Sea Bounty

Book Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Among the many delights of East Bay living are the rich, varied offerings of seafood available year round. Salmon, halibut, albacore, Dungeness crab, mussels, clams, oysters, and a host of other edible creatures all populate our local waters at different times during the year and have been a feast for local residents for a long, long time.

If you’ve ever driven along Shellmound Street in Emeryville (location of the Bay Street Shopping Mall), you’ve been at the location of one of 425 identified native peoples’ shell mound sites surrounding the San Francisco Bay. Shell mounds were sacred burial sites of the Ohlone people. Researchers have determined that the massive sites (estimated to be over 60 feet high and 350 feet in diameter) contained shellfish remnants, which are leftovers from millions of prehistoric meals consumed there. Among the clam and mussel shells are heaps of shells from the Olympia oysters that once thrived in the bay. A species that succumbed to overfishing and pollution, Olympias remain a favorite and iconic food of Northern Californians, and if local efforts are successful, they may make a comeback here. (Read about one restoration effort here.)

To pick up some local seafood, stop into favorite shops like Hapuku Fish Shop in Oakland, Monterey Fish Market, Bonita Fish Market, or Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley. Or ask your local fishmonger what their fisherpeople are bringing in right now. Other great sources include community-supported fisheries like Real Good Fish and Siren Fish Co., and sustainable seafood providers TwoXSea and Safe Catch.


Oysters: Recipes that Bring Home a Taste of the Sea
by Cynthia Nims
(Sasquatch Books, 2016)

Cookbook author Cynthia Nims, in her latest project, explores oysters and stories from local farms up and down the Pacific Coast which produce Kumamoto, Olympia, Eastern, and European Flat species. With beautiful photographs of oysters and scenery, the book features 30 recipes, from Hangtown Hash with Fried Eggs to Half-Shell Oysters with Kimchi-Cucumber Relish, together with suggestions for what to drink with oysters and tips for buying, shucking, and storing.


Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides & Salads to Match
by Brooke Dojny
(Storey Publishing, 2015)

I’ve been cooking through the recipes in this book for the past several weeks, enjoying the hearty, deep flavor that can be achieved in one pot with these fairly easy, straightforward dishes. Chowders are a chunky, hearty soup, often thick with fish, seafood, bacon, or smoked ham, cream, and vegetables. A quintessentially American meal, chowder has been featured in American cookbooks for over 200 years. Brooke Dojny, an award-winning food journalist and cookbook author specializing in New England cuisine, in her latest book presents 57 recipes for chowders of all kinds, some made with seafood, some with meat, and some with just vegetables. Try Creamy Clam Chowder; Shrimp, Fennel, and Red Potato Chowder; Portuguese Caldo Verde Chowder; Northwest Salmon Chowder with Leeks and Peas (appetizingly pictured on the cover), or any of the delicious stews.


The Fish Sauce Cookbook: 50 Umami-Packed Recipes from Around the Globe
By Veronica Meewes
(Andrews McMeel, 2015)

Fish sauce, a light brown, briny liquid produced by fermenting fish, is a ubiquitous condiment in Asian countries, where it is used to season soups, meat, and dipping sauces. It’s an ancient food, used by the Greeks and Romans to flavor foods and long used as a key umami flavor in Asian cooking. Most Asian countries have their own style of sauce, made from particular fish (fresh or dried) with added seasonings. With photographs of the vast array of different fish sauces bottled with colorful labels, author and blogger Veronica Meewes explains the origins of fish sauce, compares different brands and varieties, describes proper care and storage, and includes 50 recipes featuring fish sauce from food personalities from around the United States. Learn to make your own fish sauce or try recipes that include fish sauce, like Shrimp Toast with Nuom Choc, Crispy Farmers’ Market Vegetables with Caramelized Fish Sauce, and Hamachi Tostadas with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette.