Posts Tagged 'Fresh Thoughts'



Fresh Thoughts Recipe: Escabeche-Style Grouper

Guests who attend the June 19 Fresh Thoughts dinner at the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, will enjoy a cocktail reception and fine-dining experience from Chef Xavier Deshayes. The dinner’s courses will pair commonly swapped species side-by-side and ask the audience to identify the fish on their plate, begging the question “Do you know what you’re really eating?” The interactive dining experience will include a hearty discussion on seafood fraud with Chef Deshayes, National Aquarium and Oceana experts.

We’re excited to host this dinner in partnership with Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. 

Can’t wait until Wednesday’s dinner to sample the amazing dishes Chef Deshayes has prepared? Try out his recipe for Escabeche-Style Grouper with a Warm Fingerling Potato Salad:

Ingredients for the Escabeche

  •  1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon black pepper corn
  • 16 to 24 ounce of black grouper fillet (or any other local, sustainably-sourced grouper) cut on 4 ounce pc.
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  •  1 medium shallot, julienned
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment d’espelette
  •  1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 3 strips lemon zest

Directions

  1. Combine the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Pat the grouper dry and toss to coat with the seasoned flour.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan set over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Carefully add the grouper to the pan. Cook on each side for 1 minute.
  3. Using tongs or a fish spatula, transfer the grouper to a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish. Reduce the heat to medium, add the shallot, and cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, thyme, coriander, piment d’espelette, white wine, vinegar, and lemon zest. Decrease the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and pour the marinade over the fish. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 1 hour before serving. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 12 hours.

Ingredients for the potato salad

  • 1 pound boiling fingerling potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons good dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup of whipped cream
  • 1 tablespoons of whole grain mustard

Directions

  1. Drop the fingerlings potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.
  2. Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Keep the fingerlings potatoes warm. In a bowl mix the whipped cream and whole grain mustard, verified seasoning (reserved for presentation)
  3. At the serving time place on each plate some of the potatoes salad in a center and place the grouper on the top of it. Add a dash of mustard whipped cream on top and a serve.

Want to learn more about our Fresh Thoughts program or reserve tickets for our upcoming dinner in Washington, DC? Click here

Thoughtful Thursdays: Endangered Species Spotlight on Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtles

Endangered Species Day, celebrated on May 17th, was established to raise awareness of the issues (both human-related and ecological) facing endangered species and their habitats. 

To help further amplify this day, we’ll be highlighting some endangered species that can be found in our home state of Maryland, at the National Aquarium and around the world! Our hope is that as this week progresses, others will feel inspired to help us protect these amazing animals! 

Animal Rescue Update

Kemp’s ridley Lepidochelys kempii sea turtles are the smallest of all the sea turtle species and are listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN. “Small” is a relative term for sea turtles, as the Kemp’s can weigh as much as 80 to 100 pounds as adults, and their shell can grow to about 2 feet long. Their carapace (top shell) is usually heart-shaped and brown to grey in color.

kemp's ridley

A rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley turtle being released by National Aquarium staff.

Kemp’s ridley’s are highly migratory and seasonal visitors to Maryland waters. They can often be found in coastal areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast, from late May to October. While here, they feed on an assortment of crabs, shellfish and jellies, and will occasionally munch on seaweed. Cooler water temperatures in the fall signal the turtles to migrate south – reptiles are ectothermic, meaning their internal body temperature is dependent on the water temperature.

kemp's ridley

One of our current rehabilitation patients munching on a blue crab.

Along the northeast and mid-Atlantic in late fall and early winter, Kemp’s can become victims of cold-stunning. Cold-stunning is effectively hypothermia (low body temperature), which causes the turtles to stop eating and ultimately become severely sick. The 2012 cold-stun season was a record for the northeast. We currently have two Kemp’s ridley sea turtles in rehabilitation with our National Aquarium Animal Rescue team, and both were admitted as cold-stuns.

kemp's ridley

Since being listed as an Endangered Species in 1994, the US and Mexico have worked cooperatively to protect critical nesting habitats for the Kemp’s, resulting in an increase in successful nesting and hatching. Kemp’s still face many threats, though, many of which are human-related. The good news is that YOU can help protect Kemp’s ridley sea turtle populations!

Stay tuned for more features on endangered species this week! 

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Fresh Thoughts: Sustainable Seafood Q&A with Chef Chris Becker

About next week’s featured Fresh Thoughts chef, Chris Becker of Fleet Street Kitchen

A Baltimore native and veteran of several of the city’s most highly regarded restaurants, Chef Chris maintains deep

chef-chris-becker

relationships with local farmers, foragers, and fishermen. His contemporary American cuisine at Fleet Street Kitchen is defined in conjunction with the seasonal produce of Cunningham Farms, the restaurant owner’s farm in Cockeysville.

