Week 2 of Eating Like a Fish

We just wrapped up our second week and everyday I am blown away by the dedication from our participants. They are not only completing their assignments but showing so much enthusiasm and really stepping outside of their comfort zone by trying new species, cooking with whole fish, and asking tough questions in the marketplace. While it certainly hasn't been easy to find many or their assigned species we have heard positive feedback from some participants that because of the interest they have shown in purchasing local species some markets are promising to start carrying more local fish! 

Here are a few highlights from this week:

Charleen Thorburn from New Hampshire

"Initially, I had a little trouble but the folks at Sanders are just great. They were supposed to get some Hake in, but that didn't end up happening but the lovely gentleman remembered when I called for the hake that "you were also looking for tautog, weren't you?" and they had some coming in that day (Friday) that would be cut on Saturday. I came in on Saturday afternoon, just before going to my friend's cookout, and was presented with 2 beautiful 1-lb fillets. A little more than I was hoping to spend, but they were gorgeous and would be a hit at the cookout. I made a little foil packet, with butter, salt, pepper and lemon and threw the tented packet on the grill for a little less than 10 minutes and put the fish over a bed of similarly cooked fiddleheads. WHAT A HIT! People wanted to know WHAT I'd done (next to nothing) to this fish, why it's so good and omg fiddleheads (that I actually bought AT Sanders). Easy to cook, good flavor and texture and a few people actually had heard of Tautog (I previously had not)."
Flounder Picatta

Flounder Picatta

Samantha Baasch from Massachusetts

"This week by fish list had me searching for Herring, Dab, Winter Flounder and Butterfish. Seeing how I have never seen most of these fish in the two markets closest to my house I decided to hit Tony's Seafood in Seekonk for their large selection. I ended up purchasing the Winter Flounder- 1 lb. at 10.99 with Flounder Picatta in mind! The fillets were small but firm. I dipped them in beaten egg whites and panko then dropped them In a hot pan for a light fry. Making the picatta sauce on the side, consisting of butter, white wine and chicken broth. After reducing to half and adding the delicious briny capers it was time to plate! I laid the Flounder over a bed of arugula topped with the sauce, sliced lemon and parsley. Everything was wonderful the fish stayed together so nicely and with its delicate flavor paired so well with lemon and wine picatta sauce. Overall this was a lovely fish to work with. Not difficult to find, reasonably priced and most importantly delicious!"
Scup ( beginning to end)

Scup ( beginning to end)

Carolyn St. Jean Gogan from Rhode Island

"It had been some time since I last gutted and scaled a fish. You must take it outside to scale otherwise it will be messy inside your kitchen. Also, make sure that you have a sharp knife to slice through the fish to gut it. I chose to use a Caribbean pan fried fish recipe for the Scup. The recipe was easy to follow and the fish came out perfect. It was very delicate in texture and very sweet. You must be careful of the many small bones. So we ate it with our hands . Not really a company meal, unless you're camping or having a cookout. It was very inexpensive and served with a nice salad makes a fine meal. I would buy it again."

 

Chris Coccaro from Connecticut

"My girlfriend and I are both partaking in this program so I get to hear about 8 fish each week rather than the usual 4. One thing that has certainly come out so far is that our local markets (as I cannot speak for all of them) are very particular of which fish they sell on how well they can move them and how easy they are to handle. For instance, my girlfriend has had a John Dory twice already and in speaking with the fish markets they all said the same thing, "the fish is tough to work with. It has large spines, very thin, and only gives a very small fillet. 90% of the fish is thrown away." Hearing things like that makes it easy to see why markets wouldn't want to sell something like that, it isn't very practical from their standpoint. A few of the other species we have had, (razor clams, ocean perch, tautog, to name a few) the shop owner indicated he could get at the fish market if we wanted them, however we would need to buy a large order of it to make it worth it. He would have to buy the fish in 50-lb lots, or razor clams by the half bushel, and based on his knowledge of the local tastes he would sell a few pounds and have to discard the rest. From his description it appears that there isn't the local demand for many of these species. Finally the last thing that has jumped out at me is that there is difference between the common name and the market name of these fish. For instance, they only know Tautog as "black fish" and many have never heard of a cunner, sculpin, ocean perch, or smooth dogfish. Looking forward to coming week I'll have to do my research on the more common market names for my species."
Mediteranian-style baked cod with roasted squash and wild rice

Mediteranian-style baked cod with roasted squash and wild rice

Paul Anderson from Maine

"I've used this recipe on other white fish. The hardest part is making sure you have parchment paper. Lay the fillet on a large piece of parchment. Sprinkle work black olives, halved cherry tomatoes, capers and shallots. Salt and pepper and olive oil. Close parchment and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. I served it with roasted butternut squash cubes and wild rice."
 

Jennifer McCaffrey from Rhode Island

"This week I tried butterfish. It tasted good but so many small bones made the fish difficult to eat. My husband was laughing and me picking through the meat saying that's what you get when you eat bait!"
 
