Out of the sea | SierraSun.com

Out of the sea

Christina Abuelo/Foothill Farmers Markets
Courtesy photoBrand Little sells fish at the Tahoe City Farmers' Market
ALL |

Seafoodwise, I have been very spoiled. Growing up on the New England coast, I would wander over to my local fishmonger a couple times a week. As I picked out my dinner selection, fisherman in their waders would trudge in with dripping bins of their fresh, wriggling catch of the day.

The seafood had a sea-fresh smell; the eyes of the fish were clear and the skin lining the plump flesh glistened. An old guy named Sammy with his thick accent and a sharp knife would filet the fish while trading barbs with the customers. Unfortunately, you just can’t get that kind of local color or just-caught freshness in the aesthetically challenged, Styrofoam packaged lumps found at grocery stores in the foothills and the Sierra.

Recently, though, to my delight, a fisherman has been bringing his catch to the farmers’ market. He’s part of a fleet of small independent fishing outfits that use sustainable practices that protect the environment and maintain fish quality.

“The small operators tend to pay special attention to ensure premium-grade fish through proper handling and refrigeration,” says fisherman Brand Little. “They harvest through trolling rather than using nets, which can cause excessive scale loss. After bringing in their catch through this hook-and-line method, they land them on a special surface that prevents the flesh and scales from getting damaged.”

The fish are immediately dressed.

“Even if they’re biting, we take the time to carefully gut our catch within minutes so the digestive juices and naturally occurring bacteria don’t spoil the meat,” he said. “We then hold the fish in chilled sea water to maintain a constant temperature. Temperature fluctuations can lead to tissue damage.”

The Little Fish Company currently offers salmon, ahi tuna, halibut and diver scallops, with their catch varying seasonally. In just a short time, they have attracted an extremely loyal, and sometimes eccentric, customer base.

“We have one raw foodist customer who spends $100 a week on our product because she knows she can trust the quality,” says Laura, Brand’s wife. “One customer asks us to pack all but one piece of fish on ice so he can have a snack on the way home. Another guy wraps the salmon in foil, and then cooks it by running it through his dishwasher for a cycle.”

The Little Fish Company can be found at the Thursday Tahoe City Certified Farmers’ Market, which runs from 8 a.m. to noon. The market, which features fresh, local produce, baked goods and hand-crafted gift items, is located at Commons Beach. For more information call 823-6183 or send an e-mail to veggie@foothillfarmersmarket.com.

-Christina Abuelo is market manager for Foothill Farmers Markets.

Broiled Halibut with Mustard Coating

1/3 cup Dijon mustard———————————–

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 – 1 1/2 pounds of halibut thick filets or steaks

salt and pepper to taste———————-

Preparation

Preheat broiler. Place the mustard in a bowl, and slowly whisk in the olive oil until you get a smooth emulsion. Rub a little olive oil on-a broiler pan-or baking dish with-short sides. Sprinkle the halibut steaks with salt and pepper and lay them on the pan. Brush the mustard mixture on the tops and sides of the steaks, using about 2/3 of the mixture. Place the halibut 3 to 4 inches from the heat and broil about 6 to 8 minutes, until the mustard mixture is puffy and fairly brown. Turn over the halibut, brush with remaining sauce and broil about 6 minutes, until mustard glaze is browned and puffy. Serve immediately with potatoes or rice, if desired.

Teriyaki Salmon

1 1/2 pounds filleted salmon, cut into 6 pieces

Sauce:

3 tablespoons mirin, sweet sherry, or white port

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons chicken stock, fresh or canned

Glaze:

1/4 cup teriyaki sauce (see above) ——-

2 tablespoons chicken stock

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

Prepare Sauce: Combine mirin, soy sauce and stock, in bowl. Set aside ? cup. Place salmon fillets in sauce and marinate for about 30 minutes.

Prepare Glaze: Combine reserved teriyaki sauce, chicken stock, and sugar in saucepan. Bring almost to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir cornstarch and water mixture into sauce. Stir constantly while cooking until glaze becomes somewhat thickened and syrupy.

Preheat boiler. Drain excess sauce from fillets and broil 4 to 5 minutes on one side, basting with sauce. Turn fillets. Baste, broil 5 minutes more. When fillets are browned lightly and flake easily, remove from broiler. Spoon warm glaze over each serving.

Scallops with Sesame Bok Choy

24 large scallops with corals (roe)

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon kecap manis or soy sauce

grated rind and juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 lime, in wedges, to garnish

Sesame Bok Choy

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 clove garlic, crushed

8 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise

Rinse the scallops, remove the dark vein and dry with paper towels. Combine the soy and fish sauces, honey, kecap manis, lime rind and juice and ginger. Pour over the scallops, cover and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Drain and reserve the marinade.

To make the Sesame Bok Choy: Pour the oil onto a preheated barbecue griddle (or in a cast iron skillet on the grill) and add the sesame seeds and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the seeds are golden. Arrange the bok choy in a single layer on the griddle and pour the reserved marinade over. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning once, until tender. Remove and keep warm.

Wipe clean the griddle, brush with some oil and reheat. Add the scallops and cook, turning, for about 2 minutes, or until they become opaque. Place the scallops on top of the Sesame Bok Choy and serve with the lime wedges.

Growing up the daughter of a commercial fisherman, Laura Little got severe seasickness every time she went to sea. Despite her unfortunate affliction, Laura loved accompanying her commercial fisherman father on his fishing boat. As a girl, she marveled at the various sea creatures – sea rays, fish, whales, sharks and giant snails – she saw on her outings. “Being at sea, it felt like I was the only person on the planet,” she said, adding “It’s another world out there?the absolute quiet, the great expanse of ocean with no land in sight.”

Ten years ago, Laura married Brand Little, himself a lifelong fishing enthusiast. “The word ‘obsessed’ is not strong enough to describe him,” said Laura. He used to regularly go fishing until three in the morning after working double shifts. And once, as a prank, he once threw a live catfish in the tub as she was bathing.

Inspired by his father-in-law’s stories about commercial fishing, Brand, an advertising manager, bought himself a boat large enough to handle “big weather.” Most of the area’s commercial fishing fleet was built in the first half of the last century. Sunshine, Brand’s 35-foot troller is relatively new by these standards and came with a coveted salmon permit. He started fishing part time a year ago, commuting to Bodega Bay for several days each week.

Without experience or training, he had to teach himself how to handle what is reputed to be the most dangerous job in the world. “Every time you survive a trip, you learn something new,” he deadpans. And that can mean figuring out how to deal with a blinding fog bank, curious whales and menacing sharks.

When asked about the latter, Brand acknowledges that sharks only get about five percent of his catch. “What really is the worst are sea lions. They get about three-quarters of my catch,” he said, adding this about the sea creatures most people find endearing: “They’re not cute to me.”

Wild caught cold-water fish tend to be low in calories and saturated fat, yet high in protein and a unique type of health-promoting fat, the omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fats reduce the risk of stroke, reduce joint inflammation and have a broad array of cardiovascular benefits, including improving the ratio of “good” to “bad” cholesterol, preventing erratic heart rhythms and preventing blood clots. Fish is also a very good source of the B vitamins niacin, which helps lower cholesterol, and vitamin B12, which protects against cardiovascular disease.