Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fish Stew

My mother created this recipe years ago when I was home from college for the summer and all of my siblings (four altogether, including my brother-in-law) happened to be around too. We had one of those wonderful days when we went to Plum Island, a pretty beach about 45 minutes away from my hometown in Massachusetts. Plum Island has some marshes around it, and we took turns alternating between being at the beach and canoeing through the marshes. I think we brought a picnic lunch, too.

At the end of the day, we all had that wonderful beach feeling of sun, sand, and hunger. We had taken two cars, and my mom's car arrived home first. She got dinner started, and when we wandered in asking what was for dinner that night, she proudly announced, "Fish stew!" We were a little surprised because, since all of us had been out for the whole day, we were not expecting a ready answer. The stew was excellent, and over the years I've adapted it just a little bit. My mom started out with a can of chicken and wild rice soup, and added to it extensively to make enough stew to feed 7 people. She also thought up a surprising ingredient to add: peanuts! Peanuts in fish stew? Yes, it's amazing.

Over the years I switched from starting with chicken and wild rice soup to using fish stock and brown rice. Everything else is pretty much the same. This stew is hearty, packed with protein, and has the kind of flavor that keeps you wanting more. It has just the right amount of fishiness. And it's very thick -- you could almost serve it on a plate. However, I decided not to include a picture of it, because it's not much to look at. But don't let that deter you! If you want to try a delicious fish stew, give this one a go. The last time I made the stew, I served it with Lemon Basil Biscuits. The recipe for that is below.

Fish Stew
Makes about 4-6 servings

2 fillets white fish
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 1/2 cups fish stock
1 14.5 oz. can white kidney beans or chickpeas
1 cup peanuts
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
about 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
about 8 turns of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup brown rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheet with extra virgin olive oil and place fillets on sheet. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes until fish flakes easily when cut with a fork.

Meanwhile, chop onion and garlic. Heat olive oil in large pot and sautee the onion and garlic until tender. Add everything except fish, rice, and spices. Bring to a boil and let boil for about 5 minutes.

Break up the fish into pieces and add to the stew along with the black pepper, red pepper, and brown rice. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Enjoy with lemon basil biscuits, which you can easily make while your fish stew simmers away. See below.


Lemon Basil Biscuits
The original recipe is from Better Homes & Gardens. My inspiration came from my basil plant. Makes 12 biscuits.

3 cups whole wheat white flour, or 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup butter or trans fat free margarine
1 1/8 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon dried basil or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease baking sheet. In a large bowl combine all of the dry ingredients. Add the butter in chunks and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Measure out milk in a small separate bowl. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and basil to milk. Mix together and add to flour mixture. Stir until dough is mixed. It should not be too dry or too wet.

Traditional biscuit dough needs to be rolled out and cut. Another option is to add more milk and make "drop" biscuits that you spoon onto the baking pan. My recipe allows you to form the biscuits with your hands. Form biscuits using about 1/8 cup of dough so that three biscuits fit across a baking sheet. Form dough into 12 biscuits.

Bake for 10 minutes.

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