We hear so much about farm-to-table food that we often consider it synonymous with locavore cuisine or sustainability. And while it can be and is a piece of both of those things, sustainable food is a much broader beast. Today, on World Oceans Day, it’s a great time to look at a different slice of the sustainability pie. For omnivores and pescatarians alike, there is a broad range of seafood adorning grocery store shelves, restaurant menus, and icy displays. However, without a universal labeling system for seafood sustainability standards: how do you know what to eat while protecting our most vital resource and waterways? Lucky for us, The Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed a comprehensive guide to point us in the right direction. Rated on a simple scale of avoid, good alternatives, and best choices, Seafood Watch is available on your phone, computer, or tablet right when you need it. So, when a friend of the family brought by several pounds of freshly caught Smelt from the shores of Lake Superior during one of the infamous spring smelt runs, I took to the web to check out the stats. Lucky for us (but not so much the smelt), this small fish from the Great Lakes is a best choice for sustainable seafood. Other good news? Not only are they sustainable, they’re low in mercury, high in Omega-3s, and cook whole in just minutes. smelt in crumbs While Lake Superior might not be an ocean, it sure looks like one standing on the North Shore of Minnesota. We can choose to protect it by the choices we make in our daily lives and on our dinner table.


Chip-dusted Smelt Fries


1-2 cups Back to the Sea Salt and Black Pepper crackers (*Need a gluten free alternative? Swap the crackers for Simply Sunny Multigrain Chips!)

High-heat oil for pan frying

2 pounds of fresh smelt

For dip:

1/3 cup Plain Yogurt

1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 t hot sauce

1 t red wine vinegar

Heaping T of chopped, fresh cilantro

Lemon Juice

Salt and Pepper



Rinse smelt under cold running water. Add crackers to Cuisinart or other food processor and pulse until thoroughly crushed, and nearly powdery.

Stir together ingredients for dipping sauce, season with salt and pepper as needed.

Heat oil in heavy (cast iron) pan. When oil is ready, pat smelt dry and dredge in the finely crushed chips. Fry them a batch at a time about 2 minutes per side or until they just turned golden brown.

Serve with a handful of chopped cilantro and dipping sauce.

plate of smelt


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