blog, Seafood Recipes

Sustainable Seafood

July 3, 2009

I think I have deleted the first paragraph to this blog post a dozen times already. Not quite sure where to begin to be honest.

It seems like this could be shaping up to be the year about responsibility with food. Presidents digging up lawns for vegetable gardens, massive feed-lot beef recalls for E-Coli, Food Inc. (the movie) hitting the big screens. Supermarkets getting called out for supplying a ridiculous amount of endangered fish to the unknowing public, without a single word of caution.

There is now one more to add to that list – the movie “The End of the Line”. Talk is growing of late about the sustainability of seafood, and just how fast we all are nuking the oceans of fish. Most of us interested in food have known about this for a while. Most of us have made smart choices for purchasing seafood.

I am not going to talk about this movie. I am not even going to preach about how important sustainable seafood choices are. Any reader of this blog knows how passionate I am about fish, so this diatribe wouldn’t exactly be anything new.

Instead, I want to to briefly talk about how we can make smart choices when buying seafood. How we can get more for paying less. How limiting which fish you buy can actually increase your seafood diversity. Finally, lets top all this off with my favorite recipes for some of the most sustainable seafood out there.

How to find, and make sure you are buying sustainable seafood

  • This is thankfully much easier than it ever has been. I have just added a handy dandy widget to my blog sidebar that lets to do a fish search. Type in the name of a fish, and this will bring up all the info you need to know to make a smart seafood choice.
  • On my seafood recipes page I have added a more extensive search widget, that gives more information on the fish you have highlighted. You can also go there for recipes featuring only sustainable seafood.
  • Head on over to to view even more choices
  • Go to reputable seafood dealers, that care about fish. Avoid tourist markets where the main draw is people chucking salmon around (can you guess where?)
  • Talk to your fishmonger. Most should know where the fish is from, and hopefully how it is caught (more on that in a minute)
  • If your fishmonger cannot answer the questions above, honestly tell them they need to hone-up on their product knowledge, and to call you when they do
  • UPDATE: Thanks to the wonderful L of commented that there is also an iPhone app (for those of you that are technologically up to date – not me, I have a brick phone!) – Check it out here:

And finally my favorite of all time…

(go on, click it..)

The Blue Oceans sustainable seafood guide – WALLET SIZED! that’s right folks, just print this bad-boy out, and take it with you whenever you go fish-a-shoppin. Bring it out, and talk about it with your fishmonger. The good ones I know could talk about fish all day, and get excited by customers who want to know more.

Seattle Fishmongers:

If you live in Seattle, you have some great choices for sustainable seafood. The seafood counter at PCC is 100% sustainable – so you know anything there is a smart choice. I would avoid the vacuum packed clams and mussels though – never a good way to store them.

Whole Foods in Bellevue has a really pretty decent fish counter too, which also only stocks sustainable fish. Whole Foods fish counters vary considerably though – one store just 5 miles from this one has a terrible fish counter. Don’t fall for their “yes, its fresh, it came in yesterday” routine.. ask them how long it has been dead. Use your own judgement, smell the fish, make sure the flesh looks glossy, and the eyes are clear. the skin should spring back when poked too.

University Seafood and Mutual Fish are local, independent fishmongers, which have extremely high quality fish at reasonable prices. Not all choices in both could be considered very sustainable, however the fishmongers at these stores are extremely honest, and will be able to give you sustainable choices – along with information as to where the fish is from, how it has been caught, and so forth.

