By Brian Wheat, Lowcountry Local First
If you sifted through the local public television records in my hometown of Lockport, NY you might find some footage of a young Brian Wheat, big brown glasses and a chef’s hat (think Muppet chef meets Ralphie from The Christmas Story) providing a cooking demonstration for our local 4-H chapter on making no-cook taco salad dip. Though this did not secure me a cooking show on the Food Network, it did surface on late-night local programming for years to come.
So it is only natural that when South Carolina Aquarium’s Good Catch, a program in support of local fisheries and consumption of responsibly harvested seafood, contacted Lowcountry Local First for a guest chef for a cooking blog, I jumped at the opportunity. A partnership between Lowcountry Local First and Good Catch is truly a no-brainer, as our programs are both centered on local, sustainable ingredients. I was excited to get started.
After much consideration regarding my menu plan, I decided that it would be best to leave the classic southern cooking to the experts. I choose something that perhaps might not be as common to many of our dinner tables, and lends itself well to all of the delicious local seafood the Lowcountry has to offer: fish curry!
Just as the time came near for me to share my menu and make shopping plans with Andrea Margiotta, Good Catch Coordinator with the South Carolina Aquarium, I received a text from local snapper/grouper fisherman Mark Markefka of Abundant Seafood, notifying me of a recent haul. Abundant Seafood boasted a wide array of local seafood that day, including snapper, triggerfish and grouper. For the recipe, we chose a gorgeous yellowfin tuna.
We had a wonderful time chatting with fellow local seafood lovers, watching the pelicans sneak around for a possible handout and taking in the beautiful scenery at the dock. It truly is the perfect embodiment of the Lowcountry and is one of many reasons why supporting our local fishing industry is crucial. These settings will not continue to exist without a community of support. If you cannot make it to the docks, I recommend visiting one of the many Good Catch Partners that serve high percentages of locally-sourced seafood.
As for the other ingredients, I was able to harvest a number of tomatoes from my garden plot, along with some Charleston cilantro/Vietnamese cilantro, which grows very well in the heat of the summer. (It can be purchased at Sea Island Savory Herbs if you care to grow your own!) Anything that I was unable to grow was purchased at Lowcountry Street Grocery, a school bus converted to a mobile farmers market that makes stops in various neighborhoods surrounding Charleston. Lastly, I paid a visit to my new friend Gita Soni at India Spice in West Ashley. She helped me find a few of the ingredients I did not have in my spice cupboard and gave me some much-appreciated insight into making the recipe.
Now that the grocery shopping was out of the way, we had a delicious meal to cook! Upon our arrival at Duvall Catering, a locally-owned business and member of Lowcountry Local First, we were greeted by a smiling staff, beautiful décor and a wonderland of kitchen equipment completely at our disposal. Andrea helped me prep and cook the dish, including dicing the juicy tomatoes, measuring out the fragrant spices and preparing the big, succulent cuts of tuna for cooking. Check out the recipe here.
Before we knew it we were ready to plate up. We had way more food than we could eat in a week, so we invited the staff at Duvall to join for lunch. Amid good conversation and lots of laughs, we shared a delicious meal, prepared with locally-sourced seafood. This experience was a great reminder that a small action like choosing seafood from local, sustainable sources makes us all a part of the movement to protect our oceans and our planet as a whole.