 
 
 

Andrea McCarthy from Connecticut

Bluefish with blackening seasoning (left), Blackened bluefish (right)

Bluefish with blackening seasoning (left), Blackened bluefish (right)

"For this week my seafood choices were white hake, Jonah crab, razor clams, or bluefish. The only type that a store carried was bluefish from Rhode Island. Bluefish are voracious predators. They employ a feeding behavior call the “bluefish blitz” where large schools of big fish attack bait fish near the surface, churning the water like a washing machine. One resource described bluefish as an “animated chopping machine”. They are aggressive feeders making them easy to catch. They also put up a good fight for anglers. But they seem less desirable as a meal. Just as for all extremely active predators, their meat will spoil quickly due to their powerful digestive enzymes that are activated by the bait they ate. They need to be cooked soon after being caught. They also have darker meat and a blood line along the dorsal fin that gives them a strong flavor. But they are very nutritious to eat full of Omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of selenium, magnesium, and other minerals. All my research had me very wary of how bluefish would taste. So we chose to blacken the fillets in cast iron using a homemade blackening seasoning with paprika. The fish was very good with no strong overwhelming fish taste or super oily texture. I think it is a testament to the local fish market. I would eat bluefish again."
Grilled Dab; So Soft You Can Eat It With A Spoon!

Grilled Dab; So Soft You Can Eat It With A Spoon!

Christine Devito from Maine

"This week finding my fish was a little more difficult but was happily surprised with my success in the end. Allow me to explain... of the species I was tasked with buying, John Dory was one of them, and also the fish I bought, cooked and enjoyed last week. I went to Harbor Fish Market and found that they had it again immediately. The price remained the same as the previous week ($8.99/lb) , but before buying it I wanted to see if I could find a different fish from my list. Unfortunately they did not have any of the other ones, so I decided I'd check another two markets and if I didn't find them, then I'd come back to get the John Dory. The week went on and I checked two other fish markets, and one explained how they carried John Dory usually, they just didn't have any when I was there, and the other insisted all they had left was hake and cod. Neither of these markets had any of the other fish I was looking for. I returned to Harbor Fish Market to pick up some John Dory and I got to talking to one of the women behind the counter about the other fish I was looking for (I didn't see them out/displayed anywhere). I am so glad I talked to her because as it turns on they had two of the other species I was looking for, Dab (American Plaice,), which she informed me is also called lemon sole, and was labeled as such behind the glass under the counter, and Tautog (black fish). The Tautog was available as a whole fish, but she said they could clean it and cut it up any way I liked. I was deciding on which of the new species to try when they sold out of the Tautog, so my decision was more or less made for me; this week would be Dab. It was such a surprise to me when I returned to that first market and found three out of my four fish were there. I learned it is always worth talking to the folks behind the counter about fish you want and you are either not familiar with, or fish you want and don't see displayed because apparently they may also just have another name, and/or are kept in a different, less visible area. Additionally, they may just have sold out, or are coming in later that week. Although I had never cooked this type of fish before it looked like your standard fillets of fish, which made it less intimidating and easy to cook with confidence. I decided to stick the pieces of Dab on a greased baking pan, with some butter, juice of a lemon and parsley, and throw the pan on the grill (medium heat for about 15 minutes). It smelled so good! They came out great and I enjoyed it. The taste of the fish itself is extremely mild, so next time I think I would add more herbs and spices before cooking it. I couldn't believe how soft and smooth it was and how it almost seemed to melt in your mouth. While I enjoyed the Dab, I think it would work best in a chowder, or in a pasta dish. The incredible softness after it was cooked left behind gooey pieces on my plate, which would have been soaked up nicely in something like a chowder, or any pasta dish ( perhaps certain vegetables too), where it would stick to/coat the pasta as a sort of additional sauce, plus still have the bigger pieces of fish to enjoy too. Pasta with Dab Balls! Well, that doesn't sound exactly as appealing as pasta with meatballs, but you get the idea. Overall, I am happy I found it, try it and know it better!"

Michelle Pechie from Rhode Island

"I went to a couple of regular supermarket to get a feel for their selection of local fish. As with last week, they had little to none that could be verified as locally caught. I then went to an Asian seafood market because I had heard they tend to have a selection of local fish. The fishmonger told me they do get locally caught species, but you take what you can get when you can get it. I found the mackerel here. He also asked if I was using it as bait! When I told him it was my dinner, he graciously offered to clean it for me!!"

Kim Gainey from Massachusetts

"I am a fan of mussels and prefer wild local to the small farm raised ones such as PEI's . The Catham wild mussels I got at Cape a fish and Lobster were the plumpest ones i've ever seen! I don't know if it's the time of year or what they are feeding on but WOW! If you are a fan I urge you to go pick some up. They are sweet, briny with just a touch of mineral tang. I prepared them in the was Black Fish restaurant does. With toasted fennel, sausage, onion in a ️️milk broth ( like a chowder) . Yum !"

