Sustainable seafood is one of the big buzzwords in food these days. And it is important: So many of our most popular fish are close to being overfished. The trick is expanding our palates, finding fish that we aren't already loving to death.
But finding alternatives is daunting – most of us didn't grow up with great markets, so the range of fish we know is limited. Still, there are great fish out there. So I put the question to a panel of seafood experts at Saturday morning's "Field to Fork" segment of the Taste: What one fish would you want to put in people's hands that is both sustainable and delicious?
Lisa Hogan, a vice president of Santa Monica Seafood – one of the leading seafood wholesalers on the West Coast – chose Santa Barbara spot prawns. They're trapped off the Southern California coast and sold live from tanks. "They are so sweet and so delicious," she said. "I guarantee you that once you taste these, you'll never go back to farmed tiger or white shrimp again. They're just amazing."
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sheila Bowman, who manages their wildly successful Seafood Watch program, chose Pacific rockfish. "If it's line-caught, not netted, it's sustainable," she said. "And as far as I'm concerned, it's a fish that can do no wrong. It's so delicious."
She also offered a second choice: sturgeon. "We've got a growing caviar industry, and we all love that," she said. "But you know these beautiful fish that the caviar comes from are often literally going into the garbage. They've got a great meaty texture, like swordfish."
Michael Cimarusti, chef at Providence, one of the nation's finest seafood restaurants, made what might be to some a surprising recommendation: salmon. But not just any salmon.
"Pacific salmon, wild salmon, is such an amazing fish, but we take it for granted," he said. "It is one of the best fish that we have, but I think people's minds have been polluted by all of the farm-raised salmon. I guarantee you that if you taste them side by side, there's no comparison. I beg you to give it a chance."
For me? I'd have to go with Pacific sardines. And when I said that, everyone on the panel nodded their heads. "That's the fish that almost never leaves the kitchen," said Bowman, "because the chefs keep it for themselves."