Seafood of the Week – Clams

October 29, 2013 at 8:29 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | Leave a comment
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Edible clams in the family Veneridae

Edible clams in the family Veneridae

A clam is a generic term for many kinds of bivalve molluscs, some of which are edible.
Clams, like most molluscs, also have open circulatory systems, which means that their organs are surrounded by watery blood that contains nutrients and oxygen. They feed on plankton by filter feeding. Clams filter feed by drawing in water containing food using an incurrent siphon. The food is then filtered out of the water by the gills and swept toward the mouth on a layer of mucus. The water is then expelled from the animal by an ex-current siphon.

 

 

In the United States, the word “clam” has several different meanings. First, it can generally cover all molluscs. It can also be used in a more limited sense as cave sediment bivalves, rather than those attached to the substrate (like oysters and mussels) or those that swim (like scallops). It can also refer to one or more kinds of commonly consumed marine bivalves, such as in the phrase clam chowder, which refers to shellfish soup. Many edible bivalves are roughly oval-shaped; however, the Pacific razor clam has an elongated, parallel-sided shell, the shape of the show, an old-fashioned straight razor.
In the United Kingdom, “clam” is one of the common names of various species of marine bivalve mollusc, but it is not used as a term covering either edible clams that burrow or bivalves in general.
Numerous edible marine bivalve species live buried in sand or mud and respire by means of siphons, which reach to the surface. In the United States, these clams are collected by “digging for clams” or clam digging.
In October 2007 an Arctica islandica clam, caught off the coast of Iceland, was found to be at least 405 years old and declared the world’s oldest living animal by researchers from Bangor University. It was later named Ming.
Some species of bivalves are too small to be useful for food, and not all species are considered palatable.
The word “clam” is used in the metaphor “to clam up,” meaning to refuse to talk or answer, based on the clam behavior of quickly closing the shell when threatened. A “clamshell” is the name given to a container or mobile phone consisting of two hinged halves that lock together. Clams have also inspired the phrase “happy as a clam,” short for “happy as a clam at high tide” (when it can’t easily be dug up and eaten).

 

 

Littleneck clams, small hard clams, species Mercenaria mercenaria

Littleneck clams, small hard clams, species Mercenaria mercenaria

A clam’s shell consists of two (usually equal) halves, which are connected by a hinge joint and a ligament which can be external or internal.
In clams, two adductor muscles contract to close the shells. The clam has no head or eyes, though scallops are an exception of this rule. Clams do have kidneys, a heart, a mouth, and an anus.
Clams begin as a shellfish the size of a grain of sand when born. It has a natural glue on it that causes it to connect to other shells or things at the bottom of the river. Once a clam is secure, it feeds on the plankton, as stated, and moves with the tide. It takes a clam 24-30 months to become harvestable.

 

 

In culinary use, within the eastern coast of the United States, the term “clam” most often refers to the hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria. It

Yummy bowl of steamed clams in broth

Yummy bowl of steamed clams in broth

may also refer to a few other common edible species, such as the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, and the ocean quahog, Arctica islandica. Another species which is commercially exploited on the Atlantic Coast of the United States is the surf clam Spisula solidissima.
Clams can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, baked or fried. They can also be made into clam chowder or they can be cooked using hot rocks and seaweed in a New England clam bake.

 

 

Seafood of the Week – Abalone

October 22, 2013 at 9:44 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week | Leave a comment
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Dorsal (left) and ventral (right) views of the blacklip abalone

Dorsal (left) and ventral (right) views of the blacklip abalone

 

Abalone (æbəloʊniː/ or /ˌæbəˈloʊniː/; via Spanish abulón, from the (Rumsen language) aulón), is a common name for any of a group of small to very large edible sea snails, marine gastropod molluscs in the family Haliotidae. Other common names are ear shells, sea ears, and muttonfish or muttonshells in Australia, ormer in Great Britain, Abalone and venus’s-ears in South Africa, and pāua in New Zealand.
The family Haliotidae contains only one genus, Haliotis, which contains about 4 to 7 subgenera. The number of species recognized worldwide ranges between 30 and 130 with over 230 species-level taxa described. The most comprehensive treatment of the family considers 56 species valid, with 18 additional subspecies.
The shells of abalones have a low open spiral structure, and are characterized by several open respiratory pores in a row near the shell’s outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is composed of nacre (mother-of-pearl), which in many species is highly iridescent, giving rise to a range of strong changeable colors, which make the shells attractive to humans as decorative objects, jewelry, and as a source of colorful mother-of-pearl.
The flesh of abalones is widely considered to be a desirable food, and is consumed raw or cooked in a variety of dishes.