My favorite sustainable seafood, and recipes for them


clam chowder recipe Citrus Cured Copper River Salmon

A simple fillet of salmon is cured for 3 days in salt, sugar, and citrus zest. The result is incredibly light, delicate, and very vibrant. Perfect for lunch with a simple green salad

salmon crudo recipe King Salmon belly crudo, radish and fennel slices, mandarin gastrique

Thinly sliced king salmon belly sits with some finely cut radishes and fennel, all brought together by a simple mandarin gastrique sauce

true_cod_with_clams_recipe Caramelized Miso Rice cakes, crsipy skin salmon, sesame julienne vegetables

Rice cakes are broiled with a topping of miso paste, and finished with some sesame julienne vegetables. Crispy salmon skin closes the deal

Clams and Mussels

clam chowder recipe Clam and Pork Belly Soup – Clam Chowder

Whole manilla clams, braised pork belly, slices of fried fingerling potato, with a light broth and a little creme fraiche

miso-soup1 Seafood Miso Soup

Whenever I haven’t eaten seafood in a while I always seem to end up doing a big mix of the lovely stuff in bowl. This was absolutely no exception.

crw-6452-thumb Halibut, Mussels, Fennel, Potato and Lovage – en Papillote with white wine and saffron

Cooking Fish “en Papillote”, or in parchment is a great and quick way to cook a really flavorful meal.

crw-6452-thumb Crispy skin Kona Kampachi, Mussels, Risotto Bianco, Chanterelle, pimentón mussel broth

Delicate and light, the Kona Kampachi gets presented with some mussels, a little risotto, and a wonderful bright and fresh mussel/smoked paprika broth

crw-6452-thumb Seafood Paella

Mussels, clams and shrimp form this quick and easy paella

seafood_risotto Seafood Risotto

A seafood risotto recipe using halibut cheeks, mussels and shrimp, with a saffron base

true_cod_with_clams_recipe True Cod and clams, sea beans/rocket/English peas, fines herbs fish broth

Cooking with Mum. A great mix of seafood, in a clean crisp, easy fish broth


steamed halibut recipe Steamed halibut, roasted porcini mushrooms, pickled sea beans, lemongrass sauce

A fast, simple and very healthy dinner. Halibut is steamed, served with roasted porcini mushrooms, a wonderful vibrant lemongrass sauce, and pickled sea beans

crw-6452-thumb Halibut, Mussels, Fennel, Potato and Lovage – en Papillote with white wine and saffron

Cooking Fish “en Papillote”, or in parchment is a great and quick way to cook a really flavorful meal.

crw-6452-thumb Pan Roasted Halibut, French cut Romano Beans with Lardons, Salsa Verde

Halibut, seared in a pan then roasted in a hot oven is served with thin cut romano beans, bacon and a light Italian salsa verde


grilled mackerel recipe Grilled Mackerel, Flageolet, Guanciale, Preserved Lemon & Parsley Oil
A simple dish of really great ingredients. Some lovely grilled mackerel sits atop a mixture of wonderful French beans, fatty pork, and preserved lemon. This is all brought together with a little parsley oil.
crw-6452-thumb Grilled mackerel recipe, with a bacon and dandelion leaf salad
Mackerel fillet quickly grilled, and served with a fast and easy bacon and dandelion leaf salad
crw-6452-thumb Seaweed Salad with watermelon radishes and garlic scapes, grilled mackerel
A simple and fast, healthy salad of various seaweeds, garlic scapes and vibrant radishes, with a light dressing, served with grilled mackerel – all fast enough for lunch


crw-6452-thumb Pan Seared Scallops, Red Onion Confit, toasted pine nuts and sage oil
Red Onions slowly cooked in red wine, with toasted pine nuts, and a vibrant sage oil. All sitting under some seared scallops
crw-6452-thumb Pan Seared scallops, beans, frisée and chilli
A quick and simple dinner recipe – pan seared scallops, on a light salad for frisee, beans and chilli

Getting more for less, and fish substitutions

There is a lot of very tasty fish out there, for not a lot of money. When we think seafood it doesn’t always have to be fresh wild king salmon, or peak season halibut. Some of my favorite fish are actually some of the cheapest. Take the little buggers shown above. These are local silver smelt. I seem to remember them being about $3 a pound. That is rediculous. Since you eat them whole, that is some pretty good savings too! Smelt are excellent either fried of grilled.

