6 votes

What have you been eating, drinking, and cooking?

What food and drinks have you been enjoying (or not enjoying) recently? Have you cooked or created anything interesting? Tell us about it!


  1. rosco
    (edited )
    I have been experimenting! I graduated from a masters program in 2020 that focused on the science and policy of coastal issues. That pretty much means there weren't many environmental issues,...

    I have been experimenting! I graduated from a masters program in 2020 that focused on the science and policy of coastal issues. That pretty much means there weren't many environmental issues, terrestrial or marine, that students couldn't focus on. There was a focus on social-ecological systems (i.e. that if you only address the environmental problems without dealing with the social ones you will make no tangible impact and may exacerbate issues) and community resiliency.

    We were the first cohort and this year is the first in-person graduation for the fourth cohort (time flies!), so the program is using the opportunity to have all the graduating classes from 2020-2024 get together for a 5 year celebration. Each cohort is in charge of their own event and, to reflect the ethos of the program, we've chosen to throw a "low trophic" BBQ. Low trophic means lower on the food web which has a lower impact on the ecosystem (as long as you fish sustainably). I could not be more excited as I have been wanting to throw an event like this for, well, since we were in the program. We're only going to be sourcing from local fishers who use low impact fishing methods and focus on seafood on the low end of the trophic spectrum. I'm spearheading the whole thing and am starting to experiment to decide on final menu.

    Exciting first entry: Squid!
    It's the beginning of squid season here on the central california coast and I've been able to get my hands on some pretty delicious little guys. While they can be found at different levels of the trophic scale depending on life stage and region. Locally they have a lower impact and lower trophic diet, so they get the green light. Squid are considered a bait fish in the industry though there are some incredible recipes for it as well. Calamari is a well known one, but I've opted for a BBQ recipe I found from Brad Leone and Bon Appetit. Bonus video of Brad squid fishing. I tried this out and boy did it not disappoint. A very coastal dish, the herbs and aromatics give it a nice earthy flavor while the squid is straight low tide. I'm considering hitting it with a bonito flake mix I picked up from a local coop to give it even more of a davy jones punch. I got these squid right off the boat (every now and then the local fishermen post their daily catch to instagram and you can line up at the dock at sunrise and buy straight off the boat). Couldn't be fresher, more local, or sustainably caught. Skipping the wholesale price cuts mean fishers can catch less and earn the same, reducing pressures on the fishery as a whole.

    Nest up: Tinned Fish!
    I used to hate tinned fish. The oily texture, the overpowering taste, and as one friend put it "The knowledge that I was eating something I just really didn't want to" combine to make sardines (the flagship tinned fish) an under appreciated food. I came to embrace it first in the backcountry where calories are scare and oil is a commodity. A friend of mine would drink the excess oil after we had split the fish and since then I decided if he can do that I should be able to stomach anything from a can. This love expanded when I moved to spain and learned about the Basque love for any tinned marine create. Mussles, oysters, kippers... you name it they made a delicious variation of it. Viva la tin! For this menu item I tried out canepes, or little fancy bitesized open face sandwiches. I started with a base of my favorite local sourdough, added a layer of goat cheese mixed with diced chives, then a section of sardine, and topped with homemade pickled raddish. It was phenomenal. I tried other options various ingredients like mayonnaise, capers, pan seared peppers, and mustard but this was my favorite.