 

 

Abalone with a live sponge in its shell

Abalone with a live sponge in its shell

The shell of abalones is convex, rounded to oval shape, and may be highly arched or very flattened. The shell is generally ear-shaped, presenting a small flat spire and two to three whorls. The last whorl (known as the body whorl) is auriform, meaning that the shell resembles an ear, giving rise to the common name “ear shell”. The “ass’s ear” abalone has a somewhat different shape, as it is more elongated and distended. The shell of Haliotis cracherodii cracherodii Leach, 1814 is also unusual: it has an ovate form, it is imperforate, shows an exserted spire, and has prickly ribs.
A mantle cleft in the shell impresses a groove in the shell, in which are the row of holes characteristic of the genus. They are respiratory apertures for venting water from the gills and for releasing sperm and eggs into the water column. These holes make up what is known as the selenizone which form as the shell grows. This series of 8 to 38 holes is near the anterior margin. Only a small number are generally open. The older holes are gradually sealed up as the shell grows and new holes form. Each abalone species has a typical number of open holes in the selenizone. There are four to ten of these holes, depending on the species. Abalone have no operculum. The aperture of the shell is very wide and nacreous.
The exterior of the shell is striated and dull. The color of the shell is very variable from species to species, and may reflect the animal’s diet. The iridescent nacre that lines the inside of the shell varies in color from silvery white, to pink, red and green-red, through to Haliotis iris, which shows predominantly deep blues, greens and purples.
The animal shows fimbriated[disambiguation needed] head-lobes. The side-lobes are fimbriated and cirrated. The rounded foot is very large. The radula has small median teeth, and the lateral teeth are single and beam-like. There are about 70 uncini, with denticulated hooks, the first four very large. The soft body is coiled around the columellar muscle, and its insertion, instead of being on the columella, is on the middle of the inner wall of the shell. The gills are symmetrical and both well developed.
These snails cling solidly with their broad muscular foot to rocky surfaces at sublittoral depths, although some species such as Haliotis cracherodii used to be common in the intertidal zone. Abalones reach maturity at a relatively small size. Their fecundity is high and increases with their size (from 10,000 to 11 million eggs at a time). The spermatozoa are filiform and pointed at one end, and the anterior end is a rounded head.
The larvae are lecithotrophic (i.e. feed off a yolk sac). The adults are herbivorous and feed with their rhipidoglossan radula on macroalgae, preferring red or brown algae. Sizes vary from 20 mm (Haliotis pulcherrima) to 200 mm (or even more) (Haliotis rufescens).
Abalones are herbivorous on hard substrata.
By weight, approximately 1/3 of the animal is edible meat, 1/3 is offal, and 1/3 is shell.

 

 

The haliotid family has a worldwide distribution, along the coastal waters of every continent, except the Atlantic coast of South America, the Caribbean, and the East Coast of the United States. The majority of abalone species are found in cold waters, off the Southern Hemisphere coasts of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia, and Western North America and Japan in the Northern Hemisphere.
However, the species of sea snail which is known in the seafood trade as the “Chilean abalone“, Concholepas concholepas, is from another family altogether. It is not a true abalone, but a carnivorous muricid, or rock snail. It lives in rocky areas.

 

 

The meat (foot muscle) of abalone is used for food, and the shells of abalone are used as decorative items and as a source of mother of pearl for jewelry, buttons, buckles, and inlay. Abalone shells have been found in archaeological sites around the world, ranging from 75,000 year old deposits at Blombos Cave in South Africa to historic Chinese abalone middens on California’s Northern Channel Islands. On the Channel Islands, where abalones were harvested by Native Americans for at least 12,000 years, the size of red abalone shells found in middens declines significantly after about 4000 years ago, probably due to human predation. Worldwide, abalone pearls have also been collected for centuries.

 

 

An abalone farm

An abalone farm

Farming of abalone began in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Japan and China. Since the mid-1990s, there have been many increasingly successful endeavors to commercially farm abalone for the purpose of consumption. Over-fishing and poaching have reduced wild populations to such an extent that farmed abalone now supplies most of the abalone meat consumed. The principal abalone farming regions are China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea. Abalone is also farmed in Australia, Hawaii, Canada, Chile, France, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States.

