Oceans and Coasts

Cooking with Sustainable Seafood

Nature.org talks to world-renowned chef, restaurateur and author Mario Batali about why using sustainable seafood is important to his business and the world. Below, he also shares a favorite sustainable seafood recipe: Mackerel in Scapece with Lemon Thyme and Sweet Peppers.

Mario Batali is a world-renowned chef, restaurateur, author, TV show host and “Iron Chef.” He has won numerous awards, including being named “Outstanding Chef of the Year” by the James Beard Foundation in 2005.


Why are oceans important to you?

Mario Batali:

Oceans are not only an important source of food for a hungry world but provide also a separation and delightful sense of distance between places. They are also very spiritual in their untamed sense and their equal treatment of all men. That is to say with nearly complete disregard, which also can invoke the sense of the planet's true significance in comparison with the insignificance of the seeming self-importance of man.


What personally connects you to the sea?

Mario Batali:

I eat from it, I live near it, I love to float on it and sleep in earshot of it, I swim in at and am on my best days a total and effective advocate for it.


How do our food choices impact the environment?

Mario Batali:

The disregard of any ecosystem is the ultimate narcissism and the eventual downfall of our species unless we get together and really think about the ultimate connectedness of every single living thing on our planet. The fact that, along with the atmosphere, the oceans are our largest resource, to squander any part of either unthinkingly is a fool's gain.


What's your favorite seafood dish?

Mario Batali:

Linguine with clams on the Amalfi coast.


Is there a food or dish you secretly hate?

Mario Batali:

Only Durian.


What's your favorite place in the natural world? Why?

Mario Batali:

I love the entire planet but am very comfortable on the Leelenau Peninsula in Northern Michigan. I am also a big fan of the Galapagos for the vast variety of species.


How does sustainable food fit into your approach to cooking?

Mario Batali:

It totally fits into our world as nearly intuitive. All of our chefs, cooks and food staff are very aware of our commitment to real sustainability, and it is not only the food world but the interlocking layers of every act of man and the effects the decisions (or lack thereof) will change our planet forever. Clearly we need to start locally and think globally, but it is time for some people to really act globally and I am on that team.

Mackerel in Scapece with Lemon Thyme and Sweet Peppers

Mario Batali, The Babbo Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2002)

1 pound mackerel fillet, cut diagonally into 2-inch diamonds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
10 to 15 saffron threads, crushed in a mortar and pestle
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Serves 4

Season the fish with salt and pepper.

In a wide, deep sauté pan, combine the vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the lemon juice, lemon thyme, red pepper flakes, saffron, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Add the fish chunks, adding a bit of water if needed to cover the fish, and simmer until the fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the fish to cool in the liquid.

In a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers, reduce the heat to low, and cook slowly to wilt the peppers. Once the peppers have begun to soften, sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of sugar, the mustard seeds, and garlic. Cook until the garlic is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Remove the mackerel pieces from the scapece and arrange in stacks on four chilled plates. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the saffron liquid over each serving and then sprinkle with the red pepper mixture. Serve immediately.


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