Kate Aubin from Rhode Island

"Growing up, I didn't eat much lobster. Because it is often expensive, lobster was seen as a treat in my family, only eaten in restaurants during summer months. I was excited/apprehensive to see lobster on my list this week. I really wanted to try to cook it on my own but as someone who is predominately vegetarian (with the exception of seafood, which I don't typically cook at home (other than for this project)), I was nervous about having to deal with a live animal. Everything ended up going off without a hitch, but it took me longer than it probably should have because I was so nervous. At first I was just going to mix the lobster meat with some pasta and a white wine sauce, but then my husband suggested a lobster roll. I had my first lobster roll 3 years ago on a trip to Maine and I absolutely loved it. Since then I've been chasing my first lobster roll "high". I found a recipe for lobster rolls online at Bon Appetite's website and was quite happy with the results."

Aubrey Church from Massachusetts

"For week 2 of #eatlikeafish my four species to search for were: squid, mahi-mahi, white hake and #haddock. Squid and mahi-mahi were out because I picked squid last week, and mahi-mahi is not local to New England waters during this time of year. I was unable to find white hake, so haddock it is! Haddock, is a type of groundfish species that is found primarily from Maine to New Jersey. Haddock are a member of the Cod family, but can be distinguished by a black “thumbprint” found on the side of their body and they have a black lateral line. Two of the haddock stocks found in US waters are from Georges Bank and Gulf of Maine. Commercial fishing for haddock occurs year round in the US, with bottom otter trawl fishing producing the majority of haddock landings. Longline, and gillnet fisheries land the remainder of the haddock catch landings. Fishermen follow a number of measures to reduce impacts on habitat and bycatch. In some areas, fishermen use a “Ruhle trawl” to reduce catch of overfished groundfish, while allowing them to target more abundant stocks such as haddock. Ruhle trawls have a large 8 foot mesh in the forward end of the net, which allows cod and other fish to escape. Adult haddock are benthic feeders, with a diverse diet that includes bivalve mollusks, amphipods, crabs, shrimps, sea stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, and occasional fish eggs. Juvenile haddock are often eaten by elasmobranchs (spiny dogfish, skates) and many groundfish species (cod, Pollock, cusk, white hake, red hake, silver hake, halibut and sea raven). Haddock has a slightly sweet taste, and a firm but tender texture. Haddock is a great source of low-fat protein, magnesium and selenium. I made baked haddock fillets with horseradish-chive potato mash with a side of green beans. Yum! Recipe was found from “Fresh Fish: A fearless guide to grilling, shucking, searing, poaching, and roasting seafood” by Jennifer Trainer Thompson. I substituted some Cape Cod Potato Chips for breadcrumbs, because after all I’m on #capecod and that’s #capeliving ?? Follow along for next week’s #fishtale #eatfish #eatlocal #bestwhenfresh #eatingwiththeecosystem #knowyourfisherman #piertoplate #localseafood"
IMG_1684.JPG

Jeff Rodensky from Connecticut

"I struck out at 4 local spots...so I traveled to Bridgeport hoping to up my odds on the shoreline. Again, nothing. So I called around (I had free time up until this week). I used to live in Middletown and remembered CityFish always seemed to have a wide selection. Turns out they had it...so I drove 50 minutes to get it. After striking out last week I was determined to find at least one of my fish this week =) I normally hate fish tacos...but I always order them because I feel like I should like them. I love tacos...I love fish. So I discovered the secret this week...MAKE IT MYSELF =)...oh, and leave out the cilantro!!! Being on a low carb diet these days, I got creative making the tortilla. I used what I like to call "fread" (faux bread). Others call it cloud bread. Essentially eggs, cream of tarter, cream cheese and in this case, garlic salt. Then I made a delicious avocado/jalapeno crema which I mixed with a dry coleslaw mix. ...and A LOT of lime. Tip...eat it all that night, no matter how much lime juice you use the next morning it will look ummmm....well, let's just go with unappetizing. Marinated the Haddock in olive oil (a mistake when broiling..so I shifted to baking when I realized the mistake) lime zest, red pepper flakes and cumin. I'm making this again!"

David Ford from Rhode Island

David shared his recipe for Yellowtail flounder curry with salad turnips and spring onions

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs yellowtail flounder
  • 1 bunch salad turnips
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 1 onion
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsps sesame oil
  • 1/2 container low sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
  • 1 tbsp Madras curry powder
  • 1/4 cup (or more) coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup (or more) coconut oil
  • 2 tbsps Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Chop onion and saute in olive oil and sesame oil at medium heat until onion begins to brown.
  2. Mince garlic and slice jalapenos, then add to above and saute for a few minutes.
  3. Add vegetable broth and curry powder. Bring to a low simmer. Add enough coconut flour to thicken slightly.
  4. Thinly slice green onion bulbs and add to curry mix and saute for a few minutes.
  5. Separate turnip bulbs from greens and quarter. Chop turnip greens. Add both to curry mix and saute a few minutes.
  6.  Slice spring onion greens into 1 inch pieces and add to curry mixture.
  7.  Add salt and pepper. Reduce heat to very low simmer.
  8. Brush flounder pieces with olive oil and dust with coconut flower and paprika.
  9. Heat cast iron skillet over very high heat until smoking. Add coconut oil to just coat. A heat resistant brush can do the trick to spread the oil.
  10. Sear flounder filets a minute each side or until slightly charred. Use two spatulas to flip to avoid breaking filets. May need to add more coconut oil between frying each piece.
  11.  Bring curry mizture to a bubbling simmer, add flounder and mix to coat.
  12.  Serve!