 

 

Abalone have long been a valuable food source for humans in every area of the world where a species is abundant.
The meat of this mollusk is considered a delicacy in certain parts of Latin America (especially Chile), France, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and East Asia (especially in China, Japan, and Korea). In Chinese speaking regions, abalone are commonly known as bao yu, and sometimes forms part of a Chinese banquet. Similar to shark fin soup or bird’s nest soup, it is considered a luxury item, and is traditionally reserved for special occasions such as weddings and other celebrations. However, the availability of commercially farmed abalone has allowed more common consumption of this once rare delicacy.
In Japan, live and raw abalone are used in awabi sushi, or served steamed, salted, boiled, chopped, or simmered in soy sauce. Salted, fermented abalone entrails are the main component of tottsuru, a local dish from Honshū. Tottsuru is mainly enjoyed with sake.
In California, abalone meat can be found on pizza, sautéed with caramelized mango or in steak form dusted with cracker meal and flour.

 

Braised abalones

Braised abalones

 

Sport harvesting of red abalone is permitted with a California fishing license and an abalone stamp card. New in 2008, the abalone card also comes with a set of 24 tags. Legal-size abalone must be tagged immediately. Abalone may only be taken using breath-hold techniques or shorepicking; scuba diving for abalone is strictly prohibited. Taking of abalone is not permitted south of the mouth of the San Francisco Bay. There is a size minimum of seven inches (178 mm) measured across the shell and a quantity limit of three per day and 24 per year. A person may be in possession of only three abalone at any given time.
Abalone may only be taken from April to November, not including July. Transportation of abalone may only legally occur while the abalone is still attached in the shell. Sale of sport-obtained abalone is illegal, including the shell. Only red abalone may be taken; black, white, pink, and flat abalone are protected by law.
An abalone diver is normally equipped with a thick wetsuit, including a hood, bootees, and gloves, and usually also a mask, snorkel, weight belt, abalone iron, and abalone gauge. Alternatively, the rock picker can feel underneath rocks at low tides for abalone. Abalone are mostly taken in depths from a few inches up to 10 m (33 ft); less common are freedivers who can work deeper than 10 m (33 ft). Abalone are normally found on rocks near food sources (kelp). An abalone iron is used to pry the abalone from the rock before it can fully clamp down. Divers dive out of boats, kayaks, tube floats or directly off the shore.
The largest abalone recorded in California is 12.34 inches, caught by John Pepper somewhere off the coast of San Mateo county in September 1993.
The mollusc Concholepas concholepas is often sold in the United States under the name “Chilean abalone”, though it is not an abalone, but a muricid.

 

 

Abalones have been identified as one of the many classes of organism threatened with extinction due to overfishing, acidification of oceans from anthropogenic carbon dioxide, as reduced pH erodes their shells. It is predicted that abalones will become extinct in the wild within 200 years at current rates of carbon dioxide production.

 

 

One of America’s Favorites – Mayonnaise

October 29, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Posted in cooking, Food | 1 Comment
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Mayonnaise often abbreviated as mayo, is a thick creamy sauce often used as a condiment. It originates from Mahon, Spain. It is a

Standard ingredients and tools to make mayonnaise.

stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices. Lecithin in the egg yolk is the emulsifier. Mayonnaise varies in color but is often white, cream, or pale yellow. It may range in texture from that of light cream to thick. In countries influenced by French culture, mustard is also a common ingredient. In Spain and Italy, olive oil is used as the oil and mustard is never included. Numerous other sauces can be created from it with addition of various herbs, spices, and finely chopped pickles. Where mustard is used, it is also an emulsifier.

 

The origin of mayonnaise is the town of Mahon in Menorca (Spain), after Armand de Vignerot du Plessis‘s victory over the British at the city’s port in 1756. According to this version, the sauce was originally known as “salsa mahonesa” in Spanish and “maonesa” in Catalan (as it is still known in Menorca), later becoming mayonnaise as it was popularized by the French. The French Larousse Gastronomique suggests: “Mayonnaise, in our view, is a popular corruption of moyeunaise, derived from the very old French word moyeu, which means yolk of egg.” The sauce may have been christened mayennaise after Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, because he took the time to finish his meal of chicken with cold sauce before being defeated in the Battle of Arques.

Nineteenth-century culinary writer Pierre Lacam suggested that in 1459, a London woman named Annamarie Turcauht stumbled upon this condiment after trying to create a custard of some sort.

According to Trutter et al.: “It is highly probable that wherever olive oil existed, a simple preparation of oil and egg came about – particularly in the Mediterranean region, where aioli (oil and garlic) is made.”

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, mayonnaise was in use in English as early as 1823 in the journal of Lady Blessington.

