Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seafood Series At The NC Aquarium. Lionfish!

Rosie is happy.
After a two-year plus hiatus, the seafood series cooking classes are finally back at the NC Aquarium!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017, Chef Andy Montero, of Montero's Restaurant in Elizabeth City, was on hand for the opening class.

Our featured fish today?  Lionfish!

Normally, the presenting chefs provide the seafood for our classes.  Not so today.  The intrepid dive team of the NC Aquarium provided the lionfish for today's cooking class.

First some lionfish information.  The lionfish is an invasive species here on the Outer Banks - it is not native to the ecosystem here. It has been introduced into the environment and is a threat to  existing species in our Atlantic waters.  The lionfish is indigenous to the Indo-Pacific area and was introduced to Florida waters in the early 1990s, perhaps released by pet stores or aquarium owners during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and is spreading rapidly throughout the Caribbean and Atlantic regions.  It is an invasive carnivorous predator which can harm our ecosystems and negatively impact our native fish production.  The lionfish, since it's non-native to our waters, has few predators and is at the top of the food chain.  It's a successful invader with venomous spines; it's an efficient predator; it is a competitor to many NC fishery species; it has rapid growth and high reproductive rates.  Combined with the impacts of preexisting conditions, for example over-fishing, the lionfish is in a position to cause substantial damages in coral-reef communities.  Feeding on small crustaceans and fish, it can cause damage to our native species, particularly snapper and grouper.

 It is doubtful we can ever eradicate the lionfish population in invaded areas, so the question is - how do we manage their population?  The consensus is - if you can't beat 'em, eat 'em.  Soooo, the dive team at the NC aquarium ventured out to wrecks off Hatteras inlet (This is the Graveyard of the Atlantic, and for good reason.) and came back with the booty.  The dive team investigated three shipwrecks off Cape Hatteras - the Tarpon, The Dixie Arrow, and the Keshena.  They returned with almost 100 lionfish - from 5" to 18" which they dressed and filleted, and brought to Chef Montero for our class.

In cleaning lionfish, it is advisable to wear puncture-proof gloves.  The dorsal spines are venomous.  Although not fatal, the spines can deliver painful stings causing a variety of symptoms - pain, swelling, tingling, headache, chills, cramps, nausea, and, in extreme cases, even paralysis and seizures.

The majority of lionfish were found by the divers on the Tarpon, a World War II submarine which foundered while under tow in 1957 and now rests in water 140 feet deep.  The other two dive sites were the Dixie Arrow, sunk by a German U-boat in 1942 and resting in 90 feet of water,  and the Keshena, a tug which was sunk by a mine (actually friendly fire, the Hatteras minefield being set to provide relief from attacking U-boats) in 1942.

Now, let's EAT!
(Recipes by Chef Montero.)

For our first presentation, the fillets were rubbed with a tangy and salty red miso paste (fermented soy beans) and simply seared in vegetable oil. These were served on a bed of cole slaw with a quick-chi dressing.  (Quick-chi, as in non-fermented, as opposed to kimchi, which is fermented.)


 Cole slaw with quick-chi dressing
shredded cabbage
shredded carrots
7 TB sriracha
1/2 cup fish sauce
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sweet and spicy Thai chili sauce
2 tsp lime juice
2 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp sesame oil
Mix together all ingredients and toss with cabbage and carrots to coat evenly.
(Dressing can be stored up to 2 weeks in fridge.)

Our next preparation was baked lionfish fillets, simply seasoned with salt and pepper.
These were topped with a fresh herb aioli or mayonnaise.

Fresh herb mayo
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 TB minced yellow onion, or shallot
1 TB minced chives
1 TB minced parsley
1 TB minced basil
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch granulated garlic

Combine all ingredients.
Garnish cooked fish fillet with mayo before service.

This aioli with fresh herbs needs to be used up.  It's not something that keeps in the fridge.

Our final preparation was a Caribbean Ceviche.
The fish is chemically "cooked" by the acid, in this case lime juice.

