Sustainable Seafood: Sepia's Chef Zimmerman

April 21, 2011 9:59:58 AM PDT
Chef Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia Restaurant in Chicago says it's important to try and buy seafood that is sustainably caught and/or raised.

For four decades, the US has celebrated April 22nd as Earth Day. It's a day intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's natural environment. In addition to recycling and driving more fuel efficient cars, you can also be environmentally responsible at the fish counter at supermarket.

Chef Andrew Zimmerman of Sepia Restaurant in Chicago says it's important to try and buy seafood that is sustainably caught and/or raised. Chef Zimmerman shares some delicious dishes using sustainable seafood that available at Sepia and that you can prepare at home.

123 N. Jefferson St.
Chicago, IL 60606

How to check for sustainable seafood:

  • Look for the "Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certified" designation on fish, especially Chilean sea bass, which has historically been an overfished species.
  • Line caught fish is always better because it means the fish wasn't caught in nets, which can damage the sea floor and scoop up other sea life.
  • Farmed fish can be sustainable. Farmed trout, arctic char, and organically farmed salmon are all good choices. Avoid farmed Atlantic salmon, frozen tilapia from China, and imported Black Tiger shrimp.
  • Fish have seasons too. Try to buy fish in season. What to buy now: wild salmon and Pacific halibut from the Pacific Northwest, and wild rock bass and wild black bass from the East Coast.
  • When in doubt, check one of these websites that rate seafood sustainability (some have apps for smart phones, too!):
  • Pan Roasted Walleye with Spring Vegetables and Miso Butter
    Chef Andrew Zimmerman, Sepia

    Serves four

    4 walleye fillets (6 oz each), skin scored
    1/4 lb white (shiro) miso
    1/4 lb softened butter
    1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
    1/2 cup sugar snap peas (strings removed), cut in half
    6-8 radishes, quartered
    1/2 cup asparagus, peeled if very thick, and cut into 1" long pieces
    1/2 cup cleaned morel mushrooms (or substitute any mushroom you like)
    1 bunch small spring onions (or scallions), trimmed, white and very light green parts only, cut into 1" pieces
    1 Tbsp butter
    1 Tbsp olive oil
    3 Tbsp vegetable stock or water

    For the miso butter: In a small bowl whisk the miso and butter together and set aside.

    For the vegetables: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Have an ice bath ready nearby. Blanch the snap peas for 30 seconds in the boiling water and then shock in the ice water to stop the cooking. Do the same with the asparagus. Dry the peas and asparagus on paper towels and set aside.

    To cook the dish: In a small pot, heat the rice vinegar until it is just about to boil and then whisk in the miso butter. Taste it and add more vinegar or salt or a touch of warm water to balance the flavor. Keep the butter mixture warm near the stove.

    In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil and add the morels. Cook for about 2 minutes and add all of the other vegetables. Toss the vegetables for a minute and add the stock, a pinch of salt and the butter. Cook until the vegetables are just tender and the butter has glazed them lightly. Spoon the vegetables on to four dinner plates.

    Pat the fish dry with paper towels and season it on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a large sauté pan and add just enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil starts to shimmer add the fish, skin side down. Lightly press down on the fish with a spatula. Cook on the skin side for about 4 minutes or until the fish is 80% cooked, then flip it over and remove the pan from the heat. As soon as all of the pieces of fish are done cooking, remove them from the pan and put a fillet on each dinner plate, leaning on the vegetables. Spoon some of the miso butter around.