Daryl Popper from Massachusetts

"I had a memorable time searching for my assigned fish this week. I went on an adventure to Cape Ann with my mom in celebration of Mother's Day and we had a blast cruising through Gloucester in search of whiting, weakfish, striped bass or swordfish. We met locals along the way that pointed us in the direction of Turner's Seafood just outside the town center. We met with the team at Turner's and discovered that their swordfish was fresh from off the coast of Cape Cod. The team was excited to learn about our project and to see what future fish assignments came my way. They encouraged me to return so they could share more local information about the boat and the fishermen that work hard to provide native fish to their markets."

Deborah Majer from Connecticut

"Here it is Week 2 and once again I was not surprised that I would not find Pollock or Mackerel. I am surprised that the mussels I found at the fish market came from P.E.I. and not from around where I live. Last week's fish and this week's clams that I bought from the fish market both came from Stonington, CT waters. I have been purchasing my clams previously from Costco Wholesale and since they are warm water clams I could never eat them raw but always made them into clams casino. I was able to enjoy the clams this week raw because they came from the fish market. Yummy! My husband and I enjoyed a dozen clams raw with lemon and cocktail sauce, and the other dozen we made into clams casino. The clams had so much more flavor than the ones at Costco. I will be purchasing my clams from the fish market from now on."

Aaron Witman from Maine

"Haddock is so easy to prepare and tell when it is fully cooked. It is the perfect beginners fish but can also be used by professional chefs. It is a typical fish and chips in NE and appeals to most people since it doesn't have an over powering fishy taste. I prepared mine by putting some lemon juice, black pepper and butter with the fish wrapped in tin foil and put on the grill. It came out super flakey. I paired the fish with jasmine rice and asparagus cooked with bacon and garlic. The dinner was well liked by the whole family, even my two young kids (4 and 1)!"

Brian Haggerty from Rhode Island

"It was my first time buying fish from a farmers market. It gave me a chance to discuss local fishes with local distributors and he was quite knowledgeable on the topic. I look forward to building a relationship with him and his cohorts as well as to further my fish intellect."
 
 
 

For more information about the project and to follow along on some of our participants personal blogs check out our Eat Like a Fish page and #eatlikeafish. check back next week to see what our participants have been up to!

Eat Like a Fish Citizen Science Project Week 1!

The Eat Like a Fish Citizen Science Research Project officially started last week! We sent over 90 citizen scientists, from all over New England, to search for local species in the New England marketplace. Each participant was randomly assigned four local species to search for and if they found one or more of their species they were asked to pick one and take it home to cook with.

We have amazing participants who together made almost 200 market visits this week! About 60 percent of our participants found at least one of their assigned species. While some participants were disappointed that they didn't find their species, their efforts are super important and will provide us with information to help get more local species available in the marketplace in the future! 

Here are a few highlights from the week:

 

Scallop Tacos!

Scallop Tacos!

Samantha Baasch from Massachusetts:

"This week I choose sea scallops from my fish list. They were very easy to find and were caught locally in New Bedford, MA. After a quick rinse I slid them into a hot oiled pan with just some salt and pepper. With my husband and daughter eagerly awaiting dinner I assembled the Scallop tacos. Soft tortilla followed by a smear of an avocado sauce I made with some mashed avocado, lemon juice, dash of vinegar and salt and pepper. Add the scallops with some thin sliced cabbage and red onion. Yum!"

 

 


Squid over black bean pasta with jalapenos, parsley and garlic

Squid over black bean pasta with jalapenos, parsley and garlic

David Ford from Rhode Island shared his recipe for local squid over black bean pasta with jalapenos, parsley and garlic:

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs squid, cleaned and cut into rings
  • 8 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 red jalapenos, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (low sodium)
  • 2 tbsps sesame oil
  • 1 box Explore Cuisine black bean spaghetti
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cracked peppercorns

Preparation:

  1. Saute garlic in olive olive.
  2. Add jalapenos, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and saute 2 minutes.
  3. Add squid and saute until rings just begin to curl. NOT ANY LONGER. Sample rings for doneness. Turn off heat.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to box directions.
  5. Add pasta, parsley, salt, pepper to pan and toss to coat well
  6. Serve!

