Demo by Trish Sebben-Krupka
Caviar is in the federal spotlight again, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now undertaking a review of ten sturgeon communities to decide whether to list them under the Endangered Species Act.
And that’s good news. Yet the federal government is only going to protect these wonderful fish as long as it determines their populations are at the verge of collapse. If no one ate caviar, sturgeon would be better off for good.
Their roe—defined by Google’s online dictionary as “the mass of eggs contained in the ovaries of a female fish or shellfish, typically including the ovaries themselves, esp. when ripe and used as food”—is coveted by the human ape, which eats it at fancy gatherings or when sitting in first-class aircraft seats. The damming of rivers is another terrible problem for sturgeon: dams obstruct the way to waters where sturgeon go to reproduce.
Shakespeare in Hamlet used the adjective “caviary” to describe something unappreciated by the general public—so evidently we’ve been purloining eggs from sturgeon for a long time. But for about $10 a jar, there’s a Danish seaweed-based caviar that’s a lot gentler than regular caviar on the wallet, and it worries no sturgeon.
The distributor, Plant Based Foods, Inc., offers an elegant website, easy ordering, and attentive customer service.
Put to the Test
Chef and cookbook author Trish Sebben-Krupka would know how this could play out in the gourmet world. Curious to learn the answer, I got together with Trish. Out of that delightful meeting came the recipe for Potato Pancakes and Vegan Caviar.
Cavi·Art “is an accent, not something to be eaten on its own,” said Trish; and we first tried it out with a bit of vegan sour cream* on water crackers. Trish liked the texture authenticity. The fresh taste of the yellow variety—similar to a nicely marinated, half-sour pickle—welcomed the sour cream as a perfect complement.
“In some ways,” Trish said, “this is reminiscent of caviar—briny, salty; in other ways, not so much. You don’t get the pop you’d get eating caviar.”
Trish added: “I’m glad it isn’t an exact replica.”
Now that we were familiar with the taste and texture, Trish got cooking.
Take a modest little potato. Peel it.
Grate and pan-fry it with a bit of organic cooking oil* and sea salt.
When it’s golden brown, your pancake is ready.
Next, cut the pancake as you would cut a pie, into triangular slices.
Top them with vegan sour cream, and create your festive medley of Cavi·Art and chives.
Try apple sauce with the potato pancake.
Add sour cream, and yellow or orange Cavi·Art, topped with a bit of the black variety if desired.
But when all is said and done, the answer to everything, Trish says, is hot sauce. Which leads, of course, to a bit of avocado, sour cream and bell pepper.
The samples we tried proved Cavi·Art is both delectable and vivacious. (See? I promised the next blog entry would be vivacious.)
And while Trish didn’t find that much difference in taste when sampling the black, yellow and orange varieties—for indeed, the ginger and the wasabi are the most distinct—they were invariably beautiful when combined, and there are subtle differences.
I’ll certainly give Cavi·Art high praise – for the taste as well as the way it advances respect for the ocean’s bio-community. It’s a bit lighter than caviar, with a less oily feel. It’s showy, versatile, delightful and real in its own right.
Trish sums it up:
It’s a really fun ingredient, and I can’t wait to play with it some more. I love the ginger and wasabi… with avocado, tamari and bell pepper. Looking forward to making maki rolls. It’s nice with potato pancakes, and I LOVE IT with hot sauce and Mexican-type ingredients (who would have guessed?). I think this will appeal to people who liked caviar, and those who never tried it or are put off by the fishy, inky taste of actual caviar.
The cats declined to review Cavi·Art.
Update: On 31 October 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed listing five of the sturgeon species, inhabiting Asian and European waters, as “endangered” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of severe threats posed by human exploitation, dams and pollution. Said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “If we want to prevent these incredible creatures from going extinct, we must rein in the caviar trade.”
*Sour Supreme is a vegan sour cream from Tofutti, but if you prefer to make your own, there are simple DIY recipes online. Trish used Spectrum Organics canola oil for the pancake.