Here’s a dish that I used to make for our guests aboard the antique power yacht Westward while we motored around SE Alaska. We were lucky to have a floating dining room with an ever-changing view of jaw dropping beauty. These little fritters come off the pan with an uncommon delicate airiness and went great with our afternoon cocktails. We would often collect ice that had broken off of the glaciers and use them in our cocktails. Listening to the shards of ice crackle and hiss in the glass, we would surmise that they were releasing air that had been trapped during the same ice age that had eradicated the dinosaurs. Aged ice from the Ice Age sure made for a tasty beverage!
4 ounces smoked salmon – broken into small pieces
2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
1 cup of baby arugula, shredded
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Olive oil, for frying
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Beat the eggs and stir in the Ricotta cheese. Add the parsley, arugula, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Fold in the smoked salmon and the flour until just mixed.
Heat a pan over moderately high heat and add oil for frying. When the oil is hot, add 2 tablespoon mounds to the pan and spread them with the back of the spoon until they are about 2.5 inches wide. Let it brown on one side and then flip and brown on the other side. (approximately 3 minutes per side)
Serve this with some sour cream and salmon eggs or finely sliced scallions.
You can hold these in a 325 degree F oven for a couple of hours if you don’t eat them immediately.
Having circled the globe by boat, I’ve been treated to many a whale sighting. These include following humpbacks in Alaska by kayak and having full breaches be a part of our daily experience to visiting the greys in Scammons Lagoon, to swimming with humpbacks off of Silver Bank near the Dominican Republic to surfing with them out in Honolua Bay, Maui -where, if one were to dive beneatht the surface of the water, you’d be treated to the songs of hundreds of whales to being towed along and through a pod of melon headed whales off of Christmas Island. A Brydes whale was even the impetus for me hooking and handlining the biggest tuna I’ve ever caught. These stories aside, today was one of those magical moments and it was in my backyard er… front yard.
On my morning walk, I stopped by West Cliff to check the surf conditions and, although dismayed by the dismal surf, I could see a gathering of boats about a half mile off shore and immediately knew that the whales were still here. So I grabbed a board and paddled out to have a look and was treated to a breathtaking scene of whales feeding.
Approaching under my own power, it’s easy for the anticipation to build as it takes a while to get there and I could see the whales as their mouths breach the surface agape catching anchovies. Paddle harder. As I get there and find my space, the temptation to make chase was overridden by prudence and just wanting to let them come to me. They were circling lazily and blowing their bubble nets to raise anchovies afterwhich they’d come up beneath them and collapse their open mouths around them. I wondered what I’d do if it came up beneath me, but figured I’d just sit tight. Whales aren’t stupid and can definitely see where they’re going.
Well, pretty quickly, I got a chance to test my theory as a swarm of anchovies came to the surface all around me covering my board. Pelicans and seagulls are now diving all around me and bird shit rains out of the sky. I know what’s next but am not sure where to look or whether to move or what. The noise, the smell… all of it is unmistakeable… and now next to me – 10 feet away is the agape mouth of a whale. In the confusion and chaos I have nothing to do but sit with my mouth agape too and hope that bird shit doesn’t land in it.
And then it’s gone and we wait in anticipation to where it will come up next. Monterey Bay is sometimes referred to as the Serengeti of the Pacific and it’s clear why as the bay is teeming with life. Big rafted herds of elephant seals swim about, whales abound, and birds rain down from above. On the long paddle back, my face sore with smile, I realize that magic exists everywhere and I don’t always have to chase it. I just have to let it expose itself to me wherever I am.
This is near Christmas Island. I was being by a skiff with a mask and snorkel on. When the boat got up to speed, the whales swam right next to the boat to ride in the bow wave. For almost 20 minutes, we cruised at speed and the whales swam right next two me. Eye to eye.
For a season, I worked as the chef on an antique power yacht. We pretty much had a floating restaurant with the best view in the world.