Christine Devito from Maine:

Shiny on the Outside and Tasty on the Inside: John Dory

Shiny on the Outside and Tasty on the Inside: John Dory

"This past week I bought, cooked and ate John Dory, a fish that I had never heard of or tried before, and it was delicious! I was surprised to see it so prominently displayed at the fish market, as I thought it would be more difficult to find after not being able to find it at my local Whole Foods (they usually have what I am looking for and provide me with the relief as a consumer that all the fish they carry and sell are sustainably sourced). I rinsed the large pieces of the fish and cut them into portions sufficient to satisfy each person I was serving. The meat of the fish was Then but easy to slice through, however the skin was pretty tough and took a little extra elbow grease to get through. After cutting, I dipped each of the pieces of fish in egg and bread crumbs and fried em' up. A few friends of mine, who are also eating with the ecosystem, and I decided to all get together for a fish feast, where we all cooked our own fish, in our own way and shared a wonderful meal together. It was a lot of fun! The man at the fish counter at Whole Foods said that John Dory was similar to flounder and after eating it, I do agree with his description. I actually liked it more than flounder in account of its firm, and smooth texture and juicy, meaty taste. Not overly fishy and not at all bland. I think it has a more universal appeal in terms of the experience of flavor for the average fish eater. Overall, a positive buying, cooking and dining experience."

Andrea McCarthy from Connecticut:

Fresh whole weakfish (left), steamed weakfish with lemon and garlic (right)

Fresh whole weakfish (left), steamed weakfish with lemon and garlic (right)

"This week my four species to look for were weakfish, sea urchin, haddock, and sculpin. The only one that any of the stores I contacted had was weakfish. It was also a species I had never eaten. The weakfish gets its name from its tender jaw that is easily torn by fishing hooks. But this fish is known as other names. A more marketable name used is sea trout, and the Narragansett Indians call this fish squeteague. Weakfish is a member of the drum family, and like other drum, it makes a grunting noise by vibrating its swim bladder, but this only applies to males. It seems since the 1800’s that weakfish populations seem to come and go every 20-30 years. Recent accounts of anglers seem to indicate that the numbers might be increasing. I bought the weakfish whole and with the head, but had it cleaned and gutted. The recipe I used came from The Shelter Island 36 cookbook (http://www.theshelterisland36.com/). The book has a collection of New England recipes and is illustrated beautifully. I steamed the whole fish in aluminum foil with aromatics such as lemon and garlic inside and on top of the fish. It was very good. The meat was moist and had a light delicate texture. It was paired with cous cous and green beans. My partner has saved the head for a later meal, and he fried the bones to eat."

Cleaning Whelk

Cleaning Whelk

Craig Gogan from Rhode Island:

"We ended up finding conch at our 4th seafood market, Champlins in Narragansett. They were available both in and out of the shell. We choose to go ahead with the shell to get the whole experience. We bought 4 total, which was a little under 2 lbs and cost a total of $8.50. The meal we found right away online was for a Caribbean style rice dish so we went ahead with that since we had most of the other ingredients already. The 1.75 lbs was actually way too much and our meals were huge since we were not expecting so much meat in there. Price was right. It wasn't very hard to cook, and I feel you could do a lot with it. Taste is really good but it was definitely chewy so I could see how people may be put off by it. Next time we may need to try a better technique than steaming."
 
 

Jayne Martin from Connecticut:
"I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of Ocean Perch (Acadian Redfish) - That's the first thing I learned (2 names for the same fish). Asking the fish counter about where their fish comes from was an adventure in itself. The man at Big Y was actually a fish buyer in New York working part time evenings at the store. Who would have guessed, if I had not started explaining to him about this citizen scientist project, I would never have know that such a knowledgeable person would be helping me first hand. Looking forward to next week!"

 

For more information about the project and to follow along on some of our participants personal blogs check out our Eat Like a Fish page and #eatlikeafish. check back next week to see what our participants have been up to!

Ghosts of fisheries past

Alewives. Eels. Smelts. Frostfish. These fish don't show up in the flesh much anymore. But for longtime Rhode Island fishermen, their ghosts still haunt the coast. 

During a recent project to understand how changing environments affect fisheries, I kept hearing about these bygone fisheries. Like the frostfish. They used to show up every fall, a few old timers told me. Schools of them arrived on the south coast and the edges of the bay, always just after the first frost. It was a whole-ecosystem event; monkfish used to swim right up into the Sakonnet harbor chasing the frostfish. Fishermen chased them too, illuminated by lantern light, gathering them as they jumped out of the water and landed on the sand.

A frostfish, it turns out, is a whiting or silver hake (Merluccius bilinearis). But it is only called a frostfish when it comes in close to shore after the frost. Since whiting do not come in close to shore anymore, frostfish no longer exist. There are plenty of whiting; they just stay farther offshore -- so they are whiting, not frostfish. The monkfish don't come in to shore either. And the fishermen no longer bundle up on nippy November nights to snag a few baskets of the annual visitors. 

