Saturday, July 28, 2007

Summer Berry Trifle

If you're looking for a summery dessert that feeds many mouths for an upcoming dinner party or potluck, consider this trifle. I only wish I had had such an event to attend before I made this massive concoction of Grand Marnier-soaked cake, creme anglaise, whipped cream and berries. With each day that passes, it seems to get better and better, and as it is slowly disappears from my refrigerator I really am afraid I may just polish off the whole thing myself.

Mixed Berry Trifle
Serves 8 – 10

For cake:
½ C. all-purpose flour
1½ C. sugar
½ tsp. salt
8 large egg yolks
3 T. whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large egg whites

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10 x 15 x 2-inch or 9 x 12 x 2-inch baking dish. Line with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, 1 cup of the sugar and the salt. Add yolks, milk and extract and whisk again until smooth.
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Slowly sprinkle in remaining ½ cup sugar. Increase speed to high and beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks — don’t over-beat. Stir one third of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites. It’s ok if white streaks remain.

Pour batter into pan, place in the oven and bake until cake is golden and springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool cake in pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, invert cake onto a cooling rack, peel away parchment paper and let cake cool completely. Set aside.
Note: Cake will fall considerably once removed from the oven and will be very moist.

For the custard:
4 yolks
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1¾ cups scalded milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat yolks and sugar on medium high speed for 3 minutes until thick and pale yellow. Reduce heat and add cornstarch. With mixture on low, slowly pour hot milk into eggs. Put back on stove, stir with a wooden spoon until thickened, strain, add vanilla and chill.

To assemble:
1 cup heavy cream
2 T. Grand Marnier plus more for sprinkling*
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
6 cups mixed berries such as strawberries (stemmed and halved), blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
*optional, if children will be eating the dessert, leave it out

Cut the cake into ¾-inch slices, then cut each slice in half. Set aside. Whip cream on high speed. Drizzle in the Grand Marnier. When cream begins to thicken, slowly sprinkle in the sugar. Beat until thick. Fold into custard and chill mixture until ready to assemble.
Line the bottom of a bowl (ideally a clear glass bowl with straight sides) with cake. Sprinkle with Grand Marnier. Top with 1/3 of the fruit mixture. Top with half of the custard. Layer more cake on top. Sprinkle with Grand Marnier, top with 1/3 of the berries and the rest of the custard. If more cake remains, layer it on top, sprinkle with Grand Marnier and top with the rest of the berries.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Zucchini Pappardelle

My favorite restaurant in Philadelphia is Melograno, a BYOB at 22 and Spruce. Every time I go I can't help but order the pappardelle tartufate, a mix of homemade pasta, wild mushrooms, walnuts, Parmigianno Reggiano and truffle oil. I try to branch out, but ultimately never have the courage — I always give in when the waiter appears.

This recipe only resembles Melograno's signature pasta by way of the shape of its noodles. I purchased a fluted roller at Fante's and fresh, whole pasta sheets from Talluto's on the Italian Market and cut the pasta into 2-inch wide strips. The noodles cook in three minutes and their heat instantly cooks the thin ribbons of zucchini when gently tossed. A recipe for linguini with julienned zucchini in Michael Chiarello's Tra Vigne cookbook inspired this recipe. Tons of basil and parsley make this a perfect summer pasta.

Zucchini Pappardelle
Serves 4

¾ lb. fresh pappardelle* pasta
¾ lb. zucchini
kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped parsley
½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a big pinch of salt. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or peeler, cut the zucchini lengthwise into long thin ribbons about 1/8-inch thick. Set aside in a large serving bowl

Place the oil and the garlic in a large nonstick sauté pan and turn heat to medium. Heat only until garlic begins to sizzle. Add the pepper flakes and remove from the heat.

Eggplant, purslane and summer squash at the South and Passyunk Farmers' Market:
Add the pasta to the water, and using tongs, gently move pasta around to make sure it is not sticking. Cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid. Drain pasta — do not rinse — and add to the bowl with zucchini. Return the sauté pan with the oil to a burner over medium heat and when the garlic begins to sizzle again, add the parsley and the basil and immediately pour over the pasta and zucchini. Add the Parmigiano, season with kosher salt and pepper to taste and toss gently. Taste, adding some of the reserved cooking water, more olive oil or more salt and pepper if necessary.