We caught this somewhere between Hawaii and Tahiti. I was having a morning tea and could see some bird activity towards the horizon. I told the helms person to fall back and make towards it and set the hand line out. It turns out it was a Brydes whale lunge feeding and there was a school of tuna feeding on the same school. Suddenly the line goes bar taut – a bass string quickly becoming a ukulele string… We hove the boat to and used the rise and fall of the ground swell to make gains on the fish. Finally getting it up to the rail. We ate this for weeks and had even had enough for the first annual Robert C. Seamans Tuna Jerk Off. I think the Baltimore Backhand won. It was spicy and tangy with hints of Old Bay – So Bad You have to Spank It!
As some of you know, genetically engineered salmon is the first genetically engineered animal designed for human consumption that has come up for FDA approval. The GE fish is produced by a company called Aquabounty Aquadvantage and takes the genes of Chinook salmon, Atlantic salmon and an Ocean Pout and combines them to create a fish that grows at twice the rate of it’s wild brethren. Like Dr. Frankenstein, there’s a certain level of arrogance that man exercises when he thinks that he can do nature one better. In this instance, we’re looking at an animal that, if released in the wild, would outcompete other salmon and potentially decimate wild stock salmon as well as the food supply for wild salmon. Assurances are being made so that that doesn’t happen but, as Timothy Egan points on in his NYT article - assurances were made in Fukoshima too. I don’t know what exactly a terabecquerels of radioactive cesium 137 is but it sounds like a lot and 27 000 of them leaked into the ocean. Shit happens. So in this instance, why risk it? Especially if there is no need for it.
Equally scary is that the FDA approval process considers GE salmon a “veterinary drug” and under the rules for those drugs, applications for new drugs must be kept confidential. This means the FDA is not looking at the environmental impact of GE salmon and also blocks public comment.
Over the past year different opposition groups have surfaced including senators from the coastal states.
It’s Halloween and the end of the Mayan calendar so we can joke around about some sort of dystopian end of days scenario where our weapons are hacked into, our food supply destroyed by ourselves, and the world financial system is collapsing. I can only wish that I could wake up on November 1st and smile when I thought about those cute little monsters because they wouldn’t be upon me until Halloween next year.
But, alas, there is no comfort in sleep.
Dine Out for Bristol Bay San Francisco started yesterday and to celebrate, two of the volunteer organizers Ryan Desmond, Kim Kuettel and I decided to attempt to eat at every participating restaurant in one night using bikes as our mode of transportation. We were lucky to have a couple of friends join along the way.
Dine Out for Bristol Bay originated out of our desire to create an action for Bay Area people after seeing the film Red Gold. One of the easiest action to make is to Vote with your Fork. By buying Bristol Bay salmon, we are able to raise the value of the industry and the more valuable this industry becomes, the more we have the ear of Washington politicians.
It was going to be the ultimate progressive dinner and there’s nothing like biking around the city at night. The lights, the cars, it’s like being a super hero except it feels like an act of sedition – a super hero pirate. There’s nothing like the shit eating grin that goes with eating great salmon and then hopping on the bike and looking for more.
We started at Fog Harbor Fish House. Fog Harbor has recently converted their whole menu to be 100% sustainable. It’s apparent by talking to their GM Ryan that they are excited about doing the right thing here and what this means for the community at large. Their location puts them in a position to deal with a lot of tourists and, by leading with their message of sustainability, they can send their guests home with an important information.
Chef Alonso started us with an Ahi Tuna Poke. The Poke was speckled with Mango which added an element of sweetness to the tender savory bit tuna.
For our entree Chef Alonso prepared us Grilled Salmon with Honey Glaze with Mango Salsa on a bed wilted Spinach and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. The portion was really generous and the salmon was grilled to a very tender medium rare. The rub they used on the salmon really pleased me because it had elements of spiciness in it that lent itself well to the grilling process.
Fog Harbor’s commitment to doing the right thing is reflected in their fully sustainable seafood program. I encourage folks to head down their and show your support for their efforts to help protect Bristol Bay.
The next stop on the Salmon Crawl was Michael Mina. We had a super slick ride along the Embarcadero, slipping in and out of traffic in the financial district. MM was recently voted 2011 Restaurant of the Year in Esquire Magazine. Of course we felt even more like pirates because we road our bikes to this incredible establishment.
