The pescatarian’s dilemma: Is it possible to eat seafood and not destroy the oceans?

How to shop for seafood within the framework of sustainable development is becoming more challenging. Pollution and over-fishing, coupled with environmentally damaging fishing practices, are to blame for fish populations that are becoming ever more scarce and endangered. Some experts feel we should stop eating fish altogether. If you have not yet made that choice, here are some guidelines for being a smart seafood shopper, whether you live in Mexico or another country.

Sustainable development: a pattern of resource use that aims to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations. (Wikipedia)

“Sustainable” is a key buzz word in today’s food market, yet not generally understood or followed. As a shopper, pushing my cart in a grocery store or checking out the offerings in a fish market, how am I to know what is a smart seafood purchase and what isn’t? How can I know which species are sustainable and which are close to being endangered? Responsible, informed organizations are working to supply us with well researched information that is as accessible as our computers. We can shop responsibly.

This and all photos taken by Tony Dobek at Jalgachi Fish Market, Busan, South Korea

Seafood Watch iPhone App: Thorough Tuna List
Image by Special*Dark via Flickr

Monterey Bay Aquarium maintains the Seafood Watch Program which details seafood recommendations in four categories: The Super Green List, Best Choices, Good Alternatives, and Avoid. Individual fish names can be entered in the search feature for specific information on that species.  Their current list recommends avoiding Atlantic flounder and sole, and Mexican grouper. Pacific halibut and farmed tilapia are recommended, as are many other species. How the fish is caught determines which list it is on. To make purchases easier while you are in a store, download and print their  Seafood Watch Pocket Guide or use their Seafood Watch Mobile Guide on your iPhone.

Greenpeace’s Supermarket Seafood Sustainability Score Card rates U.S. supermarkets according to their commitment to offering only sustainable seafood. Stores are given a Fail, Pass or Good score on a scale of one to ten. Their number one ranked store is Target, Whole Foods is number three, and Trader Joe’s, with a Fail score, ranks ninth out of twenty stores. Due in large part to the bad publicity this score has brought Trader Joe’s, they have recently stated that as of December 31, 2012, all of their seafood will come from sustainable sources. Trader Joe’s is already making the transition, as it stops selling such fish as Chilean sea bass, orange roughy and red snapper.

More guidance is available from the Marine Conservation Society Fishonline where you can read “fish ratings”. Each species is rated according to method caught, whether it is from a certified fishery, if it is over-fished or endangered, and other sustainability factors. Fish are rated on a scale from one to four, Rating One being the most sustainable.

Finally, there is Neil Banas’ Eco-Health Seafood Pocket Guide. Neil is an oceanographer, teacher and artist who has put together a pdf file, rating fish in three categories of mercury and PCB content: Bad, Medium and OK. This rating, determined by combining toxity with sustainability factors, draws upon information from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Environmental Defense Fund.

In 1994, the World Watch Institute issued a warning that more fish are being caught than nature can replenish. It’s like a bank account — the withdrawals are greater than the deposits. It sounds grim, but it doesn’t have to be. We have the ability to turn this around, and it begins in the supermarket and fish market with the choices we make and the demands we make from store management. We can speak out and let them know we will only purchase sustainable seafood. Here’s one thing you can do: Tell Costco to Stop Selling Endangered Fish (


To eat small, plate-sized red snapper, one of the most popular menu items in seafood restaurants in Mexico, is unconscionable. At that size, red snapper have not reached breeding age. Without an opportunity to reproduce, they are being harvested with no chance of replenishing their species.

Shrimp purchases contribute to environmental destruction if the shrimp are harvested by dredging, a practice that can literally scrape clean the ocean floor and capture many other fish beside shrimp, known as bycatch. The bycatch can be as much as three to fifteen pounds of non-food species to every one pound of shrimp. This bycatch is thrown back into the sea, the fish already dead or dying. More modern dredging equipment is being implemented to reduce bycatch, but its use is not enforced in many countries. I will guess that Mexico, with good regulations but poor enforcement, does not practice sustainable dredging, if such a procedure is even possible.

