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Fish Tacos

This article was printed in the Reading Eagle Berks Country Section on Wednesday, August 26, 2015. Click here for printable .pdf.

Have you ever contemplated eating from the ocean with a clear conscience? In 1980, I could walk down the shoreline and find beautiful seashells. Whole shells, scalloped edges, lots of colors, shapes and sizes. Now if I want to find those same beautiful seashells, I literally have to go into my local craft store and buy them. That doesn’t seem to make sense. I spent about 2 hours walking the beach yesterday, only to contemplate the sustainability of our oceans as I looked at the broken pieces of shells along the beach.

The oceans are under increasing threat, in part because of people’s choices in diet and in part because of population growth increasing exponentially. Did you know that the technology exists that allows fisherman to go anywhere on the planet and fish at any depth 24 hours a day? Electronic fish finders and satellites find the areas in the ocean that are conducive to aggregating fish, and the fisherman can extract every single fish out of the ocean if they really wanted to.

Shells from Cape CodThis photo is one I took of the seashells that my daughter and I collected while walking along a private beach on Cape Cod. It seems that the increasingly crowded beaches along the New Jersey coastline, where the tractor rolls each morning to make the sand “even” for all those vacationing on the public beach, outweighs our appreciation of the natural beauty of the seashore. It sure isn’t 1980 anymore. What have we done in the last 30 odd years?

Why are we choosing to make the sand flat and rid the beaches of their natural beauty at the expense of the marine life? Do we really need the tractors? Do we really need to extract every single fish out of the ocean to eat?

When it comes to eating fresh and local, we as a society really strive to understand not only the impact of eating organic foods that are free of harmful pesticides, but also the impact of commercial fishing on the environment. Is it really possible to eat fish and shellfish from fisheries that do not have an averse effect on the ocean or coastal waters?

I recently had the opportunity to talk to a longtime friend and local restaurant owner, George Zeppos (Owner, Hitching Post and Willoughbys) who comes from a long family history of ensuring the best ingredients in his kitchens. He knows a great deal about where his food comes from, as well as the sustainability of the aquaculture industry. “While people tend to know the difference between eating fish that are wild caught and fish that are farmed, it’s important to have a thorough understanding about aquaculture and it’s impact on the marine ecosystem and wild fisheries,” says Zeppos. There is a difference, and what you want to focus on is eating fish that is eco-friendly (meaning, they feed on seaweed, oysters and mussels as compared to fish that are fed with carp or others bred in small ponds). There is something to be said for eating local and knowing where your food comes from; in his restaurants, you can be assured that Zeppos only serves eco-friendly fish.

If we can all be a little more conscious of what we choose when it comes to seafood, maybe we can appreciate the beauty of our oceans and beaches for a little longer.

Here are two resources to show you how much danger fish are really in as well as which fish choices are the healthiest for the environment.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program:  http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/download.aspx

Eco Friendly Fish Choices: http://seafood.edf.org/guide/best/healthy

Fish Tacos

Ingredients:
Taco Shells
1 -2 lbs of an eco-friendly, mild white fish such as cod
Red and Green Cabbage
Scallions
Sour Cream
1-2 Avocados
1-2 Limes

Grill or bake an eco-friendly fish of your choice with a sprinkle of olive oil and the following spices (I used cod in this recipe). I’ve been finding there are a lot of variations on fish tacos, but this is a version I first tasted while vacationing in the carribbean and have been trying to replicate ever since!

Spices:
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. black pepper
1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/4 Tbsp. dried thyme

If you like your tacos spicy, use the same spices and mix together with sour cream or plain greek yogurt for a drizzle. Alternatively, you can puree avocado and lime juice (1 to 1: avocado : lime) for a vegan option or a more mild drizzle/sauce. Fish tacos pair well with rice, a light salad and sauvignon blanc.

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