Mediterranean Fish Stew Recipe

Mediterranean Fish Stew | Pamela Salzman

I had some friends over for dinner recently on a Friday and remembered that it is Lent.  Lent starts about 40 days before Easter on Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter.  It is a very holy time for many Christians and I remembered observing as a child.  Traditionally no meat is eaten on Fridays, but fish is acceptable.  During Lent, many observers also give up something pleasurable or something that might be a challenge to go without.  When I was much younger, I asked my mother if I could give up beef or chicken (which I didn’t like) or going to CCD classes (which I really didn’t like.)   And she always instructed me that I was missing the point.  If I needed some ideas, my mother suggested perhaps my sisters and I could give up bickering with each other.  I understand my mother so much more now.

chopped onion, bay leaf and turmeric

parsley, thyme, crushed red pepper

Whether you observe Lent or not, I think you should make this absolutely delicious fish stew.  My family doesn’t love fish as much as I do, although they never complain when I make it.  There are certainly recipes they like more than others, like fish tacos (and who can blame them?) or poached salmon (“because it doesn’t taste fishy.”)  This fish stew was a hit when I made it because all the fish is mixed with other stuff, Mr. Picky explained.  Whatever works!

sliced fennel

wild halibut

This stew is brothy like a soup, but full of all sorts of chunkiness like a stew and you can easily make a meal out of it with a piece of crusty bread.  So I’ll call it a stew.   When I put this together the first time, I was thinking more bouillabaisse, the classic French seafood soup, and less cioppino, the zesty Italian tomato fish stew.   Either way I think this is the perfect light, but warming dinner.  It also cooks in a very short amount of time, so you’ll have it on the table in less than half an hour.  You can also adjust the amount of fish in the recipe without adjusting any other ingredient.  If you want lots of fish because this is your main course, then add another 3/4 pound.  If you’d like to use a mix of seafood, such as shrimp, scallops or mussels, those would all work well too.  The only thing I would advise is NOT to skip the butter.  If you have to go dairy-free, use Earth Balance.  I tried this with all olive oil and surprisingly it wasn’t nearly as good.  In fact, in my next life I’m going to double the butter.    And if you live where the temperature has been freezing since Thanksgiving and you’ve more snow storms than the previous 10 years combined, I give you permission to use as much butter and wine as you want in this recipe.  You’ve earned it!

Mediterranean fish stew | pamela salzman

5.0 from 3 reviews
Mediterranean Fish Stew Recipe
Author: 
Serves: 4 (multiply everything by 1½ to serve 6)
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or organic Earth Balance
  • 1 Tablespoon unrefined, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, halved and chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • ⅔ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • pinch of red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
  • ¾ pound of fresh tomatoes, chopped (peeled and seeded, if desired) or 14-ounce container of chopped tomatoes, drained (I like Bionaturae in glass jars.)
  • ½ pound Yukon Gold or other boiling potatoes, peeled if you like and diced
  • 10 ounces (1 ¼ cups) of fish stock (or even chicken stock or vegetable stock)
  • 1 cup dry white wine (like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc)
  • 1 ¼ pounds fish fillets (use halibut, cod, sole, red snapper, sea bass), cut into 2-inch pieces (or use more fish and fewer vegetables)
Instructions
  1. Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, garlic, fennel and carrots and sauté for about 6 minutes, until tender.
  2. Add half the parsley, bay leaf, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and turmeric. Gently cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and stir to combine.
  3. Add potatoes, stock and white wine. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook, covered until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add fish and cook another 5 minutes uncovered or until fish is cooked through. (If you decide to use mussels or small clams, simmer with the pot covered until they open.) Add more salt to taste, if desired. Ladle into bowls and serve. Garnish with reserved parsley. Nice with a piece of toasted baguette rubbed with garlic.
Notes
I buy fish stock from the freezer case in the seafood department at my local Whole Foods.  I have also tried a a good stock by Stock Options which I found in the freezer section at Whole Foods.

Wild fish in parchment with summer herbs recipe

We’re baaaack!  What an amazing trip.  The five of us had an unbelievable 3 1/2 weeks together in Europe.  We shared so many great experiences, met interesting people and really grew together as a family.  People have been asking me what was the best part of our trip and I know it sounds corny, but what I enjoyed most of all was the five of us just being together.  Most importantly, and this is the mother in me talking, no one got sick, hurt or lost and we made it home in one piece.  Hooray!