Farmed shrimp are only a partial solution, as farming destroys thousands of acres of vital wetlands, the nurseries for juveniles of many fish species and the fishing grounds for those who live more impoverished lives and depend on estuaries and mangroves for their food and livelihood. Fish farming, if not highly regulated, can cause water pollution and higher incidence of diseased fish. Again, I suspect Mexico is not always enforcing laws designed to protect the environment and its food sources.


I invite all readers to comment on this article. Please tell us which stores in your area offer sustainable seafood. Which resources do you use to make your purchase decisions? I would especially like to hear from readers in other parts of the world as to what their countries are doing to support seafood sustainability and inform shoppers, and what are considered sustainable seafood species where they live. Finally, to answer the title of this article: can one eat seafood and not contribute to marine destruction?


More reading:

Net Loss: Fish, Jobs and the Marine Environment by World Watch Paper examines the ecological, social and economic crisis in world fisheries.

All About Global Fishing from CNN on the effects of unregulated global fishing on diminishing seafood resources.

Fresh Hope for World’s Fisheries from Optimum Population Trust on successful rebuilding of fish stock in regulated marine ecosystems.

Related articles:


Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Check

Molten Mexican pineapple pancakes

Pineapple season has replaced mango season in our part of western Mexico. Our state of Nayarit produces golden, juicy Esperanza pineapples and trucks come down the street every week, beeping their horns and announcing their sales by loud speakers. I have to run out our gate quickly before they have moved on, and hope it really is the pineapple man and not the man who wants to buy scrap metal, or the guy selling roasted corn sprinkled with chile powder and lime juice, or the man who sharpens knives.

We buy six at a time, lop off the tops and refrigerate them, eating one a day between the two of us. Picked ripe, they are incredibly sweet and help us make the transition from the season of unlimited local mangoes to the months of none. Pineapple pancakes are one of our favorite ways to eat this drippy, sweet fruit. As the pancake cooks, the pineapple slice becomes almost molten, the sugar starts to caramelize and I can barely remember how crazy I was about mangoes just a short month ago.

Molten Pineapple Pancakes

  • 6 fresh pineapple slices, about 1/4″ (.65 mm.) thick
  • 1 cup (240 ml.) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup (1.77 ml.) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup ( .60 ml.) milk, plus extra if batter is too thick
  • 2 tablespoon (.30 ml.) melted butter
  • 1 large egg
  1. Slice pineapple, removing core if  too tough. Pre-heat griddle over medium heat.
  2. Blend dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl with a fork.
  3. In a second bowl, whisk melted butter with egg. Whisk in buttermilk and milk.
  4. Pour wet ingredients all at once — not gradually — into flour mixture, blending quickly with a whisk only until no dry flour can be seen. Small lumps are OK. Be careful not to over-mix.
  5. Brush vegetable oil on heated griddle. To test if it is hot enough, spatter drops of water across its surface by flicking your fingers. The drops should skip and dance across the griddle.
  6. Using only one hand (keep your other hand clean for picking up a spatula or plate), dip slices of pineapple into the batter, coating both sides, and place on the griddle.
  7. Cook 3-5 minutes per side, or until each side is a deep, golden color. Serve hot with butter and honey or agave syrup.


Without fruit, this recipe makes excellent whole wheat pancakes. Or stir blueberries, sliced banana or walnuts into the batter.

For any batter using baking powder and baking soda, a minimum of mixing is crucial. Otherwise, gluten develops and the result is not as tender.

Use organic ingredients if available. This recipe used homemade butter made from raw cream and real buttermilk, a by-product of butter making.


“Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker – Do not copy content from this page.”


Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Check

Carnes del Mundo in Bucerias — A Meat Eater’s Haven

Photo  by Irma Quast

For meat lovers, the selection does not get any better than the offerings at Carnes del Mundo in Bucerias. Kyle and Irma Quast have any meat you are looking for, plus some processed meats you probably haven’t heard of. For many residents from north of the border who are used to the taste of aged beef — something not available in the local meat markets — this is the place to come for a T-bone steak, prime rib or filet mignon that tastes even better than what you get at home. There is also a great selection of processed meats, and specialty meats, like buffalo, ostrich and crocodile.

A few numbers: Carnes del Mundo sells two hundred and twenty different meat products, including fifty kinds of sausage, plus special orders. Italian sausage, rib-eye steaks and marinated, deep-fried chicken strips are the top sellers.

