I grew up by the ocean, spending my earliest years on the beaches of South Texas before moving with my family to the tiny island of Okinawa where I spent my grade school years.
I remember late nights at shacks in Texas, seasoned and boiled crabs dumped from enormous buckets onto newspaper-lined tables. It's there that, before kindergarten, I learned to smash my way through bright red, wild-armed creatures and pluck out every bit of their juicy, sweet flesh.
Later, in Japan, I remember pacing through the markets with my mother and younger sister. Alongside pots of fermented vegetables, strange herbs, and bags of rice, I remember the freshly caught fish: their eyes still glassy from the sea.
And while I live miles and miles from the ocean now, I still miss fish. Its clean flavor. Its feel-good fats, vitamins and minerals. Fortunately now, sustainable, wild-caught fish can be shipped straight from the producers to my doorstep, so I lean upon organizations like the Seafood Producers Cooperative who recently sent me a tidy little package of gorgeous albacore medallions and albacore tuna in BPA-free cans to develop recipes with.
Why My Family Eats (lots) of Fish
While much of my family's foods come from close to home, I make exceptions for those foods that I feel are worth the distance. Those foods that are profoundly nourishing, or that are, quite simply, delicious and that cannot be had locally. Olive oil, to be sure. Coconut oil and unrefined cane sugar, from time to time. And fish, lots of fish.
Deeply, and profoundly nourishing, fish is a food that supports wellness in a way few other foods can match. It is rich in protein, B vitamins, minerals like selenium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Most importantly, fish typically offers a favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids which supports cardiovascular, emotional and cognitive health.
Fish was so profoundly critical to health, that even preindustrial, landlocked peoples went to great lengths to acquire and preserve fish and seafood, often reserving them as a sacred food for women of reproductive age and small children (read more in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration). It's important, folks.
Making a Sustainable Choice
Of course, while it's important to eat fish, it's also vitally important to choose the right kind of fish: fish that is nourishing, fish that is from healthy and sustainable stocks. That's why, before I make a purchase, I typically visit Seafood Watch (a service of the Monterey Bay Aquarium) that rates fish as "Best Choice," "Good Alternative," or "Avoid" based upon factors related to environmental impact, such as if the stocks are well-managed, and if they're caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways.
Why Catch Method Matters
How fish are caught, for example, plays a critical role in the impact of marine ecology. Further, it plays a role in the flavor and quality of the fish on the plate. When fish are caught by hook and line, one fish at a time, bycatch is minimized. Further, catching fish one at a time also ensures optimal flavor as each fish is handled with care and attention unlike fish caught by net which are often already dead by the time they land on the boat, and are sorted in bulk on the deck. Further, when you catch fish with intention at peak season when the fish are particularly well-nourished, the fish are meatier, and are likewise richer in nourishment.
The Seafood Producers Cooperative, a fishermen-owned group that sells their fish to some of the finest restaurants worldwide as well as online here, is committed to selling only hook-and-line caught fish, exemplifying what it means to take pride in the work of supporting families, honoring marine ecology through sustainable fishing practices, and maintaining the best quality fish for the marketplace.
By working together, with commitment to common values and to care in their profession, they are able to bond together to make their fish available directly to the public. And you can order fish straight from the cooperative here, with free shipping no less.
How I Serve My Albacore
So with albacore medallions sent to my door, I started the pleasant task of preparing them. Wild-caught albacore is an extraordinary fish: tender and light, with a creamy finish and mild flavor. For these reasons, albacore is best served raw (or nearly raw) which not only helps it retain its nutrients better, but it also preserves its delicacy.
Calling to the roots of my childhood which were steeped in Okinawan fish markets, I pair albacore medallionswith the sharp, salt notes of naturally fermented soy sauce as well as the peppery, floral heat of fresh ginger as well as garlic and green onions. It's lovely. We serve it with steamed rice, and a side of my homemade kimchi or pickled daikon radish.
Seared Albacore with Ginger, Garlic and Green Onions
For the Fish
- 1 pound albacore tuna medallions
- ½ teaspoon finely ground real salt
- 2 teaspoons nanami togarashi
- 4 green onions sliced thin
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp ginger paste
- Preheat a grill pan over high heat. (This is the grill pan that I use.)
- Set the albacore medallions on a plate a sprinkle them with half the salt and nanami togarashi, then flip them over and sprinkle the reverse side with the remaining seasonings.
- Sear the seasoned albacore in the preheated grill pan, about 1 minute on the top and bottom sides. Remove from the pan, and plate.
- Whisk soy sauce, lime juice and honey together, and pour into a small dipping bowl. Arrange scallions, garlic and ginger over the seared fish. To serve, pluck up a piece of fish and garnishes and dip into the soy-lime sauce.