Southampton author writes cookbook using New England seafood

Craig J. Fear of Southampton wrote two soup cookbooks, including a Thai soup book, drawn from his travels to Thailand. But he’s from the Northeast and a seafood chowder cookbook was smoldering on the stove.

“And that includes a lot more than chowder,” he said. “I wanted to share the many recipes, traditions and history of New England.”

The result is her latest cookbook, “New England Soups from the Sea: Recipes for Chowders, Biques, Boils, Stews, and Classic Seafood Medleys,” featuring 80 locally inspired seafood recipes that honor the traditions of the American Northeast coast.

With new flavors like Maine lobster chowder, malted mussel chowder, and seasonal clam boils, this comprehensive seafood cookbook embraces the locavore movement and sustainable seafood. Includes recipes for seafood stock, chowder, bisque, stew, boil and stock, as well as profiles of 33 local fish and seafood and tips on how to befriend the local fisherman.

“I’m … a big supporter of eating locally and sustainably, and I saw an opportunity to write about the many underserved New England seafood species that need more consumer demand,” Fear said. “So, while there are of course clams, mussels, lobster and cod recipes, I also educate and encourage readers to be curious and try unfamiliar species.”

For a warm, hearty meal, try a chowder recipe, she suggests. “And no one told you that chofa is not healthy. That is a myth. If it’s made with real, homemade ingredients, it’s healthy,” said the former Northampton nutritional therapist, who advises people on nutrition.

He noted that most seafood is a good source of minerals such as iodine and selenium. “Oilier fish and many types of shellfish are excellent sources of omega-3s, which our bodies can’t manufacture and we need from dietary sources,” he said, adding that where the seafood comes from is just as important, “if not more so.” even more’ than the nutritional value.

Despite abundant, sustainable and well-managed stocks of fish and shellfish, 90% of seafood is imported into America, he pointed out. “When we buy foreign farmed salmon and farmed shrimp at the expense of our native seafood, it hurts our local fishermen and fishing economies. It’s important as consumers to ask where our seafood comes from and try to support our local fisheries.’

Fear, who takes blue heron in Sunderland, appreciates the taste of fresh local fish. “I really love everything that comes from the sea. I love the salty flavors of the oceans,” he said; likes more full-flavored fish such as bluefish, swordfish, mackerel and striped bass compared to milder fish such as cod and haddock due to the rich flavor that comes with a higher fat content. “But I still like whitefish!”

While fish can be difficult to prepare, fillets of fish cooked using dry heat methods, using methods such as baking and grilling, can be easily cooked and dried out. “That’s another big reason to use fish in soups,” Fear said. “Fish is much more forgiving when you cook it in moist heat, like in soups. Immersed in a hot liquid, fish (and shellfish too) tend to cook more evenly, and retain their tenderness and moisture for a longer time.’

He likes to try different flavors in different combinations, especially from different cuisines. “Soups are like a blank canvas in many ways. You start with a basic broth or stock and then the possibilities are endless,” he said. “Spices, herbs, seasonings, oils, vinegars, vegetables, chilies and more can be combined in endless combinations for really fun and interesting results.”

Fear tested all 80 recipes thoroughly during the three years it took to write the book, published by Countryman Press. He also asked other people to test the recipes for him.

Chowders, bisques, boils, stews and classic seafood medleys should be complete meals, so they don’t necessarily need side dishes. “However, a nice, warm piece of bread, slathered in butter, is probably the ultimate accompaniment to soups and stews,” he said.

He has published three other books: “The 30-Day Heartburn Solution” about ways to overcome heartburn, GERD and digestive problems; “Fearless Broths and Soups” which includes a wide range of soup recipes made with homemade broth; and “The Thai Soup Secret” featuring classic Thai soup recipes such as spicy shrimp soup and chicken coconut soup.

“New England Soups from the Sea” retails for $24.95 and is available locally at River Valley Market in Northampton and Easthampton and online at major booksellers. For more information, go online to author Craig Fear’s website,