Linguine with Uni and Meyer Lemon

The temperatures of the waters in Maine have gotten colder lending way to some of the most delicious shellfish of the season. Urchins are available, but not many know how to clean it or cook it other than sushi preparations. Here is one of my favorite ways to eat those tender little orange chunks of sweet sea butter – with some lemon and some really good pasta! We use cultured butter in this recipe because it has a sweet and sour taste (not unlike yogurt) to give a well balanced juxtaposition to the richness of the uni.

Linguine with Uni and Meyer Lemon

Ingredients

Serves 2 (main course) or 4 (appetizer)

  • Uni from 3 large green urchin (ours came from Maine)

  • ½ lb fresh Linguine (dried is also acceptable if fresh is not available)

  • 1 stick unsalted cultured butter

  • 1 Meyer Lemon, sliced into rounds, seeds removed

  • 1 large shallot, minced

  • 2 T parsley, chopped finely

  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Boil lightly salted water for pasta

  2. In a cast iron skillet, brown 1 t. of butter with a pinch of salt and half of the minced shallots. Once the butter is browned, add in the lemon slices in one layer. Cook the slices on medium high heat until the lemons have browned and caramelized – a little black is just fine. Remove the slices from the pan and allow to cool. Chop finely and set aside.

  3. In a small saucepot, simmer just enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by ¼ inch. Slowly whisk in the butter, one chunk at a time. The mixture should have one color and consistency, making sure that it does not break (if it breaks, the pasta will be greasy and unappealing). Once all of the butter is incorporated, move to a warm surface, like that back of the stove top.

  4. In a skillet, warm ½ of the liquid butter, the rest of the shallots, lemons, salt, pepper, and ¾ of the uni. Mix well, chopping up the uni lobes into smaller chunks. Toss in the pasta to coat well. Add the remaining uni to the remaining liquid butter. Plate the pasta in two bowls, topping with the held liquid butter and garnish with more black pepper and chopped parsley.

A Simple Guide to Sea Urchins

Growing up, I remember sea urchins being ubiquitous in the aquarium touch pools. I didn't think of these spiny, little sea creatures any other way until I was a young adult and had uni for the first time. Since then, sea urchin and food have been synonymous. In the past, I rarely found sea urchin outside a sushi restaurant, but lately, I’m seeing sea urchin more and more in unexpected places. In 2016, Nestle named it one of the top ten food trends due to their unique flavor. Chefs are finding more creative uses for sea urchin as they push the envelope, and it seems this little “sea hedgehog” is an ingredient that's here to stay.

About the Sea Urchin

Sea urchins are echinoderms most closely related to sea cucumbers and sea stars. Their spherical shells, or tests, are made up of plates and movable spines that protect them from predators. There are about 950 species of sea urchins that inhabit a wide range of depth zones in all climates across the world’s oceans. About 18 of them are edible. They primarily feed on algae and kelp, but are also omnivorous scavengers that will feed on animal matter.

Source: Shape of Life. A time-lapse video shows how urchins actively graze on kelp.

Sea Urchin as Food

When it comes to consumption, sea urchins are harvested for their gonads, also known as uni. These bright yellow to orange lobes are “stockpiles” of sugars, amino acids, and salts: a trifecta of sweet, salty, and umami. It’s been dubbed as the foie gras of the sea given its buttery texture and delicate ocean flavors. Like oysters, sea urchins also vary in flavor depending on its species and diet. Urchin lovers, for example, prize Hokkaido uni because of its flavor, developed from the urchin's diet of Hokkadio macro algae kombu.

The green, red, and purple species have the highest demand globally because their lobes tend to be larger and visually more appetizing. 99% of sea urchin are wild and harvested by diving or drags.

There are about 950 species of sea urchins… About 18 of them are edible.

99% of sea urchin are wild and harvested by diving or drags.

  Source: Food Republic. L to R: Maine, Santa Barbara, and Hokkaido sea urchin.

Source: Food Republic. L to R: Maine, Santa Barbara, and Hokkaido sea urchin.

The Global and Domestic Market for Sea Urchin and Uni

The greatest consumption of sea urchin occurs in Japan, France, and Korea. Japanese consumption, however, wins by a landslide: the country consumes 80-90% of the current global supply. Sea urchin is a traditional staple in Japanese cuisine. Japan was the largest global harvester of sea urchins until the 1980s, but high demand and a decrease in domestic supply forced it to look abroad. From the 1980s to 1994, the US, particularly Maine, was the largest exporter of green sea urchin. Today, it’s Chile, which exports Chilean red urchin and accounts for 50% of global landings. Overall global supply has decreased over the last twenty years due to storms, decreasing kelp beds, invasive species, and over fishing. In 1995, global landings totaled 120,000 tonnes. In 2017, it decreased to 75,000.

