Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Simple Fish Stew (Tegamaccio)

There's been a rainy chill in the air the past few days, which seemed to prompt declarations that the end of summer is here across the worlds of social media. I beg to differ, and I think that my favorite part of summer is just barely approaching. Picture it: the days are warm, sometimes sunny and sometimes not, but the nights have a chill to them that makes you reach for a light sweater. The leaves haven't changed yet and it still feels right to reach for a bottle of white wine over red. It's summer soup weather.

This particular soup recipe gains its inspiration from tegamaccio, which is a simple tomato based soup native to Umbria, a landlocked region of Italy right in the middle of the boot. Since the region has no access to the open ocean, the dish is typically made with freshwater fish, and I've seen many recipes use freshwater eel, perch, and trout. I went to the market looking for something comparable, and ended up deviating slightly and going with a pound or so of cod. My inner Texan is inclined to think that catfish and crappie would be delicious - and perhaps more readily available - alternatives. If you have summer tomatoes on hand, use the ripest ones you have - even slightly overripe tomatoes work well in this recipe. If you don't, a 26 - 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes works well too. 

I imagine eating this soup on a summer evening in the open air, at a picnic table with friends. Crisp white wine and loaves of fresh bread would be passed freely, and we'd enjoy the late summer for each moment it has to offer. I don't have a picnic table, or any outdoor space, but a girl can dream, right? If nothing else, a taste of this soup reminds me that each season comes and goes gradually, and it's best just to enjoy the changes.


Tegamaccio
Serves 6 -8 

2 lb firm white fleshed fish, cut into 1-2 inch pieces 
2 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
2/3 c. finely chopped celery
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. carrot, finely chopped
1/3 c. plus 2 T. chopped parsley
1 1/2 c. dry white wine
1 26-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes; or 2 lbs. tomatoes, seeded & chopped
2 c. water
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil in a deep 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat.  When shimmering, add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 10-12 minutes.  Add the white wine and increase heat to medium.  Let mixture come to a boil and continue cooking for 7-8 minutes, until liquid has reduced by about half.  Add the tomatoes, 1/3 c. parsley, water, and a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Let the mixture come just to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add the fish.  Cook at a simmer about 8-10 minutes, until fish has just cooked through.

Remove from heat and serve topped with remaining parsley and fresh bread to soak up the broth. 

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