    Coming in third was easy: Oysters!
    I had the opportunity to do a project up in Mendocino a few years ago and got aquatinted with a few of the folks at Hog Island Oyster Co, one of the few aqua culture farms in California. Since the closure of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., Hog Island has been dedicated to proving their farming operations have a beneficial impact on the Tomales Bay ecosystem and have been supporting the work of researchers to do so. For this menu, I'm following a two recipes: one I learned from their head ecologist that is simply raw oysters with a simple shallot vinaigrette and another more elaborate variation Andy Oliver talks about on the Off Menu podcast consisting of a shallot vinaigrette, a dash of hot sauce, and a gentle pour of champagne. We had these a year ago and they absolutely feel like a party in the mouth. 10/10

    Number four: Abalone!
    I'm really excited for this one. It is a native California delicacy with a fishery that collapsed a few decades ago. For the last decade the fishery has been closed and the population levels remain low. However, there are 2 abalone farms we are really excited about, including a local one that is on the commercial wharf in Monterey. Art and the team behind it are passionate not just about the abalone but their impact on the bay. They purchase initial stock from a nursery at Moss landing that also support restoration efforts so buying from them is directly supporting conservation. The team also purchases kelp from local collectors who operate within strict take limits. All in all a very cool operation. We're bringing abalone into the mix just to showcase the unique species and the conservation potential, and because they are so expensive these will be appetizers and small ones at that. I'll have a cast iron on the grill to sear them once they have been pounded out and given a small seasoning of salt and pepper. We really want the unique flavor to shine through on these so no additional seasoning will be used. Again, they are very very tasty.

    To fill more people up: shellfish chowder!
    This will be a cioppino that my mother serves every Christmas. Usually it is winter when this is made which allows for forged shellfish. Unfortunately as we'll be holding the BBQ at the height of summer, the paralytic shellfish poisoning quarantine will be upon us and I'll be relying on locally farmed clams and mussels. Not much else to say here, low trophic and delicious. I only wish we were later in the summer months to use some amazing heirloom tomatoes that come into season in August and September.

    Filling in the low trophic: kelp and seaweed!
    To really keep to the "low trophic" name we wanted species at the bottom of the trophic chain, marine vegetation! For this we'll be focusing on 3 main species: 1) macrocystis kelp or giant kelp, 2) bull kelp, and 3) boa kelp. Giant kelp strands have a really umami flavor to them, so when they are fried and dipped in brown sugar they almost taste like bacon. These will serve as another fun appetizer. The bull kelp strands can be cut into thin strips (think pasta width) and eaten as a salad. I've been collecting thoughout the winter and dehydrating so we should have enough for a good salad. Combined with a nice shoyu/fish sauce, sesame seeds, and green onion it has a beautiful flavor. Lastly the boa kelp floats can be eaten like an olive but with an incredibly ocean-y flavor. They are actually quite good! There is actually a seaweed called "grapes of the sea" which are even tastier but they are harder to find and much smaller. Feather Boa on the other hand is prolific in our area.

    4 votes
  2. aphoenix
    I bottled a hot sauce this past weekend. I have been fermenting the peppers for a couple of months so they were not as spicy as they started, but I had a bunch of jalapeños and scotch bonnets that...

    I bottled a hot sauce this past weekend. I have been fermenting the peppers for a couple of months so they were not as spicy as they started, but I had a bunch of jalapeños and scotch bonnets that I had in separate fermenting jars. I had thought of doing two sauces when I started, but decided to put them together. I decanted them and strained them, and retained a bit of the brine from the bonnets, and put them in a moderate sized saucepan. I added some canned (well, mason-jarred) peaches, and some raspberries that were looking a little sad, and then gave everything a rousing boil to stop any more fermentation. I added back a bit of the brine, and strained it all again, then tasted. I added a bit of salt and some apple cider vinegar, then bottled it. It turned out pretty much exactly as I was hoping - spicy with a lot of fruity notes, and a bit of a floral complexity behind it because of how long the peppers were waiting. I ended up with a pretty decent sized batch - about 800g or so! I've got 2 medium bottles which I'll keep and 9 smaller ones that I'll hand out to friends and family.

    I picked up some more peppers to ferment, so in a few weeks I'll make a new batch. I got some more jalapeños - I like the sweet, relatively un-spicy base - and I have some cherry hot peppers that I will have to try and see what they taste like so that I know what the sauce should taste like. I think I got in my head already that hot peppers that look like cherries should be paired with cherries, so I might try that.

    3 votes