I learned a new expression on this trip and it’s not in a foreign language.  My daughters kept saying to me, “YOLO, Mom.  YOLO.”  Huh?  Is that Dutch?  Apparently YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once.”  This often came up in regard to food.  The first five days of the trip I was able to avoid bread, pizza (except for that tomato and cheese pancake in Amsterdam), pasta and desserts, but my family was going for it.  Big time.  Eventually, I think around Copenhagen, I gave in and basically had a carb fest for 2 1/2 weeks.  It was fun while it lasted, but it also reinforced what I already know about wheat and refined foods — overdoing it is never a good thing.  And I’ve got my tight jeans to prove it.

Although it was a nice break to be out of the kitchen for a few weeks, I am happy to be back, cooking the food that makes me feel good.  I especially have a craving for fish and vegetables since the last half of our trip focused mostly on apple strudel, meat, apple strudel, potatoes, apple strudel, and bread.  This fish in parchment recipe is one of my favorite, easiest and most healthful ways to prepare fish.  It’s also the perfect light dinner for summertime, especially if you have some herbs growing in your garden.  Feel free to change the herbs in the recipe to suit your tastes or you can even add some thinly sliced, quick-cooking vegetables to the packets.  I used baby spinach leaves in these photos, but I also like diced fresh tomatoes and zucchini.  Or if you have some roasted or grilled vegetables from last night’s dinner, throw those in.  You really can’t go wrong.

Lucky for me, only Daughter #2 is still holding out on seafood, but everyone else loves fish, including this preparation.  Wild, cold water fish is high in important anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fats, which help support brain and cardiovascular function, as well as balance inflammatory influences in our lives, both from diet and lifestyle.  Steaming the fish in parchment actually helps to protect those fats from oxidation since the temperature inside the packets is low.  I am eager to start cooking for family again the way I know they and I should be eating.  Because like I always say friends, YOLO.

Wild Fish in Parchment with Summer Herbs
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (2 if small)
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt (you can use an extra pinch if you like salt)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 4-6 ounce portions of wild fish, such as halibut, salmon or mahi-mahi, defrosted, if frozen
  • 6 14-inch squares of unbleached parchment
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper in the bowl of a mini-food processor and process until the herbs are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and process until well combined. Add lemon zest and pulse once or twice.
  3. Place each piece of fish in the center of a sheet of parchment. Spread a heaping spoonful of the herb mixture on top of each piece of fish.
  4. Bring 2 opposite sides of the parchment together and fold. Continue to fold all the way down until you reach the fish. Twist both ends of the parchment so that it looks like a hard candy wrapper. Place each packet on a baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes based on the thickness of the fish.
  5. Transfer each packet to a plate and use caution when opening – the steam will be very hot!
Notes
You can make the fish packets in the morning if you like and keep them refrigerated. If you cook them straight out of the fridge, add an extra minute or two to the cooking time.

Other suggestions: you can also add to the packets quick-cooking vegetables such as baby spinach leaves, julienned zucchini or finely diced tomatoes. For longer-cooking vegetables, blanch or steam them first, then add to packets.

If you enjoy this, check out my other recipe for Halibut in Parchment with Cilantro and Ginger! There you can see step-by-step photos for how to fold the parchment paper.

 

Grilled Fish Tacos Recipe

© RB Photography
© RB Photography

I think you should have a Cinco de Mayo party!  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Even if you’re not up for hosting a bunch of people next Saturday night, you at least need to prepare some delicious Mexican-inspired food for your family.  Who needs to go to the local overcrowded Mexican restaurant and eat greasy, over-sauced, heavy food in the presence of too many inebriated partyers?  Not me, friends!  Although I don’t need it to be Cinco de Mayo to make Mexican food.  My family requests Mexican about as much as anything else and I am happy to oblige with fresh, healthful and easy-to-prepare recipes.

The Mexican dishes I like to make and eat are perfect for busy weeknights, but even better for entertaining because they’re always crowd pleasers and often it’s all about the toppings and allowing everyone to make their own.  I love this for many reasons — it gives kids more control in what they’re eating and really encourages them to try new things, it’s less work for me, and it’s fun!