In North America, the main sources of sea urchin come from the Canadian Maritime; Maine; and the Pacific coast from British Columbia to California. Green sea urchins are harvested from the Atlantic, while red and purple urchins are harvested from the Pacific. These days, domestic supply stays domestic to meet growing demand and ethnic markets. Domestic supply is also supplemented by imported product, mostly from Chile, during summer months.

How to Prepare Sea Urchin

Sea urchin is usually served raw as sushi, commonly seen in Japanese cuisine, but it has a variety of applications. Mediterranean cuisines have used urchin in sauces, pastas, and on breads for centuries. Modern day chefs are even transforming the ingredient into foams and mousses.

Preparing sea urchin is super easy with super tasty results. Bekah demonstrates how in this quick tutorial.

And as a bonus, here’s a recipe to try from our Pangea test kitchen —
Linguine with Uni and Meyer Lemon

Outlook on Oysters 2017

Outlook on Oysters 2017

This year was a roller coaster of events. We had a mild winter which alleviated some stress from ice outs of years past yet we were more susceptible to algal blooms, recalls and closures from the summer’s drought. We saw more oyster bars popping up all over the country as the Nation’s appetite for bivalves is becoming more insatiable. Here is the start of what may be in store for 2017. 

Read More

Recipe: Pork and Clams

Recipe: Pork and Clams

The summer outdoor raw bars are closed, and it is time to take out the stew pot. Think that a bag of clams is only good for a chowder or a fritter? Think again! This dish takes delicately cured pork belly and tops it with marinated Wellfleet clams to make a dish worthy of a chilly fall night.

Read More

Recipe: Hollander and de Koning Mussel Gazpacho Recipe

Serves 4

For the gazpacho:

1# ripe Roma tomatoes (or other sweet tomato), rough chopped
1 English cucumber, peeled, rough chopped
1 red bell pepper, rough chopped and seeded
1 small red onion, rough chopped
1 red jalapeno, sliced and seeded
½ c sherry vinegar
½ colive oil
1T mustard powder
water
Agave to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

For the mussels:

1# Hollander and Dekoning mussels
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
5 sprigs tarragon or thyme
2c white wine

In a blender, puree all of the chopped vegetables in 3 batches, each batch with a sprinkle of mustard powder, a splash of vinegar, salt, and pepper. Once the mixture is spinning well, drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. After each batch, strain through a fine sieve. After the last batch, season to taste with salt, pepper, and if it is too acidic or bitter, balance with a drop or two of agave. Refrigerate overnight to let the flavors meld.

In a large pot, sweat shallots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Once they are translucent, add the mussels and herbs, stirring to coat with the oil. Add the wine and partially cover until mussels open. Transfer the mussels to a separate dish in order to cool. Once cooled, pick the meat from the shells and reserve in a separate container. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil.

Serving tips: 
Toss the cooled mussel meats with raw tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, or other later summer vegetables to create a light and savory main course. Pour the gazpacho table side for a truly indulgent event. 

-Bekah

Imidacloprid: a solution or an anathema?

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of any pest. A pesticide can be a naturally derived or synthetically produced substance.

In this modern age, the thought of food pesticides turns many consumers off. Pesticides have been used since Sumerian agriculture 4500 years ago, but its effects on people have only been documented for the last fifty to sixty years. The research and findings have generated enough awareness and disgust to propel the organic movement, a return to what's natural, though many consumers are unaware that organic farms still use pesticides. The difference is, the pesticides are certified organic.

When it comes to oyster aquaculture, consumers mostly regard the farming practice to be positive and sustainable because farmed oysters live and grow in their natural habitat and do a lot of good for the environment. Recently, however, news of a pesticide permit for Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor in Washington, the nation’s largest shellfish producing bay, has sparked outrage as the public learns of pesticide use in shellfish aquaculture for the first time.

The backlash caused the state to withdraw the pesticide permit approved last April, disappointing many Washington shellfish growers who were depending on it. So what’s going on? Why are Washington shellfish farms using pesticides?

A little background

Since at least the 1940s, the Pacific has been plagued with two native species of inedible burrowing shrimp. The shrimp feed by digging in the sediment, and in doing so, soften the sand and disrupt the structural integrity of the sediment causing shellfish to sink and suffocate. Eelgrass habitats that support other marine organisms are also affected because the sediment is too soft for roots. Once the shrimp take over, many of the tidal beds become useless as the shrimp get as dense as 400 shrimp per square meter.

 Photo from Damian Mulinix | The Daily Astorian

Photo from Damian Mulinix | The Daily Astorian

The state recognized the damage caused by the shrimp and began testing various control methods. Carbaryl or Sevin, an insecticide, was approved in 1963 and was used until it was phased out in 2013 after carcinogenic effects were discovered. As water temperatures have warmed, the shrimp population has increased and without a way to control them, many commercial shellfishermen are watching the shrimp destroy their once productive beds that now look like moon craters.

The permit approved last April was for the use of imidacloprid, the most widely used insecticide in the world, even found in flea collars for pets. The dosage approved was 1/16th the dosage of carbaryl per acre, a highly diluted amount. Recent research, however, suggests imidacloprid may be responsible for the collapse of honey bees, and several countries have already restricted the use of such neurotoxins.

