We talk a lot as personal chefs about our mission to create healthy meals for families. Part of that mission also includes thinking about where our food comes from. Is it organic? Is it from local farms and ranches? Who made it? Now it’s not always feasible–for cost reasons or just geography–to buy organic, local, and sustainable–but it’s something to strive for. In San Diego, where we have year-round growing seasons and are right on the ocean, it’s become a big deal.
That includes seafood. One of the premier seafood wholesalers in San Diego is Catalina Offshore Products, founded and owned by Dave Rudie. They got their start decades ago selling sea urchin that Dave would dive for. The company has long since expanded and in the last several years, they’ve positioned themselves as a chef favorite and now a public favorite, thanks to the face of the company, Tommy Gomes.
Tommy comes from a fishing family and is a wealth of knowledge about seafood–and, importantly today, sustainability. While the company doesn’t pretend to be entirely sustainable, they are working hard to do all the right things–and still be profitable. That extends to their recent agreement with non-profit advocacy group Seafood of the Future to label products in ways that help consumers make good choices based on local fisheries in healthy supply by building a network of restaurants, distributors, and producers also committed to fishery sustainability. Catalina Offshore Products uses their guidelines to inform customers of the status of various species they sell. It’s all about transparency.
That’s why you’ll still see white shrimp for sale from Baja (which we in San Diego consider local), Bluefin tuna, corvina, and Cabrilla grouper (not on the Seafood for the Future list) alongside approved species like black cod, yellowfin tuna, wild swordfish, and Chilean sea bass. You may still buy the grouper or shrimp, but, hopefully, you’ll think about that purchase, and perhaps also buy some black cod.
Catalina Offshore Products is also interested in getting customers to go beyond just the filet and strive to eat the entire fish–from tail to mouth. To do that, they have weekly in-house cooking demos, primarily by Chef Christopher Logan of Creative Flavors Catering, but also by numerous other chefs who have befriended Tommy and Catalina Offshore Products–and often Tommy himself will wield a spatula over a skillet. Consequently, they have gotten people to fall in love with fish collars and cheeks. Chefs fall all over each other to get livers and eggs and other innards that they transform into exquisite dishes.
And, five years ago, Tommy and Catalina Offshore Products launched a regular Sunday evening event called Collaboration Kitchen in partnership with local produce warehouse Specialty Produce, both to demonstrate seafood cooking techniques and raise money for local organizations. Tickets to these events, which are $75, sell out in hours and draw San Diego’s best chefs to participate. The event now has a formal 501(c)3 nonprofit designation and board of directors and hands out a check for $3,000 on the spot to the recipient.
We thought you’d enjoy a recipe from one of these events. This was the 2014 season opener with Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien, who has an Emmy Award-winning TV show, a radio show, blog, and several cookbooks.
He’s a local food celebrity and charmed the crowd that night with dishes like Deviled Eggs and Shrimp Skewer, Curried Grouper, and Captn Crunch Seared Tuna.
Here’s one with a fish you may not have thought to cook with: shark:
Hoisin Shark Tacos
From Sam Zien
Makes 2 tacos
4 green onions, white & light green parts only, sliced lengthwise into thin shreds
1/4 cup jicama, sliced into thin shreds
3 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1/2 tablespoons Asian chili paste
1/4 pound shark fillet without the skin, cut into small pieces
2 corn tortillas
· Combine green onions and jicama into a “slaw” and set aside
· Mix hoisin and chili paste in a small bowl and set aside
· Preheat a skillet or wok well on fairly high heat – also preheat a nonstick skillet to heat the tortillas
· Add 2 teaspoons peanut oil to the wok, then the shark and cook quickly until still a bit moist inside, about 3 minutes
· At the same time, heat the tortillas in the nonstick skillet
· Spread some sauce on the each tortilla, top with shark and slaw
What are your favorite seafood dishes to serve clients? Are you buying local, sustainable seafood? If not, why?
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