We started with cocktails and I don’t know what anyone else got because I got a “deconstructed Sazerac” and immediately lost myself in curiosity and revelery. Here they take the classic cocktail broken down into essential parts to be tasted in succession or enjoyed in pieces. The elements: candied lemon zest, Bulleit Bourbon, soda with bitters, Peychaud jelly, and an absinthe marshmallow.
Next came an appetizer of Smoked Salmon Canapes with a pumpernickel crust. This was particularly exciting for me because Michael Mina is using The Gypsy Fish Company’s salmon for this dish! And then to bite into something that takes an ingredient that I know well and elevates it to some other plain of flavor is an unspeakable thrill. The preparation is with a dab of foamed creme fraiche, a pickled onion slice, and herring roe and the experience moves your move through both a textural and taste transformation that is clearly intentional and orchestrated to perfection. There’s the initial crunch of the crust and salt and smokiness hits your palate but almost immediately cut and thinned by the foamed creme fraiche. On the next chew, your teeth burst through the roe and your back into intense saltiness and with the sweetness of the pickled sweet onion. Swallow, finally, and the smoke stays on your palate. You’re surprised and comforted by it’s familiarity because its’ always been there, you just forgot because the marching band was just passing by. Awesome!
To the surprise of us pirates, our Salmon Crawl was way laid by a parade of dishes which made it impossible to continue further. Although unplanned, we were happy to be flexible and I definitely have to concede that I realized that I have a multiply orgasmic mouth. Every dish that came out was both surprising in the technique and delicious in the execution. There’s a reason that they were awarded restaurant of the year for 2011.
Here’s a gallery of photos. I apologize for the low light levels. I figured using flash would be too disruptive.
Way laid but with shit eating grins. I’m incredibly grateful to have been able to experience the legerdemain of Michael Mina and encourage everyone to go out and get some. It’s special occasion food but you’re special and so is Bristol Bay. Even better, be a pirate and ride your bike there!
I want to also give a special thanks to Chef Chris L’hommedieu who took the time to come out and talk to us about the food and the preparations. His commitment to great food and protecting the areas where great ingredients come from is reflected in how much respect he shows the ingredients that he works with.
Stay tuned… the Salmon Crawl continues this weekend. There’s still more restaurants on the list. Hopefully you’ll beat us to some to some of them but if not, you can preview the great salmon dishes here. Now stop staring at your computer. Go make a reservation.
So the Red Gold Road Show stopped in town on Monday with a huge outpouring of support from the Bay Area community. Almost 300 guest filled Temple Night Club and got a chance to watch the hauntingly beautiful movie Red Gold. The screening was followed by a Q and A with some representatives from different aspects of the fishery.
Important take home messages were that salmon equals jobs. Salmon is the backbone of the culture and diet of indigenous communities. Salmon plays a HUGE ecological role as they drive marine based proteins hundreds of miles inland and then are reintegrated into the ecosystem through their death and decay. It would be incredibly short sighted to put such an important resource at risk in order to extract metals.
I think it would be unrealistic to think that we could block the mine in perpetuity. The size of the deposit is too large and too tempting. I can only hope that with this fight to keep blocking it would force the mining companies to improve their practices and perhaps develop technology that would not disrupt the fine balance of the ecosystem OR our needs move away from needing these kinds of resources. We’re definitely in quite a predicament as they’re saying it’s worth about 300 billion dollars.
That being said, it’s incredibly important to establish the precedent of blocking it right now. That one step will make it easier to block the next time it comes up… and the next time… and the next time…..
Over and over again, I’m reminded that life is lived like a marathon. It’s important to break it into doable chunks. Especially when the goal is too far away to be seen with the naked eye. Everything can be accomplished if we take it one step at a time.
So last week, The Gypsy Fish Company had the opportunity to cohost a Smoked Salmon, Homemade Bagel, and Champagne party in Los Angeles. Michael and Molly Foran Yurchak’s home provided a great setting and a chance to connect with new friends and customers.
I used the opportunity to make some contacts up and down the coast and got to visit some old friends in Ojai and Goleta and also to stop at the Jalama Road Family Farmstand and trade some salmon for sustainably raised beef. This was particularly exciting for me because I’ve long been an admirer of the Malloy brothers as surfers but also as advocates for living intentionally and with integrity. The JRF project really continues in that tradition. It’s about community. Family. Stewardship. This is a piece of land that is beautiful and will remain that way – sacred and protected until/if the ownership changes hands.
