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An Italian Fish Stew that Delivers Lots of Flavor Without a Lot of Effort

For us, making fish soup has meant making bouillabaisse, from Provence. We’d pull out our tattered copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and make fish stock from scratch. It took time, but was worth the effort. Being pressed for time these days, we decided to test drive a fish stew recipe, from Italy. It was perfect — delivering great flavor, with much less effort.
This recipe comes courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito’s fine book, Ciao Italia in Umbria (St. Martin’s Press, 2002). Esposito, a TV personality and an expert on Italian cooking, says this fish stew comes from Lake Trasimeno, in Umbria. In particular, you’ll find it on an island there, Isola Mattiore. (Click here to see the recipe.)

Locals traditionally have used eel, tench, perch, trout, whiting, and grayling — most of which aren’t available at our local fish seller. Esposito says use any fish that’s available. “Just make sure to choose sturdy fish that will not break apart as it is cooked,” she adds, suggesting cusk, haddock or monkfish.

The Pacific cod, halibut and tilapia looked good at our fish counter, so we used those. They worked beautifully, providing good flavor and texture.

We simply sautéed diced celery, garlic, parsley and red pepper flakes in extra virgin olive oil. While the recipe calls for the addition of pureed fresh plum tomatoes, we used canned dice tomatoes, along with some white wine. We added the fish, simmered the stew a few minutes, and that was it.  Finito!

We’re sure we’ll make bouillabaisse again. But, for now, this Umbrian fish stew will be our go-to recipe when we’re in the mood for fish soup.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch


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