*Delicious fresh pasta sheets can be found at Taluto’s on the Italian Market. For a pretty presentation, purchase a fluted roller at Fante’s and cut the fresh pasta sheets into 2-inch-wide strips. Dried pappardelle works well also.

CSA Week 11

1 bunch Chiogga beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
1 head red leaf lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
3 candy onions grown by Back Forty Ranch
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
6 tomatoes grown by Green Valley Organics and Countryside Organics
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Countryside Organics
2 green cucumbers grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green zucchini grown by Meadow Valley Organics
4 patty pan squash grown by Green Valley Organics
1 pint grape tomatoes grown by Farmdale Organics

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Squash Tart

Frozen puff pastry is amazing. I finally found a use for the box I've had in my freezer for three years now — the box that survived a move across town in 2005 — and it baked off perfectly. This tart requires a fair amount of summer squash — a perfect showcasing of the season's produce — and takes little time to prepare with puff pastry on hand.This recipe has been slightly simplified from one I saw recently in Saveur, which called for grating, salting and sauteeing some of the zucchini, and also called for chopped and strained cherry tomatoes. With a simple salad, this tart, served at room temperature as suggested by the author, makes a wonderful summer dinner, and leftovers make an even better lunch.

Summer Squash Tart with Ricotta and Feta
Serves 6

1 10” x 13” sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
parchment paper
pie weights or dried beans wrapped in plastic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. mix of zucchini and yellow squash
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon butter, melted
¼ cup feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place pastry on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. With a paring knife, gently score (being careful not to go all the way through) the pastry about one inch from the edge on all sides. Prick bottom of pastry all over with a fork, line center area only with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Remove weights and parchment paper.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and let sauté until slightly caramelized about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.

Zucchini and yellow squash at the South and Passyunk Farmers' Market this past Tuesday:
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut the squash crosswise into ¼ - inch thick rounds. Add to the pot of boiling water, cook for 30 – 60 seconds, drain and let dry on a paper-towel lined cookie tray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread onto puff pastry. Top with the onions. Arrange squash pieces in overlapping rows until tart is filled. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with butter and return to the oven for five minutes longer. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle with feta, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

CSA Week 10

1 bunch of beets grown by Farmdale Organics
2 green peppers grown by Meadow Valley Organics
3 Cubanella peppers grown by Green Valley Organics
1 head lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 Walla Walla onion grown by the Scarecrow Hill Farm
1 dozen ears of sweet corn grown by Green Acres Organics
1 bag of potatoes grown by Green Valley Organic
2 lemon cucumbers grown by Riverview Organics
1 bag green beans grown by Hillside Organics

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Best Granola Ever

Of all the baked treats I bring my husband on our weekly weekend meetings, I think this homemade granola — maybe even more than chocolate-chip cookies and rich, fudgy brownies — makes him happiest. With a tub of this oat-, nut- and fruit-filled mix on hand, and with the barest of kitchen equipment, Ben can enjoy a homemade breakfast with little effort. Mixed with yogurt or milk, sliced bananas or peaches, blueberries or strawberries, homemade granola truly is a treat.

And as a last resort, granola also makes a fine dinner, as my high school friends — subjected to institutional dining hall food three times a day at an early age — can attest. Amazingly, they still never tire of granola and appreciate a homemade batch all the more.

This recipe has been adapted from Ina Garten's "the bare foot contessa cookbook." While the amounts of oil, nuts and dried fruit have been significantly changed, the proportion of the foundation — a mix of oats, sliced almonds and cococut (the secret ingredient) — remains unaltered.