For me, the trade was a no brainer and I chuckled at the irony that I had champagne left over from the Bagel Brunch which I could hand over in exchange for cuts from Dan and Grace’s wedding steer.
When I got home, the first cut that I cooked were the Beef Short Ribs
The preparation is one inspired by Alice Water’s Chez Panisse. It’s an involved dish but not fussy and represents connectivity. Short ribs are a fatty cut, high in connective tissue. By braising it the tissue breaks down and is infused with the aromatic root vegetables that go in the braising liquid. By the end of the preparation, we end up with a tremulously tender piece of meat, perched on a bed of potatoes and brassicas and garnished with a grassy gremolata of parsley, garlic, and lemon rind. It’s a synthesis of earthy root vegetables, connective tissue, the blood of wine and salt of earth. A real gift to be able to trade the liquidity of watery borne salmon for something so rooted in the earth.
Beef Short Ribs with Gremolata
5 to 6 pounds of Beef Short Ribs – cut to two inches
Coarse kosher salt
3 large yellow onions
2 leeks chopped and washed carefully
3 large carrots
2 Bay leaves
1 1/2 cups red wine
Beef stock to top off (or just water … if you have the option for boullion or water PLEASE go with water)
1 bunch of parsley finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon finely minced
1 garlic clove – finely minced
salt and olive oil
1. Salt and Pepper short ribs generously, cover, and place in the refrigerator over night.
2. Preheat oven to 475 F. Arrange the short ribs on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper bone side down and brown in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the meat is lightly browned.
3. Saute the onions in a pan until softened and then add carrots and leeks and soften. Toss in the tomatoes, smashed garlic cloves, and parsley and Bay leaves and soften further.
4. Line a earthen roasting pan with a layer of the vegetables, place the short ribs on top, BONE UP and then add wine and enough stock to just barely cover the short ribs.
5. Cover tightly with foil and place in a 450F oven until simmers and then reduce temperature to 350F.
6. Ribs should be done after 1.5 to 2 hours. You’ll know because the ribs will be nearly falling off the bone and a paring knife will meet no resistance if pushed into the meat.
7. Remove the short ribs and place them on the sheet tray bone side down. Turn up the oven to 475F. Press out the braising liquid using a colander and the bottom of a ladle. Now defat it and reduce it over the medium heat.
8. Return the short ribs to the oven and remove when the ribs have taken on a glaze. This takes about ten minutes or so.
9. Now you’re ready to serve – serve it over your favorite starch and steam fried greens – garnished generously with the gremolata.
Back when I had just finished college, I was living in the remnants of a burnt down restaurant on the side of Cayuga Lake in Ithaca, New York. It was winter and I was delivering Chinese food out of my very rusty 1986 Toyota pickup truck. I’d work from 5 until 10:30, race home, sleep for an hour or so, and then go to work at an artisanal bakery and work from 1am to 9am. It was kind of brutal but like fishing, I loved the ethereal quality of the half awake world. And I loved the tactility of handling bread.
We made bagels there too and I learned very quickly that there is NOTHING that tastes like a bagel that comes right out of the over. There’s about a 15 minute window and then this essence quickly dissipates irrecoverably. Toasting helps BUT that crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside bit scrumptiousness is gone.
Like the salmon, I was quite drawn to the idea of sharing this experience with friends. This is how the Smoked Salmon, Bagel and Champagne Party was born.
There have been a few requests from party guests for the bagel recipe and I’m happy to share. Like most things, I think that unfamiliarity is the biggest hurdle – so if you’re going to go through the steps, commit to doing it more than once as you’ll become more proficient through practice and the nuances will begin to reveal themselves.
Please note that this is a two day process. I usually make and shape the dough the night before so that all I have to do in the morning is boil and then bake the bagels. It makes for a super easy morning breakfast and my guests are always kind of impressed at how easy it all appeared to be.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Toppings – your call – onion, garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway, rosemary… coarse salt
Like most yeasted bread recipes, this is a ratio and it’s based around cups of water. I like to think of one cup of water yielding about 8 bagels… so plan accordingly. Here’s the ratio: 1 cup of water, 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt. No matter how I multiply the recipe, I always use the same amount of yeast – about a teaspoon.
