CathyWhimsName: Cathy Whims

Restaurant: Nostrana and Oven and Shaker, Portland, OR

What’s one thing you’re excited to be changing on your menu in 2015?
At Nostrana we are always guided by the concept of La Cucina Povera. For 2015 we are most excited about the centuries old traditions of Italian fish based Lenten foods known as La Cucina de Magro. With pork and bacon being king for the past several years our chefs, our guests and our palates are looking for lighter and bright flavors, our answer is to highlight the sustainable seafood we have available to us.

We don’t just buy a fillet or a side of a fish, we buy and break down a whole fish or sea creature and use every single part of it that we can. Under the concept of both La Cucina Povera and Cucina de Magro it makes sense for us to be using locally sourced sustainable ingredients that we have access to, many of which are right at our feet.

We always look to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list when we choose our fish. While we are lucky to have access to an abundance of sustainably farmed sturgeon right here in our own Pacific Northwest, since it is almost always available we sometimes over choose that over a variety of other local fish. Therefore, right now we are working on offering more variety when it comes to fish and seafoods on our menus that change daily. We are excited by utilizing locally sourced, unusual fish aka “trash fish”. For example, the Columbia River smelt run this year was great and plentiful in Oregon. This NW smelt is often considered a fish that is used only for bait, however it is actually really delicious and only around for a short time. It was wonderful to be able to enjoy some of the smelt ourselves, share them with our customers and introduce them to something that used to be a NW tradition.

We have also been able to source Oregon octopus rather than sourcing octopus from Spain, as we had been doing for the past two years. We use it in many ways -from salads, to terrine, on the grill and of course on pizza.

The forgotten tradition of preserving seafood is something we are rediscovering.

We also make both an Oregon albacore pate and rillettes with the fish when it is in season. Confiting is well suited to the albacore because with a whole fish you end up with way more than you can use all at once. Being able to preserve some literally allows one to extend the use and make the most of one fish.

One of my favorites is our Pate di Magro. The albacore is oily fish so you don’t have to be as delicate with it. It translates very well to being being whipped, confit’d and pressed into terrines. In the Pate de Magro the lemon and herbs are a perfect match for the fish. Bright, herbaceous, luscious and without being heavy. With tuna have a long history of canning and preserving in our region we definitely “put some up” for keeping in our pantry, but it doesn’t last long because we all love to eat it. When we run out, we run out and that is it until next year’s catch.