The Cuban Longaniza, a sausage similar to chorizo but much better, is seasoned with pineapple, habanero chile and cane sugar.  Russ, my chief taster, took one look at it when I came in the door, cut off a length and threw it on the grill. The knife and fork can be quicker than the camera in our house. I had to camouflaged the cut end with cilantro for the photo.

Carnes del Mundo supplies many of the local restaurants with carnivores’ delicacies, such as all-steak hot dogs. One well known restaurant uses the Cuban longaniza for their paella dish. Other specialty meats include duck prosciutto, cherry smoked duck breast, dry Spanish chorizo and Texas hot links.

Photo by Irma Quast

You will just have to visit the store to see everything — the inventory is too extensive to list — but I will tell you that you can get just about any sauce you need to compliment your meat purchase: satay sauce, chipotle sauce, honey mustard, desperado B.B.Q., and Thai noodle, to name a few. All their sauces are made on the premises.

And they deliver. And they will provide the meat for your party, be it a bar-b-que or a pig roast.

Photo by Irma Quast

And they do specialty orders. And they will be at the Old Town Farmers’ Market in Puerto Vallarta when it re-opens November 6.

Photo by Irma Quast

Next time you have a hankering for meat, you know where to go. It’s well worth the drive from Puerto Vallarta.

Carnes del Mundo; Heroe de Nacozari 31; Bucerias, Nayarit; 329-298-2000

8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.





Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Check

Salsa Roja — Salsas de Chile Ancho y Chile Guajillo, and a Question of Color

Salsa Roja is a classic Mexican salsa. Spooned over enchiladas, eggs, tacos — over anything where you want to see a blaze of color, and it adds a rich, complex flavor of chile. The upper left salsa is made with chile ancho, the lower right with chile guajillo, both dried chiles. In Mexico, the smallest mom and pop grocery stores to the largest supermercados carry these two common chiles, as well as many others. North of the border, you can find them on the Mexican aisle in grocery stores. If they are unavailable, look for dried New Mexico red chiles. They make a wonderful salsa.

Once you taste these salsas, and if you have an imaginative palate, maybe you will taste the flavors described in Mark Miller’s The Great Chile Book (Ten Speed Press), which describes ancho, the dried form of the fresh, green poblano chile, as having qualities of “a mild fruit flavor with tones of coffee, licorice, tobacco, dried plum and raisin, with a little woodsiness.” Guajillo is described as tasting of “green tea and stemmy flavor with berry tones. A little piney and tannic …”.

I can’t say I taste each of these flavors. I can say their unique complexity of flavors makes anything they accompany much better and richer.

Salsas made from dried chiles are so easy, I can see why Mexican housewives whip these together in a matter of minutes, sometimes for every meal. I have read that salsa in Mexico is compared to the use of ketchup north of the border. If I were Mexican, I would take umbrage at this comparison. There is no comparison.

Upper right, ancho chiles; lower left, guajillo chiles

When we visited our friends Capi and Cuka in the mountains near Mascota in the state of Jalisco (that most Mexican of Mexico’s states), I watched Cuka make salsa for a lunch of Gringa Tacos. I took notes, but I knew better than to ask her for measurements. She would have looked incredulous and shrugged her shoulders. These two salsas are made as she made them. The measurements are mine, but feel free to vary the amounts to suit your own taste.

About the question of color. Those of you with wide screens will see a band of reddish color on either side of this page. What color to select, if any, has caused me no end of angst. I’m lousy at selecting paint colors for our house. Selecting this color for Cooking in Mexico was no easier for me. I settled on a color that came close to the color of dried chiles and the color of our handmade terracotta floor tiles. But you, the reader, have never before read why I picked this color, and by itself, without that association, some of you may wonder if I was out of my mind by selecting what I call “Terracotta.” Was I? What do you think? Please tell me. Please tell me if your screen is even wide enough to see a color on the side. I may be getting worked up over nothing. If you can see it, is it OK? Does it compliment the food photos or detract? Is it enticing, or would a new reader take one look at it and be chased away? Would you rather see another color? Or no color? I await your comments and answers.*

Meantime, here is this easy, classic, wonderful chile salsa recipe that I like to call Terracotta Salsa. Use whichever dried chile you find. Other dried chiles will make great salsas, as well. Avoid dried chipotle unless you like true fire.