Why things change in the marine ecosystem is a question that is full of mystery. Some changes are linked to development and pollution in the nearshore habitat. Temperature no doubt plays a role. Predator-prey cycles and concentrated fishing pressure on localized population units can sometimes be involved. For anadromous fish, dams are a significant factor. But one thing is clear: ecosystems are the locus of human traditions, and when ecosystems change, the people who once participated in those traditions can be haunted by their memory forever.

Records of these ghosts can also be found in the archives of local newspapers:

Frostfish

(from "A Frostfish Harvest on the South Shore," Providence Journal, December 28, 1913)

"Along the shore of the old South County, where the billows of the Atlantic break and moan upon the broad sandy beach, there are few pastimes more popular or more profitable than that of gathering the palatable frostfish. On almost every calm night from early October until well into December the shore is visited by scores of persons who gather the frostfish, oftentimes by the cartload...

"According to adepts in sea lore the frostfish, a slender, scaleless denizen of the deep, said to be a first cousin to the cod, makes periodical visits to the vicinity of Narragansett bay. It appears regularly each fall to some extent, but once in every three or four years it is said to be more abundant than at other times. Some of those who make a practice of catching the fish assert that they are more abundant in presidential years. No logical reason is given as to just why these finny denizens of the deep should appear in such large numbers in this corner of the globe at the time the freeholders are intent upon selecting a Chief Executive...

"According to the old fishermen of Pirate's Paradise in the lee of Point Judith's rugged headlands the frostfish leaves his submarine retreat to haunt the inlets along the New England coast as soon as the air becomes tinged with the first suggestion of cold weather. It runs into the coves and bays, where it hovers around piers and docks, making nightly forages for food among the small bait fish along the shore. 

"Years ago, before the pollution of the Providence River became a problem, spearing the fish was a favorite diversion of residents of this city.... Even as late as a decade ago a considerable number of those who worked in factories and shops in the city made nightly pilgrimages to the east and west shores of the bay, and under favorable conditions they seldom failed in capturing half a dozen or more in a single evening.

"But it is only on the broad, sandy beaches, such as that along the coast of the South County, that the fish manifests its extraordinary habit of coming ashore and literally jumping into the hands of fishermen... [I]ts peculiar habit is taken advantage of by the farmers and fishermen. Every night when the weather is clear and cold and there is a low surf the south shore is patrolled by scores of persons carrying lanterns. They walk close to the edge of the dying breakers and seize the fish as they come floundering out of the surf. The fish are gathered in baskets, loaded into express wagons, and the catch for two or three persons very frequently amounts to several hundred pounds of fish in a single night."


River herring

(from "When the Herrings Run," Providence Journal May 13, 1917)

"With the coming of the first warm weather in May, Taunton becomes the mecca for numerous tourists from divers sections of southern New England who journey to the Massachusetts city for the purpose of watching the herring run. Scores of miles are traversed by members of this curious throng who gather along the sides of the sluiceway to watch the finny denizens of the deep sea scrambling and rumbling through the swift flowing waters on their way to the spawning ponds upstream...

"But with the residents of towns along the shores of the Taunton River the migration of the herrings from the salt sea to the inland fresh water ponds is of more than mere spectacular interest. To a very limited number the run of herring means a season of fishing de luxe, with a substantial addition to the annual income, and to a considerably greater number it means a supply of delectable fish at very moderate prices.

"Although it is pretty generally agreed among the old fishermen of Yankeedom that 'herring fishing is petering out,' the privilege is still zealously guarded and is looked upon as a financial asset by the towns bordering upon the shores of the Taunton river and these bailiwicks find little difficulty in selling the right to take the herrings each year for considerably more than the fishermen say it is worth.

"The right to take the herrings from the Taunton river is vested in the towns along its banks, but for the purpose of conserving the greatest good for the greatest number of townsfolk the practice of selling the privilege at public auction was adopted long ago. Under the law, Raynham, Somerset, Berkley, Assonet, and Fall River each has the right to sell two privileges of fish while the city of Taunton has three privileges to dispose of.

"These privileges are sold to the highest bidder on or before Nov. 15. Years ago when the herrings, or alewives, were more plentiful than they have been of late years the privilege of taking them from the stream was eagerly sought. The Taunton river herring had a wide reputation of being the most delectable species of its kind and hence was readily sold in Fall River, Boston and Providence: big hauls of fish were the rule, several thousand being taken at one sweep of the net, and the competition in the bidding for the privileges was keen."


Eels

(from "Spearing Eels," Providence Journal, March 3, 1946)

"If you feel the need for fresh air and exercise, get yourself an 18-foot eel spear, an axe and burlap bag and sally forth upon the ice clotting the coves of Narragansett Bay. Chop a hole about two feet in diameter and insert your spear, the end with the fan of hooks pointed down. Poke energetically into the mud on the bottom and you may find an eel dreaming in his bed about the fun he will have next Summer catching mummies. If you are spry and pull back your spear you may catch the eel. A brisk north wind with the temperature flirting with the zero mark will add to your spryness.