Mayonnaise can be made by hand with a mortar and pestle, whisk or fork, or with the aid of an electric mixer or blender. Mayonnaise is

Making mayonnaise with a whisk.

made by slowly adding oil to an egg yolk, while whisking vigorously to disperse the oil. The oil and the water in yolks form a base of the emulsion, while lecithin and protein from the yolks are the emulsifiers that stabilizes it. Additionally, a bit of a mustard may also be added to sharpen its taste, and further stabilize the emulsion. Mustard contains small amounts of lecithin. It is a process that requires watching; if the liquid starts to separate and look like pack-ice, or curd, it simply requires starting again with an egg yolk, whisking it, slowly adding the ‘curd’ while whisking, and the mixture will emulsify to become mayonnaise. If water is added to the yolk it can emulsify more oil, thus making more mayonnaise.

A classic European recipe is essentially the same as the basic one described above, but it uses olive oil with vinegar or lemon juice. It is essential to beat the mayonnaise using a whisk while adding the olive oil a little (e.g. a teaspoon) at a time, then it is possible to add the oil more quickly while briskly whisking to incorporate the oil into the emulsion. If there are two people in the kitchen, one person can slowly pour the oil while the other does the whisking. Experienced cooks can judge when the mayonnaise is done by the emulsion’s resistance to the beating action. Herbs and spices can be added at any stage and the vinegar may have already been infused with sprigs of French tarragon, or the oil may have been infused with garlic.

Homemade mayonnaise can approach 85% fat before the emulsion breaks down; commercial mayonnaise is more typically 70-80% fat. “Low fat” mayonnaise products contain starches, cellulose gel, or other ingredients to simulate the texture of real mayonnaise.

Some recipes, both commercial and homemade, use the whole egg, including the white. It can also be made using solely egg whites, with no yolks at all, if it is done at high speed in a food processor. The resulting texture appears to be the same and, if seasoned with salt, pepper, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar and a little paprika, for example, the taste is similar to traditional mayonnaise made with egg yolks.

Commercial producers either pasteurize the yolks, freeze them and substitute water for most of their liquid, or use other emulsifiers. They also typically use soybean oil, for its lower cost, instead of olive oil.

Commercial mayonnaise sold in jars originated in Philadelphia in 1907 when Amelia Schlorer decided to start selling her own mayonnaise recipe originally used in salads sold in the family grocery store. Mrs. Schlorer’s Mayonnaise was an instant success with local customers and eventually grew into the Schlorer Delicatessen Company. Around the same time in New York City, a family from Vetschau, Germany, at Richard Hellmann’s delicatessen on Columbus Avenue, featured his wife’s homemade recipe in salads sold in their deli. The condiment quickly became so popular that Hellmann began selling it in “wooden boats” that were used for weighing butter. In 1912, Mrs. Hellmann’s mayonnaise was mass marketed and later was trademarked in 1926 as Hellmann’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise.

At about the same time that Mrs. Schlorer’s and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise were thriving on the East Coast of the United States, a California company, Best Foods, introduced their own mayonnaise, which turned out to be very popular in the western United States. In 1932, Best Foods bought the Hellmann’s brand. By then, both mayonnaises had such commanding market shares in their own half of the country that it was decided that both brands be preserved. The company is now owned by Unilever.

In the Southeastern part of the United States, Mrs. Eugenia Duke of Greenville, South Carolina, founded the Duke Sandwich Company in 1917 to sell sandwiches to soldiers training at nearby Fort Sevier. Her homemade mayonnaise became so popular that her company began to focus exclusively on producing and selling the mayonnaise, eventually selling out to the C.F. Sauer Company of Richmond, Virginia, in 1929. Duke’s Mayonnaise, remains a popular brand of mayonnaise in the Southeast, although it is not generally available in other markets.

In addition to an almost ubiquitous presence in American sandwiches, mayonnaise forms the basis of Northern Alabama’s signature White Barbeque sauce. It is also used to add stability to American-style buttercream and occasionally in cakes as well.

 

 

Apple Chicken Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast or chicken tenders
1/4 cup finely-diced Red Delicious apple
1/4 cup finely-diced celery
1/4 cup finely-diced sweet onions
1/4 cup ranch dressing, lite or reduced
1 Tablespoon mayonnaise, reduced fat or fat free
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
Walnut pieces, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, or your favorite salad fixings

Preparation:
Gently toss chicken breast, apple, celery, sweet onions, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, salt, and pepper until well-combined.

Serve with salad greens, walnuts, tomatoes, and olives or as a filler for sandwiches.

Yield: 4 servings

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