourites like halibut and salmon are out of season, so why not try arctic char, steelhead or rainbow trout? All are available from sustainable, land-based farms, and adapt easily to wintry dishes such as the char with lentils, parsnips and vanilla vinaigrette in Lure.
The key, Bell says, is using “lots of seasonal flavours alongside seasonal technique.” That means pan roasting, braising and simmering in soups, stews and chowders such as his West Coast bouillabaisse (recipe on p. 22). Those dishes are not only great for feeding a crowd, they also cry out for shellfish, which is arguably the most sustainable seafood of all. Clams, mussels and oysters are filter feeders that actually clean the water—and they are also relatively inexpensive, easy to prepare and available year round.
If you must have shrimp, look for labels such as Ocean Wise, SeaChoice, Seafood Watch or Marine Stewardship Council. Better yet, skip the shrimp and opt for something like albacore tuna. “It’s a quick sear in a pan, or have some fun with a blowtorch, then slice it thin and you have a great snack,” Bell says. “I call it sea-cuterie.”
It might take a bit more time to find sustainable seafood as it’s not yet available everywhere. Consumers can help by supporting those retailers who sell it and demanding it from those who don’t. And remember, Bell says: “Good food takes effort. That includes the shopping for and the preparing of.”

Recipe: West Coast Bouillabaisse
Chef Ned Bell’s local version of the traditional fisherman’s stew from Marseilles is endlessly versatile and perfect for dinner parties. Recipe from his book Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast (Figure 1 Publishing). Serves 6

  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced and fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 yellow, red, or orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine
  • 4 cups (1 L) Walter Caesar Mix (or 3 cups tomato juice and 1 cup clam juice)
  • 4 cups (1 L) fish or vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) fennel seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp (15 mL) canola oil
  • 6 scallops
  • Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) unsalted butter
  • ½ lb (225 g) live clams, scrubbed
  • ½ lb (225 g) live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 lb (900 g) skinless firm fish fillets such as halibut, salmon, or lingcod, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ lb (225 g) mixed shellfish such as peeled and deveined shrimp and/or crabmeat
  • Celery leaves, chopped scallions, chili flakes and chives for garnish
  • Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, onions, celery, carrots and bell peppers. Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are tender and translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Add the wine and stir to scrape up the browned bits.
  • Pour in the Caesar mix (or tomato juice and clam juice), fish or vegetable stock, chili flakes, fennel seeds and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and flavours are more concentrated.
  • Heat the canola oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Pat-dry the scallops and add to the pan. Allow to sear undisturbed for about 2 minutes or until browned. Season with salt and pepper, flip the scallops over, and sear for another 2 minutes. Add the butter and baste. Transfer to a plate.
  • When ready to serve, add the clams and mussels to the broth. Cover and cook until they just begin to open, about 3 minutes. Add the fish and mixed shellfish. Cover and cook another 3 to 5 minutes or until shells are fully open and fish is cooked through. (Discard any clams or mussels that haven’t opened.) Stir in the scallops.
  • Divide soup among bowls, or serve family style from the cooking pot or a warmed tureen. Sprinkle each bowl with fennel fronds, celery leaves, scallions, chives and chili flakes. If you like, add a spoonful of chili mayo to the bowl and serve with crusty bread and lemon wedges on the side.


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