"In Greenwich Cove, where the gaffers visit the fishing shacks in Scallop Town and recall the days when a man could walk safely out on the ice as far as the Sally Rock bell buoy and 'git his fill of eeling' any day January or February, a handful of eel spearmen are at work this Winter. They are finding the best 'eeling' through the ice along the Potowomut shore across the cove from the Town of East Greenwich.

"Among them are John E. Dawley, who strokes his graying mustache and says he's 'getting pretty close to 70,' and the four Maddalena brothers. The Maddalenas - Arthur, Rinaldo, Armino, and Vito - are shell fishermen in the Summer, eel spearmen in Winter. Dawley, who came to East Greenwich in 1904, will take an eel when he can regardless of the time of year.

"The 'eeling' this year is pretty thin, say the Maddalenas, recalling the day several years ago when Rinaldo pulled 98 of the snake-like fish out of one hole in the upper end of the cove, but there are plenty for home consumption. And home consumption is just what an eel is best suited for, the Greenwich Cove spearmen insist. Skinned and chopped in sections, pan-fried, cooked in the oven or in deep fat, an eel furnishes a delicious repast."


Smelts

(from "Pawcatuck Smelts," Providence Journal, April 13, 1947)

"Synonymous with the coming of Spring in the Pawcatuck River is smelt fishing and almost as synonymous with smelt fishing in Westerly is the name of Walter W. Brayman. As soon as the back of Winter is broken and the snow disappears from the South County Hills, the smelts leave the depths of the Atlantic and swim into the brackish tidal rivers such as the Pawcatuck to spawn...

"Smelts travel up the river only at certain times of the day and to catch them a fisherman must cast his nets out just as the tide is changing. He can try 'slack water,' and he has a second chance at the first of 'flood water.' ...

"Favorite fishing ground for the Braymans are the docks at the rear of the lumber and coal yards off Main Street. With two men ashore to handle one end of the 300-foot net and two others in a skiff, the seine is hauled down-river for about 300 feet and when brought ashore the fishermen deftly pick up the silvery smelts from hundreds of 'tom cod' or 'frost fish,' as they are called locally, that also get caught in the net.

"Disposing of the catch is no problem. The fish markets will take all Brayman and his helpers can bring in. Prices now are as high as they have ever been, he says. At retail, smelts were bringing in about 60 cents a pound at the start of the season. It has been nearly 10 years, however, since catches were of sufficient size to ship out to the New York market."

Cooking With the Pros: Preparing Monkfish with Chef Max Peterson

As always, our goal is to introduce folks to the variety of seafood available in our local waters. More often than not, abundant--and underutilized--species are not well known or eaten. As a whole, a very small portion of the food web is eaten, which results in an imbalance in the ecostystem. That's where our School of Fish comes in.

Take scup, skate and monkfish, for example. We've shown roomfuls of guests how to prepare each of these species, with delicious results. The goal with our School of Fish is to show folks just how delicious these underutilized species are in class, with the hope that they'll take what they've learned and incorporate it into their homes.

Monkfish: Our Fish of Choice for the Third School of Fish

We had the pleasure of having Chef Max Peterson of Hemenway's in Providence teach our third class. His underutilized fish of choice was monkfish. Monkfish is also referred to as Poor Man's Lobster because it is similar in texture to lobster. It is however much leaner. 

Monkfish can be intimidating to work with given the size of the fish and its appearance. 

Monkfish is the catch of the day for School of Fish

Monkfish is the catch of the day for School of Fish

Although only the tail of the monkfish is edible, it is available either whole or fileted. In the marine environment, monkfish perch themselves on the sea floor, where they hunt for prey. They are a type of angler fish, and have the ability to lure their prey in with three modified spines called filaments. 

Monkfish filaments

Monkfish filaments

Chef Peterson took guests through the process of prepping the monkfish, including removing the large head, the skin, the thin membrane covering the tail filets, and the spine. Prepared simply by sauteing filet segments in oil, after seasoning the filet with only salt, Chef Peterson gently basted the monkfish every few minutes with the oil in the pan, and added white wine, butter, and fresh herbs (chervil, parsley, and chives) at the last minute.

Simply put, the guests had the chance to eat expertly prepared monkfish, and savored every bite.

Learn. Eat. Repeat. Our Second School of Fish at Hope & Main

After our first School of Fish at Hope & Main, a roomful of guests walked away with the knowledge of how to prepare and eat scup. They came as interested individuals, hungry to get to know the variety of fish available from our waters and how to prepare it. With the assistance of area chefs, they have succeeded, and hopefully brought this new found knowledge home to their friends and families.  

At our second School of Fish on March 21, two new chefs instructed a new room of guests on how to prepare another local fish: skate. There are seven species of this mild, white fish commercially fished in the Northwest Atlantic fishery. Although skate is eaten around the world, it's less popular here and often used for bait in other area fisheries. 

