Laura Foley at McGinnis Sisters Special Food Store

I’ve known The McGinnis Sisters – Bonnie, Sharon and Noreen – for a long time, so I was so excited to get out to their Mars store yesterday to see them and to attend the first of their new Brunch and Learn Series. The  speaker was Laura Foley Ramsden, owner of the Foley Fish Company, who has 30 years’ experience in the seafood industry.

Laura Foley shares her knowledge at McGinnis Sisters in Mars

The lovely Laura showed the group how to prepare easy recipes using her seafood and answered lots of questions about proper cooking, sustainability and nutritional quality of our finned friends. Laura, of course, knows how to prepare fish and her recipes where easy and tasty. My seafood cooking skills need some work and today I really learned a lot about cooking fish and about seafood, in general.

Nothing fishy here. Just fresh seafood with a just caught flavor.

Here’s a summary:

1.  Laura suggested cooking fish to  medium rare to avoid changes in flavor and texture that are unappealing. Medium rare.  I hope my better half is reading this because he prefers his seafood overcooked. And it annoys me. (Can you tell?)

2.  The Foley Smoked Salmon was truly buttery and tender.  Laura told us that most smoked salmon is frozen, thawed, then smoked and frozen again, lending it to that tough, kind of stringy texture that’s so familiar to me and my fellow salmon addicts.

3.  Laura prepared a luscious Sauteed Geroges Bank Sole with Tomato Vinaigrette.  She reminded us that all varieties of  sole are actually flounders. News to me.  The sole we had today was  yellowtail flounder. (Hey, I once caught a pile of these in the Florida Keys. No really, it was a giant pile.)

3.  The Foley Fish Company doesn’t own a fishing fleet. It buys directly from the boats, so they can purchase the best of the best.  The company has no use for fish that are caught when the boat is first out at sea, those at the bottom of the boat and have been there for days.  The fish we ate today was so mild that I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t eat it. No fishy taste or smell at all in the sole or even the shrimp and crab.

4.  “What is scrod?”,  a guest asked.  Foley says  scrod means “little”, so it’s basically a classification of size.  Her company sells scrod cod, scrod pollock, scrod haddock  .   . . you get the idea.

5.  The best swordfish is caught in late August, September and October because the fish swim north from the Gulf (where they spawn) and eat all sort of yummy fishy things that add flavor to the flesh.   And the swordfish population is back, so it’s okay to eat it again!

6.  As the controversy over farmed vs wild salmon continues, Laura Foley tells us that 40% of wild salmon is actually started in a hatchery. And that  the way the farmed salmon is harvested and tested  is super important. Just because it’s farmed, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be consumed.  Investigate where your food comes from and how it is treated.

7.  And what about those little charts that tell us what areas are overfished? Foley said those charts don’t really tell the whole picture.  It depends on the species of fish and the specific geographic region.  Go to www.foleyfish.com and click on The Limits of Fish Lists for more information.

Warm temperatures are not a friend to fresh, raw seafood. Just a reminder.

I think the key is finding a fishmonger that you trust.  Ask questions. Ask more questions. Know what you are eating.  And provide feedback to the store where you purchase your seafood.

For info about the next Brunch and Learn at McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores’  Mars location, go to  http://www.mcginnis-sisters.com/events.aspx