Homemade Granola

4 cups (14 oz.) rolled oats
2 cups (6.5 oz.) sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups (6.75 oz.) sliced almonds
½ cup (4 oz.) vegetable oil
2/3 cup (7.25 oz) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon sea salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 heaping cup (5.25 oz.) dried cherries or cranberries

candied nuts (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large bowl, combine oats, coconut and almonds and gently stir or toss with your hands to mix well. In a small saucepan, combine oil, honey, vanilla and salt and heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to emulsify slightly. Pour over the oat mixture and with a spatula stir until evenly coated. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and stir well. Return to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Stir well again. Repeat twice more until the granola is golden — be very careful at the end: The coconut will burn easily, leaving the granola with a bitter, burnt taste. Remove pan from the oven, place on a cooling rack and leave undisturbed until completely cool, at least one hour. Meanwhile prepare the nuts:

Candied Nuts:
neutral oil such as canola or vegetable
1/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1½ cups raw, unsalted cashews
1½ cups raw, unsalted almonds (skin on)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Oil a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar with ¼ cup water, the salt and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Add the nuts and let the mixture simmer for one minute, stirring constantly to coat them with the syrup. Remove the nuts with a slotted spoon and spread them on the prepared baking sheet — don’t be tempted to drizzle the excess syrup on the baking sheet as well (it will just burn). Bake for 15 minutes, stir and return to the oven until golden and crisp, about another five minutes. Remove pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool, about an hour.

To finish the granola:

Using a bench scraper, carefully remove the granola from the pan and transfer to a bowl, keeping the granola in chunks as best as possible. Add the nuts to the bowl, breaking up the mass into small clusters. Add the dried fruit and toss mixture lightly to combine. Transfer to an airtight container to store.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Zucchini Bread

Although I picked up my 10th CSA today, I am still playing catch-up in my documentation of produce deliveries and am thus posting a recipe I made way back in week 4. While banana bread is probably my favorite quick bread, I look forward to making this zucchini bread every summer. Spiced with cinnamon and sweetened mostly with brown sugar, this moist seasonal bread makes a wonderful addition to breakfast coffee or afternoon tea all summer long. It takes no time to make and, when prepared in mini loaf loaf pans, makes a nice gift as well.

Week 4
1¼ pound bag of pea tendrils
1 head green butterhead lettuce
1 crown broccoli
2 small zucchini
1 bunch scallions
1 head green or red leaf lettuce
1 kohlrabi root
1 quart strawberries

Zucchini Bread
Yield: 1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves

a scant 2 cups (8 oz.) flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt

1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2½ cups grated zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Grease loaf pan or pans. Whisk together first five ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk remaining ingredients except zucchini. Add zucchini to the flour mixture and toss to coat. Add dry to wet and stir till until combined. Pour into pans. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 35 - 45 minutes for mini loaves, and 45 minutes to 1 hour for a standard loaf pan.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Food Blogging Class In NYC

I just returned from a short trip to New York City where I attended a two-hour food blogging class in the Bowery Culinary Center at Whole Foods Market. Matt Armendariz, the teacher and author of the amazing blog mattbites, guided the class through the "ins and outs of food blogging," imparting along the way some invaluable insights and tricks regarding food photography. The photos on his blog — visit a recent post entitled "Sunday and The Perfect Lunch" — and on his new site mattphotographs are stunning. Inspired by the class and matt's photography site, I've put together a mini gallery of food photos, many of which have appeared in my blog. To view the gallery click on the photography link on my alexandracooks web site. For the recipe for these chicken tinga tacos click on the photo of these tacos in the gallery — eventually there will be links to recipes from all of the photos.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Three Summer Salads

Before I received my first CSA produce box this spring, I resolved to document each delivery. Alas, now in week nine, I've only recorded the contents of three boxes, and have not posted nearly as many recipes as I had hope. I have, however, been truly enjoying my vegetables each week, the variety and quantity forcing me, at times, to be creative: I fix cucumber and kohlrabi sandwiches for lunch; eat zucchini, raw, thinly shaved with lemon vinaigrette and Pecorino Romano; and when in the company of my sister, enjoy corn — only corn — for dinner: just yesterday we polished off a dozen ears together. Below are recipes for three summer salads, each requiring the dressing of a simple lemon vinaigrette.