Chef Joe Simone and Sous Chef Antonio Aguiar of Simone's in Warren prepared a little skate for the guests. As it turns out, only the wings of skate are filleted and eaten. Another interesting fact about skate is that they're like sharks in that they don't have any bones. In fact, they're made of cartilage.

Sous Chef Antonio Aquiar and Chef Joe Simone

Sous Chef Antonio Aquiar and Chef Joe Simone

Skate: Our Fish of Choice for the Second School of Fish

The little skate Chef Joe prepared could have been perceived as an intimidating task, but he made quick and easy work of the fillets. Being the creative and talented chef he is, he prepared the skate fillets two ways: skate piccata lightly breaded in flour, sauteed and finished with butter, fresh sage and capers, and skate over gnocchi in a rich cream sauce. On the side was a gigantic salad of arugula, shaved fennel and generous shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano.

Little skate to be filleted 

Little skate to be filleted 

Our hungry guests

Our hungry guests

Success can be determined in many ways. For us, seeing area chefs take the time to learn how to prepare underutilized seafood for curious onlookers, and then highly considering using it in their own restaurant is an accomplishment. Sometimes it takes one person, one chef or one room of interested individuals to get the ball rolling. Now we can count two rooms of individuals, four chefs total and another class coming up in our repertoire of educated folks. If a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, then one can imagine that a journey of introducing the Ocean State to underutilized fish begins with one class, our School of Fish.

Stay tuned for our next class on April 25, and get tickets here.

Learn How to Prepare Area Seafood at our School of Fish at Hope & Main

I bet the last piece of seafood you bought or ate from the supermarket was either raised on a farm or fished somewhere other than Narragansett Bay. Of course it was; there are very few places to buy local fish, plus, very few folks even know what to do with them. We bet you've heard names like scup, tautog, flounder, skate and bluefish, to name a few. Imagine if you knew how delicious they were and how to prepare them at home.

Our School of Fish series at Hope & Main is aiming to accomplish that. Eating with the Ecosystem has made it our mission to increase Rhode Islander's awareness of the diversity of species available for consumption in our environment. Now we're going one step further--we're teaching you how to cook these species with the help of area chefs. We're here to help you take the fear out of fish so that you can confidently make them at home. 

You, Too, Can Cook a Whole Fish

The fish of choice for the first series was scup--commonly known as porgy. Scup is a small, tender white fish that is a great candidate for cooking whole. Under the guidance of Chef Jonathan Cambra and Chef Max Peterson, a room full of guests learned how to cook a whole scup.

Chef Max Peterson and Jonathan Cambra

Chef Max Peterson and Jonathan Cambra

Whole Scup to be pan-seared and finished in the oven

Whole Scup to be pan-seared and finished in the oven

Taking the Fear out of Fish

The chefs took guests step by step through trimming the fins and scales, gutting, cleaning, marinating, pan-searing and then finishing the scup in the oven. To top it off, seasonal vegetables were served alongside the tender, flaky and delicious fish. That night the choices were oven roasted potatoes, onions and peppers. They even paired the meal with a crisp and tart vinho verde white wine. 

Throughout the night the chefs took turns answering questions from the guests: Is it fine to keep the scales on? Why can't I buy this at my local market? Is it okay to keep the scup fillet on the bone? Diners kept the discussion going beyond scup preparation and into the seated meal. Fishermen and their spouses attended; fisheries observers put in their two cents about the fishing industry; and interested individuals all partook in the lively conversation centered around a fish that is rarely eaten at home by the majority of Rhode Islanders. And that was the point. 

Eating with the Ecosystem can now count on another roomful of individuals to diversify their diet with this lesser known fish species. Hopefully, they'll share their experience with others, and get them on board to incorporate scup into their diet. If they do, it'll be a delicious success.

Stay tuned for the next classes on March 21 and April 25.

How to feed the community, support local fishermen, lower our carbon footprint, and connect with our local ecosystems -- all in one meal

How to feed the community, support local fishermen, lower our carbon footprint, and connect with our local ecosystems -- all in one meal

My idea, which certainly I did not invent, is that to enact this model of a localized food chain, people like us have to be the ones to begin. We have to walk the walk, so to speak. Big restaurants on the Cape need cod on the menu... so... that's out of my realm of influence at the moment. But locals, who learn how to cook and prepare other kinds of species, almost always are pleasantly surprised! Skate wing has gained some popularity, and that is a local abundant fish! Monkfish as well! These fish have made it to the menu!

A Trip to Galilee

A Trip to Galilee

One of the biggest frustrations for the captain I spoke to is not that regulations exist, as the Boston Globe might have you believe. It’s that his catches, day-to-day, do not match up with the quotas that he adheres to. For example, though he currently catches a lot of monkfish, he discards much of it to stay under the limit. In other words, he’s mad about wasting a resource.