A graduate of the Baltimore Culinary Institute, Chef Chris spent time in the kitchens at The Brass Elephant, Linwoods, and The Wine Market in Locust Point. He was noted as one of the top “Chefs to Watch” by Baltimore Magazine and identified as one of “Ten Professionals Under 30 to Watch” by the b newspaper.

At Fleet Street Kitchen, Chef Chris combines both traditional and modern techniques, creating elegant dishes that reflect his intense devotion to his craft.

Can’t wait for next week’s dinner? We chatted with Chris about how sustainable seafood is changing the culinary scene throughout the mid-Atlantic region: 

What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?

Because I’m new to Maryland seafood, I’m really excited to start using soft-shell crab, which is one of Maryland’s local sustainable seafood products. It’s a really interesting ingredient and very versatile in the way it can be presented, so I’m sure you’ll see it on the menu at Fleet Street Kitchen soon.

How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?

I think more and more chefs are becoming conscientious about sustainable seafood and this in change is influencing our guests to think about it as well. Because we’re by the Chesapeake Bay, I think it’s easier for people to make the connection between how we fish and the seafood we serve. People are definitely appreciating it more. At Fleet Street Kitchen, we make sure all of our seafood choices are based off the Seafood Watch list and only select the seafood listed as “Good” or “Good Alternative.”

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?

All the great product that’s not sustainable makes it difficult. There’s some great tasting seafood that is overfished. We recently had to stop using monkfish, because it is now in the red on the Seafood Watch List. It’s unfortunate, but it it makes me more creative and exposes people to different types of fish that perhaps they wouldn’t necessarily try.

What is one sustainable seafood ingredient you hope to see more of in restaurants (including your own) this year?

Lionfish & Snakehead. Both are invasive species that are threatening key ecosystems. Lionfish are damaging coral reef ecosystems across the oceans and are actually a great tasting fish. It’d be great to see more of it on Baltimore menus. Snakehead are doing the same here in the Chesapeake Bay. There has been a lot of great press about using snakehead in restaurants. I’m definitely hoping to use both at Fleet Street Kitchen.

If everyone could walk away from our Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be …

My hope is to pass along Fleet Street Kitchen’s passion for sustainable seafood and for people to make the connection between the way seafood is harvested and what is on their plate. It’s also important for people to know that they can ask if a fish is sustainable in a restaurant. This lets a restaurant’s chef and staff know that there’s a demand for conscientious ingredients. Most restaurants will appreciate this, even if they aren’t currently serving sustainable products.

To learn more about our sustainable seafood program and other conservation initiatives, click here

Thank Mom and the Planet Today!

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Mother’s Day is a special time to appreciate all that our moms, dads and other special role models do! Join the National Aquarium in celebrating Mother’s Day by doing something eco-fun this weekend with your family. The real gift is the time you’ll spend together creating memories!

Here are some ways you can celebrate both Mom and Mother Nature: 

Have fun outside together.
Did you know there are 75 nature sites within 25 miles of Baltimore! Click here to find one near you.

Create a birdbath together!
Spring has sprung and local birds are singing, courting and busily starting to build their nests this time of year. Consider starting a new tradition this Mother’s Day by getting outside and doing a fun craft that helps our native bird families!

Here’s a simple plan for building your own birdbath.

  1. Place a terracotta pot upside down.
  2. Place a terracotta saucer on top of the overturned pot.
  3. Fill the saucer with water (no more than a few inches deep)
  4. Place a few rocks in the water for the birds to land on.

For the best location for your bird bath, choose an area that is close to a window. That way, if a bird gets startled, they won’t be able to pick up much speed if they accidentally fly into the glass. Ideally, choose a spot that is also close to a bush or tree where they can hide if they sense a predator nearby.

Put a sustainable spin on dinner and flowers!
Treat mom to a delicious meal of sustainable seafood. It’s healthier for you and for the ocean!

Looking for an special last-minute gift? Join us for our upcoming Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dinners in both Baltimore and Washington, DC!  

Thank Mom with a locally grown organic bouquet of fragrant blooms and skip the whiff of pesticides. Organically grown flowers support local businesses that are helping keep chemicals out of our rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

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Addressing Concerns About Our Fresh Thoughts Menu

We’d like to address some recent concerns members of our online community have made about the menu of our upcoming Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dinner.

The three-course menu featuring locally-farmed caviar had originally included the preparation of sustainable veal. We’ve received some thoughtful comments on Facebook regarding this controversial meat. We fully understand these sentiments and want to thank our community for their feedback. In response, we’ve decided to take this item off our menu.

The mission of Fresh Thoughts is to raise awareness of sustainable food sources (both seafood and non-seafood) and how those choices can help lessen our negative impact on the environment. Veal is a meat that is still widely-consumed around the world. By including it in this dinner, our intention was to make our guests aware of the fact that there is a way to consume veal sustainably.