1. Put your water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on the surface of the water. This water should be warm to the touch – be careful though, if the water is too hot you’ll actually kill off your yeast.
2. Add flour and salt. If you’re keeping track, you’ll notice that this is more flour than most bread recipes. You’re actually going to be mixing a heavier dough. You’ll see why later.
3. Now stir until it begins to clump together. You’ll want it to be fairly stuck together before dumping it out on the counter to start kneading. Depending on how sticky it is, keep adding sprinkling flour on the counter beneath the dough as you fold it over and over. The goal here is to continually be mixing the dough to make it smooth, all the while continuing to maintain a contiguous surface on the bottom of the board. Did that make sense? More explicitly – fold the dough in half, turn it a quarter turn, fold it in half, turn it a quarter turn, fold it in half…. now repeat this about 400 times.
4. Now take a minute to scrape out the insides of the bowl and add that to your dough. Knead the scrapings into your dough and then let it rest a bit.
5. At this point, divide batch of dough into bagel size balls. I usually do this by grabbing clumps with my left hand, pulling slightly, and then using the bench scraper to cut it.
6. Shaping. Okay, this is where coordination is required and it’s VERY difficult to actually explain. So I pulled this video off of Youtube. I particularly like it because he talks about smelling the balls and shaping the balls and…well so much talk about balls – even yeasty balls!
The technique this guy is using is the way to do it. When you get really good, you’ll be able to handle the balls with two hands.
7. Now you’ve got your pile of balls resting on your counter and you’re ready to start shaping them into bagels. You’ll see in photo that the dough on my right have been resting a lot longer than the ones on the left. That’s why they’re kind of puffed up. You’ll find when you do this, that the dough is going to need to be a little bit relaxed in order for you to shape properly.
Picking up your relaxed dough ball, you want to pierce the top with your thumbs and then stick your fingers up through the bottom and roll the dough away from the center so that the seam ends up on the bottom of the bagel. After finishing, put this on a sheet of parchment paper. Now finish the batch. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge over night.
8. Preheat your oven to 475. Boil about a gallon and a half of water with about a cup of sugar in there. I’ve monkeyed around with different kinds of sweeteners and have to say that sugar works pretty darn well. It gives a nice crust and also, more importantly, allows for the toppings to stick. I imagine that you could use a spray bottle with simple syrup in it to also help the toppings stick more. I never have.
Boil the bagels for about three minutes. They’re going to want to float to the surface after about one minute. Just stick a spoon in there and turn them over once in a while to make sure everyone’s getting equal time in the pool.
9. Use a slotted spoon and remove from the water. You’ll want to put them seam side down on the parchment paper. Now you are ready to out the toppings on. Sprinkle liberally, a lot will fall off.
10. Bake these at 475 F for about 20 minutes. You’ll want to rotate after about 10. You’ll want them to be golden brown on both the top and the bottom.
So commit to doing it more than once and now go forth and make bagels! I’m happy to troubleshoot if you have problems after your first attempt. It”ll become easier and easier with practice, I promise.
The reason that I love to cook is directly correlated to how much I love to eat. When I’m cooking the most I’m cooking for up to 40 or 50 people per meal. So sometimes it’s hard to scale a meal down to cooking for myself. What I’ve learned though is that my freezer can be a great ally in reducing mess, preserving freshness, and giving me quick, convenient and incredibly delicious dinners. So, instead of scaling back, I’ll make a big batch, freeze parts and use it when needed.
Here’s how it works with pizzas.
I make my own crusts by hand. It’s easy and I feel like the act of kneading dough grounds me. I actually count the strokes as I knead – much like I count my breaths when I meditate. I don’t follow a recipe but follow a ratio instead.
2.5 cups of flour to 1 cup of water (1 cup of water makes one big pizza)
1 teaspoon of salt/cup of water
a handful of fresh rosemary leaves – there’s a wonderful aromatic property to rosemary baked into flour. Fresh doesn’t end up being so much like poky pine needles as dried.