CSA Week 9
3 green zucchini
3 yellow squash
2 stalks fennel
2 bunches Detroit red beets
1 dozen ears of sweet corn
2 candy onions
3 tomatoes
2 heads lettuce
1 bag green beans

Zucchini Ribbon Salad
Serves 4

2 medium zucchini
Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Pecorino Romano
Freshly ground pepper to taste

With a y-shaped peeler, skim long, wide strands from one side of the zucchini. Flip the zucchini over and repeat the same motion until the zucchini no longer can hold its shape. (Discard remaining, or save for another use, such as zucchini bread.) Place zucchini ribbons in a large bowl and drizzle with lemon vinaigrette to coat. Shave, using the same y-shaped peeler, pieces of Pecorino and set aside. Season zucchini with freshly ground pepper and toss in the Pecorino shavings. Serve immediately.

Grilled Panzanella Salad
Serves 4

1 loaf bakery-style bread such as French or Italian
extra-virgin olive oil
2 beefsteak tomatoes
1 cucumber
½ red onion
½ cup ciligene mozzarella (small balls)
Lemon Vinaigrette
1 bunch basil

Preheat the grill to high. Cut four ¾-inch thick slices of bread and brush each side with olive oil. Grill for 1-2 minutes a side, until each side has nice grill marks. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Cut the tomatoes into big, irregular-shaped chunks. Peel cucumber, if desired, and cut into similar shapes. Finely dice the red onion and place in a large bowl with the tomatoes, cucumber and mozzarella. Drizzle in the lemon vinaigrette until everything is nicely coated. Tear basil leaves from their stems (leaving the leaf intact) directly into bowl.

Cut the grilled bread into cubes and add to the bowl. Toss to combine and serve.

Cucumber-Feta Salad
Serves 4

2 medium cucumbers
1 bunch mint
4 oz. feta cheese*
Lemon vinaigrette

Cut cucumber into small cubes and place in a large bowl. Chiffonade (very finely mince) the mint and add to bowl. Crumble feta atop cucumber-mint mix and toss salad with the lemon vinaigrette.

* Earlier this week at Whole Foods I discovered a tub of marinated feta, beautifully packaged and stamped with an enticing slogan: “Eat shamelessly straight from the tub,” — I couldn’t resist. Produced by Meredith Dairy in Australia, this sheep’s- and goat’s-milk cheese, has a creamy texture and wonderful flavor — the hints of thyme, peppercorns and garlic perfectly detectable. While this farmhouse feta truly is a treat, any will suffice in this simple summer salad.

CSA Week 8
1 lemon cucumber
2 dasher cucumbers
1 bunch dandelion greens
1 candy onion
1 head radicchio
1 head lettuce
1 bag green beans
1 dozen ears sweet corn
1 bag potatoes
1 bag yellow squash

Lemon Vinaigrette
Yield = 1 cup

¼ cup finely chopped shallots
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. sugar
freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk shallots, lemon juice, salt, sugar and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil and whisk until emulsified. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cornmeal-Crusted Soft Shell Crabs

A few weeks ago, my friend Lisa called me wanting an idea for a simple meal to cook for her boyfriend, Clark. The last time she had cooked for Clark, she proudly called me to report: "I made salad," she said, "and I even cut the cherry tomatoes."

"Good Lis," I said, and we both laughed.

While I thought she might dismiss the idea of soft shell crabs, she believed me when I promised her how easy these crustaceans are to prepare. We decided on a simple side — a baby arugula and shaved parmesan salad — and some fresh bread. Lisa left for the store and called me with an update as she left the fish market. After the fishmonger handed Lisa her cleaned crabs, she had asked, "these will still be dead when I get home, right?" He assured her they would be.

The next I heard from Lisa was much later that evening, a happy text message exclaiming the success of her delectable dinner.

Truly, soft shell crabs take no time to prepare and make a wonderful summer meal. While the aioli nicely complements the crab, a simple squeeze of lemon suffices. Watch Mark Bittman prepare the crabs in this video.

Soft shell crab season, running from early May through August, happens fleetingly. Soft shells are not a separate species of crab, but ones, typically blue crabs, that have molted their shells in order to grow. Because these blue crustaceans grow rapidly, commercial crabbers place the peelers (crabs in the process of shedding) in holding tanks, where they closely monitor the molting process. The crabbers remove the peelers from the water immediately after the crabs shed, to prevent the new, paper-thin shells from hardening, rendering them undesirable.