Caribbean Ceviche
1/2 cup diced red onion
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup diced tomato
1 cup diced pineapple
2 jalapenos, minced
3 TB sugar
4 cups lime juice
(Yes...  4 cups.)
Combine all ingredients.
Marinate up to 2 1/2 pounds of seafood for 45 minutes.


Now, if only I had my own personal dive team to go out a spear lionfish for me. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Hawthornes Visit Arches National Park In Utah. Part 1.

I'm going to share a few more pictures from our trip out West last month.

We're on our way to Arches National Park, in southeastern Utah, - a veritable "red-rock wonderland."
About 5 miles north of Moab, the park contains the world's largest concentration of sandstone arches - over 2000 arches within over 76,500 acres, along with a variety of other geological formations - spires, pinnacles, pedestals, and balanced rocks.

Hunter-gatherers migrated into this area about 10,000 years ago, finding quartz, chert, and chalcedony which were perfect for making stone tools.  2000 years ago, the nomadic hunters-gatherers settled in villages and began cultivating certain plants.  These were the ancestral Puebloan and Fremont people.  Although no dwellings have been found in Arches, rock inscription panels have been found.  The ancestral Puebloans also left lithic remains, often overlooking watering holes, where they might have shaped tools while watching for game.  After the Puebloans and Fremont peoples left the area, nomadic Shoshonean peoples, like the Utes and the Paiutes entered the area.  They were here to meet the first Europeans in 1776.  Some of the petroglyph panels show people on horseback, and horses were adopted by the Utes only after being introduced by the Spanish, which were the first Europeans to explore the Southwest, searching for routes across the deserts to their California missions.  The first European settlement of southern Utah was Elk Mountain Mission, a colonization effort attempted by the Mormans in the 1850s in what is now Moab.  The settlement was abandoned because of conflicts with the Utes.  In the 1880s and 90s, Moab was settled permanently by farmers, ranchers, and prospectors.  Word spread about the beauty of the red rock country around Moab and a local prospector, Alexander Ringhoffer, wrote the Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1923 to promote and publicize the area and gain support for creating a national park.   President Hoover set aside Arches as a National Monument in 1929.  Throughout the years, subsequent presidents modified the park size.  It was enlarged by Franklin Roosevelt, diminished by Eisenhower, and then doubled in size by Lyndon Johnson.  It became a National Park in 1971, under President Nixon.

The park lies atop an underground salt bed that is responsible for the arches, spires, balanced rocks, sandstone fins, and eroded monoliths.  Thousands of feet thick in places, this salt bed was deposited across the Colorado Plateau 300 million years ago when a sea flowed into the region and eventually evaporated.  Over millions of years, residue from floods, winds, and the oceans that came and went blanketed the salt bed.  The debris was compressed as rock, at one time possibly a mile thick.
Salt under pressure is unstable, and the salt bed lying below Arches was no match for the weight of this thick cover of rock.  The salt layer shifted, buckled, liquefied, and repositioned itself, thrusting the rock layers upward as domes, and whole sections fell into the cavities.
Faults deep in the Earth made the surface even more unstable.
Fault-caused vertical cracks later contributed to the development of arches.  As the salt's subsurface shifting shaped the Earth, surface erosion stripped off younger rock layers.  Except for isolated remnants, today's major formations are salmon-colored Entrada Sandstone, in which most arches form, and buff-colored Navajo Sandstone.  They stand like a layer cake over most of the park.  Over time water seeped into cracks, joints, and folds,  Ice formed in the fissures, expanding and pressuring the rock, breaking off bits and pieces.  Wind later cleaned out the loose particles, leaving a series of freestanding fins.  Wind and water then attacked these fins until the cementing material in some gave way and chunks of rock tumbled out.  Many of these damaged fins collapsed.  Others, harder and better balanced, survived despite missing sections.  These became the famous arches.  Pothole arches are formed by chemical weathering as water collects in natural depressions and then eventually cuts through to the layer below.

This formation reminds me of the three wise men.

More to come...