sábado, 20 de octubre de 2007
A few weeks ago, a new friend gave me a beautiful edition of the seminal work on Spanish cuisine, 1080 Recetas de Cocina. For several generations of Spanish housewives, recent college graduates and pretty much everyone who eats food in Spain, Simone Ortega's book has been the essential road map and culinary companion. It is pretty much the Joy of Cooking with 30 recipes for salt cod. I have been reading it page by page. Yesterday I made it to the fish and seafood section. I had to grab a dictionary as I could'nt tell the difference between merluza (hake) and lenguada (still not sure). All this fish talk got me pretty hungry.
I set out midday to try out my new fish vocab at the local pescaderia. Great chunks of tuna, brilliant orange center-cut salmon fillets and millions of tiny, scrubbed clams glistened on trays of shaved ice. This was a little overwhelming.
The one-eyed fish monger was hacking away at a massive hunk of bacalao (salt cod) and I wasn't sure how to get his attention. A minute latter a woman in bright blue eye-shadow and long white smock asked me what I wanted. I wasn't sure, I panicked a little, my voice cracked, and I just pointed at whatever was closest and asked for half a kilo. The next thing I knew, I was the proud owner of a white parcel with some very heavy cod fillets. Even fresh cod is a little on the fishy side, so I decided to wander through the market and wait for inspiration.
My first stop was the watermelon lady. She sells a lot of stuff other than water melon, but I always wind up leaving her stand with a giant hunk of melon (and singing to myself... hunka, hunka, hunka burnin' melon, or something). We have our routine worked out. I get a little of this and a little of that and ask about where this or that comes from and then she says "y sandia..." (and water melon.) I am so predictable. She told me this would be it for the season, so I picked a hulking 2 kilo piece and stuffed everything in my shopping bag. I now had 4 pounds of water melon, some clementines, a few onions, a huge head of broccoli and a bunch o' cod. Turning the corner, I spotted some beautiful green frying peppers and had a small, lunch epiphany. Fish soup! Fry up the peppers with some onions and garlic, and make a rich tomato broth studded with potatoes, carrots and my cod fillets! All I needed was some bread to soak up the yumminess. My contacts in the Ecuadorian bakery business came through with a perfectly crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside loaf of bread, still warm from the oven.
Friday Afternoon Fish Stew
1 large onion finely chopped
1 large green bell pepper finely chopped
3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
2 medium carrots roughly chopped
1 large potato cut in small chunks (the smaller the piece, the faster it cooks)
3 large tomatoes roughly chopped
2 teaspoons smoked paprika (or regular)
1 cup white wine
2 cups water
3 tablespoons capers
3/4 firm white fleshed fish fillets (skin and bones removed, preferably by one-eyed fish monger)
juice of half a lemon
large handful chopped fresh parsley
small handful chopped fresh basil (optional)
salt and pepper
1. In a large pot, heat olive oil and saute onions with a little salt until soft and translucent. Add garlic, peppers, carrots and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until beginning to soften (about 5 minutes). Splash in 1/2 cup of wine and let bubble and reduce for a few minutes. Sprinkle in paprika and 1/4 of parsley. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a simmer. Pour in water and remaining wine and let simmer for about 20 minutes (until veggies are fork tender, may take longer)
2. In a wide skillet heat a little olive oil. Carefully add fish and sprinkle with salt. Let cook about 3 minutes on high heat until starting to brown. Flip fish and add capers. Let cook a few more minutes until mostly cooked (Fish will finish cooking in soup, don't worry, no sushi!)
3. When veggies are mostly cooked, flake fish with a fork and add to soup (including any juices and capers). Stir in remaining herbs, lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper, let cook about 10 more minutes until everything in spoon-worthy and groovy. Serve with plenty of crusty bread and white wine (or not).