When buying soft shells, look for a market selling live ones. At Wan’s Seafood in Reading Terminal Market, where active crustaceans lay supine on the countertop, the fishmongers will happily clean the crabs and pack them on ice.

Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches
Serves 4

1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 egg
½ cup flour
½ cup cornmeal
½ teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup neutral oil, canola or grapeseed
4 soft shell crabs, cleaned
8 slices white bread
1 beef steak tomato, sliced
I bunch watercress
Lemon-Caper Aioli (see below)

Whisk buttermilk and egg together and place in a wide-mouth shallow bowl. Whisk flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together and place on a large plate.

Place oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile prepare crabs: dip one crab into buttermilk mixture, then lightly dredge in cornmeal mixture on both sides and place on a clean plate. Repeat with all.

Drop a pinch of flour into oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Carefully place the crabs in the pan and leave undisturbed for 1 minute. Gently shake pan and let crabs cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer or until bottom is nicely browned. Flip crabs and cook for 3 minutes more, or again until browned.

Meanwhile toast the bread. Spread the lemon-caper aioli on four of the slices, top with a handful of watercress and a tomato slice. Top each with a soft shell crab, and finally the top slice of bread. Serve with more aioli or lemon on the side.

Lemon-Caper Aioli
Yield = 1½ cups

2 egg yolks
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup grapeseed oil
3 T. capers
1 bunch basil, finely chopped

Combine yolks, mustard, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a blender or food processor. With motor running, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil — drop by drop at first, then more quickly once you see the mixture begin to emulsify. Transfer to bowl, fold in capers and basil. Taste, adjust seasoning with more salt if necessary, and chill until ready to use. Will keep for 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Pluot And Frangipane Galette

Little could 16th century Italian nobleman, the Marquis Muzio Frangipani, have guessed a perfume he invented to scent the gloves of Louis XIII would inspire pastry chefs for centuries to follow. Soon after Frangipani, living in France, released his fragrance made from bitter almonds to the public, the local patisseries created a cream made with milk, sugar, flour, eggs, butter and ground almonds. They named it frangipane.

While frangipane can be applied to myriad desserts, it nicely complements fruit, particularly summer stone fruit. A layer of frangipane beneath warm sweet peaches, plums, apricots or nectarines, encased in a free-form pastry shell transforms a simple tart into an elegant finale.

For a change from tradition, try making this galette with pluots, a three-quarter plum, one-quarter apricot hybrid. Introduced to the markets in 1989 by Floyd Zaiger, pluots exist today in over 20 varieties. With an intense plum perfume and taste, and a higher sugar content than either apricots or plums, pluots make a nice addition to morning cereals, afternoon salads and evening summer tarts.

Frangipane Tarts:

1½ lbs. stone fruit such as pluots, peaches, nectarine, apricots or plums
1 T. butter, melted
1 T. sugar
parchment paper
Frangipane (see recipe below)
Galette dough (1 9-inch disk, recipe below)
vanilla ice cream

On a lightly floured work surface, roll one disk out approximately into an 11-inch circle, using flour as needed to prevent sticking. Line a rimless cookie sheet (or upside-down jelly roll pan) with parchment paper. Transfer dough to parchment paper and chill for 10 minutes in the refrigerator. Spoon the frangipane in center of tart and spread toward the edges, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Cut the fruit into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange the fruit in concentric circles over the frangipane.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Finish the tart by folding the exposed border over the tart on itself, crimping to make a folded-over border. Chill tart again in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Brush dough with butter and sprinkle sugar over entire tart. Place in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden. Let cool for five minutes on tray then slide parchment paper and tart onto a cooling rack. Let cool another 20 minutes before slicing.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Galette Dough
2 9-inch tarts

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 T. sugar
½ tsp. table salt
16 T. unsalted butter
½ C. + 2 T. ice water

Whisk flour, sugar and salt together. Cut butter into flour and using the back of a fork or a pastry cutter, incorporate butter into flour mixture until butter is in small pieces. Add ice water and continue to stir with fork until mixture comes together to form a mass. Add more ice water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time. Gently form mass into a ball and divide into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.