Salsa de Chile Ancho or de Chile Guajillo

  • 4-8 dried chiles (depending on size of chiles), ancho or guajillo (or New Mexico red)
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
  • about 1/4 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small tomato or a few tomatillos, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml.) to 1 cup (240 ml.) hot water

Wipe chiles clean. Briefly toast in an un-oiled, heavy skillet over medium-low heat about 30 seconds per side, being careful not to scorch. If they scorch, throw them out and start again, as they will take on an unpleasant, bitter flavor. When cool enough to handle, remove stem, stringy veins and some or most of the seeds. If you like your salsa on the hot side, leave seeds in.

Put chiles and other ingredients, except water, in a blender and process until everything is roughly chopped. Don’t worry if there are still large pieces of chile. Add 1/2 cup of hot water and process until smooth, adding more water if necessary for a spoonable consistency. The salsa should not be so smooth that there are no pieces of chile. This salsa benefits from texture.

Heat skillet with about a tablespoon of mild vegetable oil — I used avocado oil. Add salsa to skillet when oil is hot. It should spit and bubble. Stand back and stir to calm the salsa. Simmer for about three minutes. Adjust salt to taste. May be refrigerated for a few days.

Russ took one look at the salsas and added both to his Cuban Longaniza sausage on a bolillo. More on this wonderful sausage from Carnes del Mundo in the near future.

The salsa colors are brilliant. I’m not so sure about the page color on the sides. I look forward to your verdict.

*Postscript: In September I changed to a different layout, one that does not offer background colors, so this question of color became a moot point. Thank you to everyone who offered their opinion. I hope you enjoy the new blog design.


When selecting dried chiles, look for those that have a bright color, are still somewhat flexible and have a good aroma. Discard any with insect damage.

Chile ancho is also known as chile tener in the Mexican states of Nayarit and Jalisco. This name was given to me when I participated in making tamales in Nayarit.

In From My Mexican Kitchen, Diana Kennedy includes a recipe for salsa de chile costeño, the ingredients of which are only chiles, garlic, salt and water. She describes this salsa as having an acquired taste, but being a favorite of hers. Her recipe shows how simple it is to make any salsa with dried chiles: a slight toasting, then processed in a blender, adding enough water for consistency, and salt to taste. Onion, tomatoes, tomatillos, and oregano are optional.


Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Check Registered & Protected


Mango cobbler in Mexico

Mango season will come to an end any day now in our part of Mexico. When that happens, it will be a readjustment of reality for me. It is so easy to get used to having fresh, sweet mangoes whenever I want, everyday. Well, before the harvest ends, here is a very easy mango cobbler to make. Once you have sliced mangoes ready, the few ingredients for the cobbler batter are mixed up in minutes. Into the oven. Out of the oven. And on a dish in front of you, topped with a cool scoop of yogurt, maybe homemade yogurt. Its smooth and tart coolness contrasts nicely with the warm sweetness of mango cobbler.

Like many of my baking recipes, this one is made with whole wheat flour, a minimum of sugar, and organic ingredients when available. I used Tommy Atkins mangoes.

Mango Cobbler

  • 3 ripe mangoes, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons (2 oz./56 grams) organic butter
  • 1 cup (4 oz./115 gram)  whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup ( 1.8 oz./50 grams) organic sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional
  • 1 cup (8 0z./240 ml.) milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds plus 1 tablespoon organic sugar

Read recipe through completely. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. (180 C.) Prepare and measure/weigh all ingredients.

Melt butter in a 9″x 9″ (about 22 cm. square) baking pan. Swirl to coat sides of pan with melted butter. Arrange half of mango slices in bottom of pan.

In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, salt, cardamom and baking powder briefly with a fork. Add milk, and stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated.

Spoon batter over mango slices. Arrange remaining slices on batter. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cake tests dry with a toothpick and is light brown. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm with plain yogurt.


This cobbler is extra fruity, because there are two layers of fruit, rather than the one layer found in most cobbler recipes.  Extra fruit means extra fructose, resulting in a cobbler still very sweet, even with a minimum of sugar in the recipe.


Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Check