Saturday, December 22, 2012

Article: Farmed "Frankensalmon" Coming Soon to a Meal Near You

Meet the Eelpout, whose DNA has been added to Atlantic Salmon to force it to grow twice as fast as normal

Just when you thought farmed Atlantic Salmon couldn't get any worse, the FDA has now taken a huge step toward approval of a genetically-modifed Atlantic "salmon" that grows twice as fast as real Atlantic Salmon. It's called the AquaAdvantage (sounds like a penis enlargement pill), and is made by a company called Aqua Bounty.

Why is the AquaAdvantage a horrible idea? For starters... this new creature is not a salmon. It's an Atlantic Salmon crossed with a Chinook (a/k/a "King") Salmon crossed with an "Eelpout" (see image above). While the health benefits of eating wild salmon are clear, these benefits are more dubious with farmed Atlantic Salmon.

Why? Farmed atlantic salmon is fed a stew of fishmeal from all over the world, as well as gentically-modifed soy and canola oils. Studies have found higher levels of PCBs and mercury in farmed Atlantic Salmon, most likely due to the food they eat. Also, because these farmed fish are trapped in massive pens with way too many other fish, they are also plied with cocktails of antibiotics.

All of this is why I refer to Atlantic Salmon as the "sewer rat of salmon." I recommend you stay away from it. It's a damn shame what we've done to a once-awesome food source.

When I lived in Alaska, I used to watch the sockeye salmon jumping up the Russian River falls after swimming 70 miles up the Kenai River. It was breathtaking to watch these fish try over and over again to leap three, four, and five-foot waterfalls. They'd usually fail the first 10 or 20 times, but most would eventually make it. Once above the falls, they'd spawn in their ancestral waters, and then die--their decaying bodies providing essential nutrition to the rest of the food chain. That food chain in turn provided the food on which their spawn would feed after hatching in the spring.

It's only a matter of time until the genetically-modified AquaAdvantage salmon get out and breed with wild salmon populations.

I'll venture to guess that the Eelpout isn't quite as adept at waterfall jumping... and salmon muscle that's been artificially forced to grow at twice the natural rate isn't going to power those beautiful fish up to their spawning grounds. What happens next? Wild salmon runs that get polluted with AquaAdvantage Salmon DNA will collapse.

So here's the kicker: think about the economics of this scenario. If the only salmon left on the planet are AquaAdvantage... who's making all the money? Where's the incentive to keep the wild stocks safe from genetic pollution?

Just say no to "frankensalmon."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Recipe: Outstanding Tuna Casserole (gluten free)

Tuna casserole topped with cheddar and breadcrumbs

In my opinion, tuna casserole should be a taste of heaven. I make my tuna casserole from scratch (no cans of soup!), and stick to the classic ingredients (no bleu cheese or olives!).

This tuna casserole recipe is gluten free, but you could just as easily make this recipe full of gluten. To make it gluten free, I use Tinkyada gluten free pasta, and Bob's Red Mill gluten free all purpose flour.

Tuna casserole is all about the fundamentals: properly-cooked pasta, well-seasoned sauce, and appropriately-crunchy cheese and breadcrumb crust.

This recipe calls for making a basic white sauce that includes flavor-building ingredients like tuna, celery, onion, black pepper, and dry white wine. We'll then mix that with the pasta, and top it off with more cheese and bread crumbs (gluten free in our case).

IMPORTANT NOTE: this recipe is really easy! Don't be alarmed by having to make a "white sauce". If you can add hot cocoa mix to boiling water, you can make this white sauce.

This recipe serves 8, and takes about an hour to make. Here's how it breaks down:

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. (dry) pasta (I recommend hollow pasta like macaroni, ziti, or penne, and I use gluten free)
  • 5 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour (gluten free if you like)
  • 3 cups of milk (or 2 cups milk and 1 cup sour cream)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) kosher salt
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 (7 oz.) cans tuna packed in water (keep the water!)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan/romano cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs

Procedure

Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees F. Then boil water for pasta. The pasta water should be well-salted... and taste like an overly-salty broth. Remember, the vast majority of that salt will stay in the water and go down the drain... so don't worry (too much) about your blood pressure.

Lightly toast enough bread for 2 cups of breadcrumbs. This amounts to about two slices of regular sandwich bread, or three slices of Udi's gluten free sandwich bread. Once the bread is done toasting, let it sit on the counter until you're ready for it (just prior to putting the casserole into the oven).

Sauteing the aromatics
While the oven and pasta water heat up, dice the onion and chop the celery into 1/4-inch slices. Begin your "casserole sauce" in a medium stainless steel saucepan by melting 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.

As soon as the butter is partially melted, add your aromatics (the onion and celery). Saute the aromatics for 5-7 minutes or until the onions are translucent and just beginning to brown.

Add the flour, and stir for 10 seconds. Add the milk, tuna with water, and white wine. Stir things around for another 10 seconds until everything is well-mixed.

Continue heating the sauce on medium heat to thicken it, stirring occasionally.

The casserole sauce prior to thickening
At some point while your sauce thickens, your pasta water will boil. When it does, toss in your pasta to cook it.

Cook the pasta until it is al dente (it will continue to cook in the oven) and then drain it and toss it lightly with oil to keep it from sticking. Set the pasta aside until you're finished with the sauce.

Once the sauce has just started to bubble and has thickened noticeably, remove it from heat.

Combine the sauce with the pasta. Add in the parmesan/romano cheese and stir everything around again to combine the ingredients.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. For this recipe, I find that I need about 1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt (1/2 to 1 teaspoons of table salt), and 1/2 teaspoon of cracked black pepper. Taste this mixture. It should taste GOOD. If it doesn't, add salt until it bursts with flavor.

Casserole mixture ready for topping with
cheddar and bread crumbs
Place the pasta/sauce mixture into a lightly-oiled 9-inch by 13-inch casserole dish. Top it with the cheddar cheese. Chop your slices of bread into half-inch cubes, and add those on top of the casserole.

Bake the casserole in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove it from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes... and serve.

Viva la comfort food!