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Celebrate Summer with Sustainable Seafood

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The Fourth of July means fireworks, fun, flags, and of course food. It’s time to celebrate summer! Nearly 80% of Americans will be grilling this weekend, making it one of the biggest seafood buying weeks of the year. A lot of folks will be grilling burgers and brats, there will be flocks of barbecued chicken, and plenty of smoked pork shoulders and beef briskets, too.  We’re doing a little bit of both this weekend. Slow smoked brisket on the Big Green Egg one night — and fresh fish and shellfish the next. It’s the best of both worlds!

According to the USDA, we should to be eating seafood twice a week. Seafood and shellfish are high in protein, low in fat, and the omega-3 fatty acids present in fish are good for your heart. As you are making your seafood purchases, make sure to consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines to ensure you are purchasing sustainable seafood. So what does “sustainable seafood” mean? Sustainable seafood is defined as fish or shellfish that is fished or farmed in ways that have minimal impact on ocean health and ensures the availability of seafood for future generations. As a result of technology, we are now consuming fish at a higher rate than ever before. The global fishing community’s advances and lack of any serious regulation are enabling humans to fish deeper, farther, and for longer periods of time. The global fishing fleet is operating at two and a half times the sustainable level—there are simply too many boats chasing an increasingly dwindling number of fish. The bottom line is that we are simply catching and eating fish faster than most species can reproduce.

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As a chef, I am wildly passionate about sustainable seafood. I write about it as often as I can in print, online, and through my blog. I teach sustainable seafood in cooking classes all across the country, and I only buy, cook, and eat sustainable seafood. I do this because I am on the Blue Ribbon Task Force for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a member of Chefs Collaborative. “I walk what I talk.” According to many scientists and scientific organizations like Seafood Watch, the Marine Stewardship Council, and the Blue Ocean Institute, we are seriously jeopardizing the health and welfare of the oceans.

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So, I am sharing a recipe for farm-raised trout. According to the New England Aquarium, rainbow trout is very closely related to salmon, with the main difference being they are most commonly raised in freshwater on land based farms. These fish are well suited to farming, with fast growth and good environmental tolerances. Farm-raised rainbow trout is consistently high-quality, which makes buying decisions very easy. The flesh may be white, pink or orange and will turn paler when cooked. Buy U.S. farm-raised rainbow trout when possible. U.S. farm-raised rainbow trout are most commonly raised in raceways, which are essentially artificial streams. U.S. farmed rainbow trout is considered an ocean-friendly seafood choice because it is farmed in a manner that does not harm the environment.


Trout is inexpensive and an extremely user-friendly fish to grill. Not only does its durable, leathery skin help keep the fish from falling apart, but it also insulates the flesh from the direct heat of the grill, cooking into crispy deliciousness.

Be safe and have a happy 4th of July!

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

grilled trout recipe on

Grilled Trout with Olive Oil
Serves 4

This is the time to break out your best extra-virgin olive oil. The smoky, herb-infused fish just needs a little kiss of liquid gold.

4 (6- to 8-ounce) whole trout, butterflied
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, very thinly sliced
8 sprigs of thyme, more for serving
8 sprigs of basil, more for serving
4 dill sprigs, more for serving
Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Prepare a charcoal fire using about 6 pounds of charcoal and burn until the coals are completely covered with a thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes. Spread the coals evenly over the grill bottom, position the grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds). Or for a gas grill, turn on all burners to High, close the lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the trout on a clean work surface and season inside and out with salt and pepper. Equally divide the lemon slices and herbs among the trout cavities.

Place the stuffed trout on the grill, heads facing in one direction. Grill, covered, until cooked on one side, about 5 minutes.

Uncover the grill, and flip the trout over (simply roll them over with a metal spatula). Cover, and continue cooking until the trout is done on the second side, an additional 3 to 5 minutes.

To serve, remove the trout to a warm platter and drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with the fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Grilled trout with olive oil


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photography by Virginia Willis

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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