1 teaspoon of yeast… no matter how high the water is multiplied.
This recipe is NOT perfect – I usually just use a quart size yogurt container to measure and then add flour as necessary to get the right consistency.
So here’s one of the main lessons from this post: You can make a big batch of pizza dough, divide it up and separate them out into sandwich bags and freeze them. The day you need pizza pull out a crust to defrost it, stretch it out, top it, and you’re good to go. No sticky bowls to wash out dough from…. fast, easy and delicious. You only need to let the pizza that you are making that day go through a rise; i.e. ou can place the stuff in the freezer directly after it is mixed and separated into sandwich bags.
Stretching out the crust. I also do this by hand by just pulling the dough between my hands and then rotating and pulling again. I can get the dough to the shape of the parchment paper that I’m going to bake it on. If the dough is resistent, let it relax a bit and then stretch it again. Through this method you can get incredibly thin crusts but also manage the shape easily.
Topping. It’s whatever you prefer here but there is an order to it. Sauce, then mozzarella, drier ingredients and then ingredients with a high moisture content. You want the mushrooms or peppers on top (not buried under cheese) so that the moisture can escape. You can, of course, give a light sprinkling of your hard aged parm on top – so you can still get that nice crusted top.
Here’s the other main lesson from this post: Use Parchment Paper! Sure you’ve got this fancy pizza stone and you swear by it. However, you’re not maximizing the use of your oven shelf and I’ve seen plenty of pizza stones all sealed up with oil and spilt cheese rendering them unable to absorb the moisture that they are supposed to which results in a soggy crust. Take your pizza stone out and use it as trivet.
I also don’t have a fancy peel. I either use a piece of corrugated cardboard or a cutting board.
Parchment paper is easily slid in and out of the oven and will allow moisture to escape beneath it so you’ll end up with a super crispy pizza. The oven is HOT – 475 degrees F.
Partly through the process, I’ll pull the parchment out from beneath the cooking crust. I can use this again for another pizza AND this exposes the bottom to even more heat to get it crispier.
Your pizza is done when it is brown on top and crispy on the bottom. Cool it on a rack or serve immediately. You don’t want to leave it on a cutting board too long directly after taking it off the heat because the crust will still be trying to steam out and the steam will be trapped between the board and the crust.
Here’s the final product. Super thin, crispy pizza! Notice how the bottom doesn’t sag into the plate?
Had a delivery down in Moss Landing a couple of days ago and was given a great tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (Thanks Melinda!). MBARI is doing amazing work studying the mid-ocean regions of the sea using submersibles – both ROVs (remote operated vehicles) and AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles), different research vessels, and an amazing multidisciplinary lab where biology, chemistry, physics are alchemized into SCIENCE.
As I learned from Melinda, MBARI was funded by the Packard Foundation and built on the site of an old whaling station. It has these amazing conference rooms and an auditorium with the waves crashing on the beach behind it. There’s also a test tank that must be 50 meters deep where they test submersibles. At the base of the tank there is another conference room with windows facing into tanks. Ahhh…so many opportunities to stare into the distance and not pay attention to what people are lecturing on.
But then what everyone is studying is just so cool! Mapping the ocean floor using missile shaped AUVs that perform transects and map at super high resolutions. I’ve always been fascinated by how position is determined once one leaves the surface of the ocean. Without access to satellites, one is fully reliant on dead reckoning for position – or calculating for current, speed of travel and direction. This is why treasure hunting has been incredibly difficult. Even if you discover treasure underwater, it is with some great effort to get back to the exact site below the surface. There’s a great book about this called Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea.
While at MBARI, I got a very spirited talk outside of Jenny Paduan’s poster on mapping a freshly erupted underwater volcano outside the Strait of Juan de Fuca using ROVs and AUVs. Really fascinating stuff. For someone who spent his childhood playing with Legos Space and part of his career working on research vessels this was like stepping into a super high tech childhood fantasy come to life. So often we look to outer space in search of the undiscovered when, in reality, undiscovered life exists in myriads of forms all around us and we shouldn’t be looking up but down beneath the ocean’s surface.
Here’s some video of cool stuff from MBARI.