½ C. almond paste
¼ C. sugar
4 T. butter at room temperature
1 T. rum
1 egg

In the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor, combine almond paste, sugar and butter. Beat until combined, then add rum and egg and beat until smooth, or until only small lumps remain. Set aside.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Wild American Shrimp

From tainted pet food to lead paint-coated toys, China is taking heat for a numer of its potentially dangerous products. Most recently, activists warn consumers to be wary of China's farm-raised fish and specifically its farm-raised shrimp. While America currently imports 90 percent of its shrimp from farm-raised fisheries in Asia, this reality may change as more people learn about the the foreign industry.

The environmentally irresponsible practices employed in many of these Asian facilities have been widely documented. An estimated 3.7 million acres of tropical mangrove forests have been cleared to create multi-acre shrimp farms, destroying important habitats for fish, birds and humans. Untreated wastewaters pass freely from the shrimp cages to the surrounding ocean, polluting the water and aquatic life. And the liberal use of antibiotics, needed to prevent and treat rampant diseases, creates strains of drug-resistant bacteria, potentially compromising our health. These farms, many now abandoned after years of land exploitation, litter the coastlines of China, Vietnam and other big fish-exporting countries.

For these reasons, Seafood Watch, an organization devoted to ocean conservation, ranks wild-caught shrimp from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico as the best choice among warm-water or tropical shrimp and a “good alternative” to its best overall shrimp choice: wild-caught shrimp from Oregon. Seafood Watch recommends these pink, cold-water crustaceans for shrimp cocktail or salad, and praises Oregon shrimpers for achieving low levels of bycatch. This watchdog organization places imported farm-raised shrimp on the “avoid” list.

Catching shrimp in their natural habitat, however, is not a perfect alternative to farming. Seafood Watch estimates that shrimp trawling — the dragging of a trawl net along the seafloor — accidentally catches and kills more than 1.8 million tons of marine life (bycatch) each year, including many turtles and sharks, accounting for more than 25 percent of the world’s wasted catch.

By creating turtle excluder devices (TEDs) and various bycatch reduction devices (BRDs), however, some fishermen have reduced the number of turtles trapped by 97 percent and reduced bycatch of some fish species by as much as 50 percent.

A recent advertsing campaign beginnig, “You’ve been bamboozled. Snooped. Hoodwinked,” stars Southern shrimpers promoting their domestic wild-caught prawns. The shrimpers hope to rebuild an industry severely damaged not only by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but also by the increasing infiltration of cheap imported shrimp in the market.

For more information about where to find wild American shrimp visit Whole Foods Market sells 16-20 count wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. While it may be a little harder to find, wild shrimp does exist at the market. This summer, search for this environmentally responsible and tasty product — go wild for American shrimp!

Grilled Basil-Garlic Shrimp
Serves 6

2 lbs. large, 16-20 count shrimp
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
½ cup finely chopped basil
4 cloves garlic, minced
kosher salt

Peel shrimp, leaving the tails on. Run a pairing knife down the backside of each shrimp, removing the vein, while butterflying the shrimp. Place in a bowl with the oil, lime juice basil and garlic. Let marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Preheat the grill to high. Remove shrimp from bowl, discarding excess marinade and place on a large plate. Season evenly with kosher salt and pepper. When grill is hot, place shrimp onto grates and let cook for 2 minutes, leaving the cover open. Flip shrimp and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from grill, pile on platter, and serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce
Yield = 2 cups

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled
1 chili, such as Thai bird, Serrano or jalapeno

Combine lime juice, fish sauce, vinegar, shallots, sugar, pepper flakes and garlic in a small bowl. Using a mandoline, vegetable peeler or a knife, cut the carrot into 8 to 10 thin slices. Then with a knife, cut into very fine strips. Add to the bowl. Cut the chili into thin cross sections, leaving the seeds intact, and add to the bowl. Stir all and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.