Xavier Deshayes, our expert chef, is passionate about serving meals that are environmentally and humanely conscious. The veal that was originally included on the menu of our upcoming dinner had the endorsement of Humane Farm Animal Care, a local nonprofit organization that certifies the responsible treatment of farm animals. Their certification assures consumers that the animals have had ample space, shelter and access to fresh water. It also has strict standards against the use of antibiotics or hormones.

National Aquarium does not endorse the general consumption of veal. However, for those who regularly include the meat as a part of their diet, we encourage you to take a moment to consider getting your veal from a sustainable source and one with the endorsement of Humane Farm Animal Care or a similar organization.

Again, we sincerely apologize for any personal offense caused by our decision to include veal on our menu and we hope that we’ve made our original intentions clear! If you’d like to speak further with our team about this issue, please email social@aqua.org.

To learn more about our Fresh Thoughts program, click here.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Sustainable Sturgeon Farming

Chef Xavier Deshayes, the creative genius behind our Washington D.C. Fresh Thoughts dining series has a real passion for sustainable seafood. In preparing for dinners like Fresh Thoughts, it has become common practice for Chef Deshayes to  travel and investigate the sources of his fresh ingredients first-hand! Earlier this month, Chef Deshayes and members of our conservation team traveled to an aquaculture facility in North Carolina that will be providing both the sturgeon and caviar for our upcoming dinner on April 24th!

Chef Deshayes observing the sturgeon in North Carolina.

Chef Deshayes observing the sturgeon in North Carolina.

The Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company began selling their products just last year, but operations at the facility began as early as 2008. They’re located in the hills of Lenoir, North Carolina, at the foot of the Appalachians and within sight of Mount Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. The business is cooperatively funded by private business partners, North Carolina State University and experts from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. The 720,000 gallon aquaculture facility sits on the site of the family farm of one of its founders and contains 36 large tanks.

An aerial shot of the nursery facility.

An aerial shot of the facility.

Three species of sturgeon are raised at the farm; Atlantic , Russian and Siberian. The Russian Sturgeon is the source of the famous Osetra caviar. Atlantic sturgeon are native to the United States and can be found in distinct populations along the east coast and in the rivers from Canada to Florida. They spend most of their adult lives in the ocean but will return to the river in which they were born to spawn. Like their Russian counterparts, Atlantic sturgeon populations are diminishing and there are limits or outright bans on fishing these animals.

The Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company was founded in order to help fill the demand for quality seafood and caviar without over-burdening wild populations of fish stocks. Fish are fed and maintained for several years – until they are 3-5 years old and are approximately three feet in length. Around this time, experts at the facility use ultrasound technology to determine the sex of the animal and males and females are separated.

A sturgeon being given an x-ray to determine sex.

A sturgeon being given an ultrasound to determine sex.

Males are raised to the desired size and harvested for their meat. Fresh sturgeon meat is white and firm and popular in restaurants around the region.

Once the females are separated they are monitored through ultrasound for proper egg development. We watched this process and it’s an amazing marriage between science and art. The subtle differences between “exactly right” and “a tad too far” are impossible to detect from a layman’s perspective but are extremely important if you want to maximize profits by providing the best caviar product possible. The process of extracting caviar is delicate, exacting, detail oriented and extremely time consuming.

Once the caviar has been harvested, it's canned by hand.

Once the caviar has been harvested, it’s canned by hand.

The staff at the Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company are passionate about creating a successful business that is sustainable in the long-term!

Join us at the next Fresh Thought dinner in Washington, DC to see the success of their work! Want to learn more about our sustainable seafood program in DC? Watch this video: 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdIkHjYB4-0]

A Blue View: Lionfish Invade Our Seas

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 pm as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

March 13, 2013: Lionfish Invade Our Seas

A Blue View podcast

Click here to listen to John and aquarist Ashleigh Clews discuss 
the threat lionfish pose to the health of our oceans.

Since 1992, when Pacific lionfish were first sighted in South Florida waters, this fish has become widely established all along the southeast United States and the Caribbean Sea, even being spotted as far north as New York. These distinctive looking fish—red and white striped with long pectoral fins and needle-like dorsal fins, have profoundly impacted the health of the ecosystems where they now reside.

So, how were these species introduced into local waters? Ashleigh Clews, a senior aquarist at the Aquarium, says it’s likely that the species was first introduced by home aquarium owners. Although these fish are popular in the trade, they often outgrow their tanks and will sometimes prey on other fish.

There was an estimated population boom of 700 percent between 2004 and 2008 in invaded areas. This presence of lionfish in the Atlantic is causing many problems. They’re eating native fish and crustaceans and destroying native habitats and ecosystems. Additionally, with no real predators and an average spawn rate of close to 2 million eggs a year, this species shows no sign of disappearing on its own.

Conservationists and researchers are working to address this growing problem through a variety of initiatives, including raising awareness of lionfish as a sustainable seafood option!

Have you ever eaten lionfish? Tell us about your experience in the comments! 


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