This is one smart book.

Sexy, sustainable and celebrity-endorsed: an alternate title might have been, Be Ocean Wise: Seafood Differently.

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program is angling on its new ‘Ocean Wise Cookbook’ catching hold of the growing appetite for sustainable seafood.  As much a how-to guide as a compilation of can-do recipes for the home cook, the cookbook is a first for the Ocean Wise program which celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier in the year.

Until now, Ocean Wise has worked behind the scenes: at the docks, on the water, in the kitchen. For the past five years, Ocean Wise has been working with those who know their ingredients best – the chefs, fishers and farmers.

Dr. John Nightingale, president, Vancouver Aquarium, editor Jane Mundy, Chef Robert Clark, C Restaurant, Mike McDermid, Ocean Wise's Wise Man

Since launching in False Creek at C Restaurant with the strong support of owner Harry Kambolis and executive Chef Robert Clark, the Ocean Wise seal of approval has become surfaced across both across B.C. and in the past year – the country.

That this has resulted in some pretty fantastic relationships with top chefs across the Canada rings true on every page of the Ocean Wise Cookbook.  Edited with a talented touch by Vancouver writer Jane Mundy, the recipes ring true for the home cook. Coming from the kitchens of the some of the country’s most respected chefs, the goal of each was simple: to show how easy it is to cook delicious sustainable seafood at home – and make a world of difference in the process.

It’s that last bit that really defines the ethos behind the full offering of the Ocean Wise cookbook. Every ounce the celebrity Canadian chef seafood compendium, it features the talented likes of Michael Smith from Food Network Canada, Iron Chef Rob Feenie from Cactus Club, and Jamie Kennedy from his self-named Kitchens. In fact, the book is buoyed by a role call of culinary contributors that reads much along the lines of Vancouver Cooks 3 at C merged with the coast to coast network of sustainably-minded chefs that gave form to the Canadian Chefs Congress upon Vancouver Island in September 2010.

Each might claim that their names and varied contributions are of lesser importance than the totality of the cookbook itself.  As prefaced by the original mandate of the Ocean Wise program, the book is designed to educate the home cook about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood.

Unquestionably, it does so with style and substance, offering up over 300 pages with the first 25 setting the scenario: putting forth the Ocean Wise perspective on the sustainable future of both our ocean and our kitchens.  From the why to the what to the how of it all, the introduction provides as good a 101 schooling on sustainable seafood as your are likely to find anywhere.

Moreover, that aspect of it segues nicely into a hands-on kitchen conversion with plenty of tips on purchase, prep and cooking methods that will serve us well with seafood of all sorts sustainable. To make things even simpler, and for the pleasure of those online learners, the cookbook also includes web links to chef-hosted how-to videos.

As for the recipes themselves, a taster should entice anyone familiar with some of the sustainable gems the West Coast offers up:

Ancho-Spiced Tuna Tartare with Tomatillo Puree, Blueberry Candied Wild Salmon, Spicy Lobster Soup with Coconut Essence, Lime and Toasted Local Corn, Spot Prawn Tortelloni with English Peas and Lemon-Thyme Sauce, Steamed Sake-Marinated Barramundi with Ginger and Scallion Julienne, Roasted Sablefish with Soy Sabayon and Chinese Salad,  Grilled Mackerel with Chunky Romesco Sauce, Grilled Pacific Octopus with Wild Boar Chorizo.

If any of the above sounds intimidating, relax. Different is good and in this case, deliciously do-able.

What these recipes reveal how artfully simple the science of cooking seafood at home can be.  It’s nowhere near as exotic as it sounds, just something different – for a change.  And, oh, what a change that might be if the Ocean Wise Cookbook finds its way into the hearts and minds of Canadians looking for some really good fish for Friday or any other day of the week: in a bowl with soul, on our plate and planet, in perspective.

If this is what it takes to save our oceans, sign me up.

I’ll bring the chowder.  You chill the oysters.

Related posts:

  1. Ocean Wise Thrives at Five
  2. C Food Celebrates Sustainable Success
  3. Calling All Chefs- “Oceans For Tomorrow”
  4. Vancouver Cooks 2 Turns Up the Heat
  5. The Launch of a Floating Plastic Visionary