 Photo From Steve Ringman | The Seattle Times

Photo From Steve Ringman | The Seattle Times

So should imidacloprid be permitted?

Arguments FOR imidacloprid

  • Imidacloprid is far safer than carbaryl and would be used in a smaller and highly diluted dosage applied by hand.
  • It would never be sprayed on oysters, only on the sediment before oysters are even seeded there months later.
  • It would prevent a worse case scenario of a 70-80% reduction of shellfish production – the bay currently yields about $35 million in product and is the economic backbone of Pacific County, employing many of its residents.
  • The insecticide does not kill the shrimp, but paralyzes it.
  • Burrowing shrimp is an invasive species destroying other parts of the ecosystem like eelgrass habitats and the estuaries.
  • Imidacloprid would only be sprayed in non-eelgrass areas with dense shrimp populations.
  • Many generational growers will lose their farms and not even be able to sell them because the flats are unproductive.
  • Imidacloprid is highly water soluble and has very low toxicity to fish even on an acute basis.
  • Bees do not frequent shellfish beds.

Arguments AGAINST imidacloprid

  • The burrowing shrimp are native species to Washington. The cultured gigas oyster originally from Japan is the invasive one.
  • There would be uncertain consequences to the aquatic ecosystem.
  • Because imidacloprid is highly water soluble, it shouldn’t be applied directly to water.
  • Although the imidacloprid paralyzes the shrimp, the shrimp eventually suffocate and die.
  • Imidacloprid is highly toxic to aquatic invertebrates, moderately toxic to small birds, and may affect other subsurface organisms.
  • If there is no light, imidacloprid will break down slowly in water in which the half-life of imidacloprid is about 1 year.
  • NOAA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oppose the use of imidacloprid on ocean environments.
  • Pesticides can drift into neighboring farms of growers who refuse to use pesticides.
  • The use of pesticides make oysters seem less “natural” or “quasi-wild.”
  • We are changing the land and sea to better our human production needs.
  • If aerial application is allowed, there might be potential spray drift from the helicopter.
  • Potential confusion in public access areas treated by imidacloprid.

We summarized the main arguments from both sides above. Shellfish growers in Willapa Bay are just as torn as some growers are for and others are not.
 

What do you think?
Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
 


Sources

Fact sheet for Willapa Grays Harbor Oyster Growers Association National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit No. WA0039781; October 24, 2014

Willapa Desert: Key oyster bed abandoned as inedible shrimp take over; The Daily Astorian: http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20160805/willapa-desert-key-oyster-bed-abandoned-as-inedible-shrimp-take-over

Get out of the way and let oyster growers survive; The Chinook Observer: http://www.chinookobserver.com/co/editorials/20160809/get-out-of-the-way-and-let-oyster-growers-survive

Washington State Turns to Neurotoxins to Save Its Oysters; Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2015-04-24/washington-state-turns-to-neurotoxins-to-save-its-oysters

Willapa Bay Oyster Farmers Ask State Again for Permission To Use Neurotoxin; KPLU: http://www.kplu.org/post/willapa-bay-oyster-farmers-ask-state-again-permission-use-neurotoxin

Can oyster farms make Puget Sound a little more wild?; Crosscut.com: http://crosscut.com/2016/06/can-oyster-farms-make-puget-sound-a-little-more-wild/

U.S. consumers across the country devour record amount of organic in 2014; Organic Trade Association: http://ota.com/news/press-releases/18061

Grilled Razor Clams on Crack Recipe

You're a lucky one if you get your hands on some fresh razor clams, so make sure to treat yourself by adding them to your pastas, your salads, and everything you can think of. Add a little bacon to that, and you've just entered heaven. Use this razor clam recipe to garnish and top your dishes. You'll be feeling like you've got a bowl of lucky charms!

Serves as a topping for pastas and salads
Yields 4 portions

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb razor clams
  • 1/2 lb Applewood smoked bacon, cut into lardons (matchsticks)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth
  • 4 large sprigs thyme
  • 1 large lemon, zest and juice
  • Ample cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a large sauté pan, slowly render the bacon lardons over medium heat. About halfway through crisping the bacon, add the garlic, making sure it does not burn. Once the bacon is browned, carefully add the vermouth. Simmer the mixture, reducing the liquid by a half, and then remove from heat.

Carefully arrange the razor clams on top of the bacon, and place the zest and thyme among the shells. Place entire pan on a medium-high grill and cover the lid. In about 6-10 minutes, the clams should be open. Remove the pan from the heat, and set the clams apart from the bacon mixture. Remove the meats from the shells and chop into large chunks. Stir the clam meats back into the bacon, and season with black pepper and lemon juice.

Use the mixture to top pasta with fresh herbs, use as vinaigrette for a hearty green salad, or use as an hors d’oeuvre on top of a crostini.