Mackerel is also one of my favorites, and happens to also be pretty darn cheap. The only thing to watch out for here is that some mackerel can carry a bit of mercury – not a fish to be consuming 3 times a day. Otherwise, extremely healthy – lots of fish oils, and very fast to cook – just a couple of minutes per side on a hot grill.

True Cod is also a great alternative for a white fish. For me this fish is equally as tasty as halibut, but 1/4 the price. I might be going out on a limb here, but I reckon cod has more character to it than halibut too.

Farmed mussels and clams. In Washington state we are lucky enough to have the amazing clams and mussels from Penn Cove. A big dish of mussels works out to be less than $5 for two people. The only pain is cleaning them, but they cook in 3 minutes. Clams work out a little more expensive, but are faster to clean, and cook almost as quickly. Whats more, from both of these you get an excellent “liquor” from cooking them, which can make a great sauce when combined with saffron.

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  • Colloquial Cook July 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    Great post. I’ve never read anything as detailed as that. Thank you for taking the time, Matt!

  • Ronald July 3, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Another great post Matt! Just another poke in the ribs that I need to get me to try and communicate more with our fishmongers. It’s a difficult task to do on my own as I’m still learning the lingo. The fish “trailers” sitting outside the markets carry a limited variety of raw fish with salmon and mackerel being the most abundant. A lot of what is sold here is already cooked or smoked.

    Thanks for the prod. I will try harder to ask the right questions when I buy my fish.



  • Diana July 3, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    What a great post! I will definitely be taking this guide with me. A new Asian market with an awesome seafood section just opened near us but I didn’t buy anything because I wasn’t sure about what was sustainable. Thanks!

  • L July 3, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Great list of resources to help figure out what fish is what… it’s really hard without one of those lists. One more to add.. if you have an iPhone, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has a Seafood Watch app that makes it easy to see what the best choices are for fish in your area. (


  • nina July 4, 2009 at 4:28 am

    I agree with you Matt, I have to say though that I almost missed the message looking at all the amazing photographs!! You are a genius!!!

  • Giff July 7, 2009 at 1:58 am

    I hope you are right about the arrival of public awareness about food. I am more cynical than that, unfortunately, both in terms of people’s interest to listen and political willpower to do something about it. Hope I’m wrong

  • redmenace July 7, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Wow. This is truly a wonderful post. What a great deal of useful information. Thank you for going to all this trouble. I don’t know a lot of this stuff and I certainly need to get informed! Also, so lovely to see all those pics of pretty fish in one post! Hope your summer is fantastic and….how is your veggie lawn coming along?

  • mattwright July 7, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for the comments guys – to answer a few questions:

    CC: thanks

    Ronald: Just start asking really, and just say “OK, I don’t know what that is, can you explain”.. that is what I did. You have found a great fishmonger when they are happy to answer and explain all your questions. They should be passionate about seafood, and want to talk about it..

    I remember one fishmonger I walked into in England – “is that Ahi? I said.. “no mate, its Tuna” said the fishmonger. I walked out.

    Diana: that pocket guide sure is useful

    L: thanks! I have updated my post with that info

    Nina: thanks!

    Giff: I am hoping, really hoping that this becomes a big deal this year. I love seafood, and want to try and help however I can to bring awareness to overfishing

    Red: Veggie garden is just amazing! Stocked full of great stuff at the moment!

  • Marta July 8, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    Thanks Matt for this great post! We are all responsible and should be accountable for our food choices, especially when they affect biodiversity. I like all your tips, especially substituting True Cob for halibut, wouldn’t have thought of that myself!

  • White On Rice Couple July 9, 2009 at 4:45 am

    God almighty, this is the post to bookmark. As always, an informative and insightful source of information and food inspiration! Keep up the great work Matt—-Sir God of Seafood!

  • Mel @ July 9, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Seafood is my staple source of protein and so being conscientious about sustainability is also very important to me. Fortunately, it’s easier where we live on the West Coast but much love for continuing to the word.

    Gorgeous photos and recipes but serve it to me simply fresh and raw and I’m a happy girl.