One of my favorite Mexican dishes is fish tacos.  Not only do I make them all the time at home, but I find myself ordering them whenever I can especially on vacation (what vacation?).  I’ve been known to eat fish tacos every single day for a week and not tire of them.  I love changing the toppings each time to keep it different.  Sometimes I’ll even use a Savoy cabbage leaf instead of a corn tortilla.  In my house we’re split down the middle as to the preferred fish preparation, so in my classes this month and on my blog post, I decided to demonstrate two delicious methods.  I prefer a lime juice-based marinade and my husband likes the dry rub better, but you can’t go wrong with either.  Where you can go wrong is not putting together a great assortment of condiments, because this is the KEY to building a perfect fish taco.

Grilled Fish Tacos|Pamela Salzman

I went on a reconnaissance mission to Wahoo’s Fish Tacos in Manhattan Beach to see what a restaurant with the words “fish tacos” in its name does with fish tacos.  Wow.  Major disappointment.  A piece of grilled fish in a soft corn tortilla with a pinch of thinly sliced cabbage.   Ok so far.  Plus shredded cheddar cheese.  Huh?  Fish and cheese?  No.  And then a tiny scoop of pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa) on the side.  People, we can do so much better!  A delicious and satisfying fish taco has a balance of different tastes and textures (and no cheese!)  Here’s what you need:

  • creamy:  I personally can’t even eat a fish taco without the white sauce I’ve shown here and/or some sliced avocado or guacamole.
  • crunchy:  thinly sliced cabbage or a firm lettuce, even a good slaw like this Cilantro-Lime Slaw.
  • spicy:  even just a little kick makes it better.  Try adding a little heat to your sauce, slaw, dry rub or salsa.
  • tangy:  a tart, acidic flavor helps keep everything fresh and balanced.  You can squeeze fresh lime over everything or incorporate it in a marinade, slaw or salsa.

 

© RB Photography
© RB Photography

Grilled Fish Tacos|Pamela Salzman

© RB Photography
© RB Photography

I am excited to share a few more great Mexican-inspired recipes next week in hopes to inspire you to enjoy your own fiesta at home!

Grilled Fish Tacos
Author: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • White sauce:
  • 6 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise)
  • 6 Tablespoons whole unsweetened yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce or ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder (optional) (taco on the left has sauce with chipotle powder, taco on the right has sauce without)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Marinade:
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • OR
  • Dry Rub
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound firm white fish, such as halibut or mahi mahi
  • Oil (for brushing grill)
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed either on grill or heated griddle pan until pliable
  • Suggested Accompaniments:
  • Sliced avocado, guacamole, pickled red onion or radishes, shredded napa, savoy or green cabbage or slaw,
  • fresh pico de gallo (salsa), fresh lime cut into wedges
Instructions
  1. Whisk together ingredients for white sauce and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Combine lime juice, oil and cumin in a shallow nonreactive dish small enough to just hold the fish. Add fish and turn to coat in the marinade. Season with salt and pepper and marinate fish at room temperature for 30 minutes. OR mix dry rub spices together and sprinkle on both sides of fish.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-hot. Brush grill grate with oil. Grill fish until just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side. Break fish into large pieces.
  4. Fill tortilla with fish and desired accompaniments. Drizzle with white sauce and squeeze fresh lime wedges over tacos.

Seared wild salmon with beet, blood orange and spinach salad recipe

Seared Wild Salmon Salad with Beets, Blood Oranges and Spinach | Pamela Salzman

Don’t let the fancy name fool you.  This recipe is as easy as it is beautiful and it’s absolutely delicious.  All of this is in season right now — from the wild salmon and spinach to the blood oranges and beets — and it comes just in time for the last Friday of Lent.

This dish reminds me of a nutrition lesson I taught to some elementary school students one year about “eating the colors of the rainbow.”  Nature provides us with a beautiful spectrum of colors from which to choose and those colors represent different phytonutrients — compounds found in plant foods which help protect the plants from viruses and bacteria, but also support our health, as well.

There are thousands of phytonutrients which are classified by family.  But teaching the classification of phytonutrients to fifth graders (or adults) is overwhelming and confusing. All we really need to know is that each color (including white) represents an important set of different health benefits.  In order to maximize our exposure to all these health benefits, we need to eat  a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables everyday in as many colors as possible…..like the colors of the rainbow.

This salad may not cover every color, but it sure gives you a solid start.  One colorful addition to the salad which does not contain phytonutrients, but is loaded with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids is wild salmon.  If you don’t eat fish, the salad is fantastic without it, but if you do eat fish I strongly encourage you to find a good source for wild salmon which is one of the richest sources of Omega-3s that you can find.  Unfortunately the typical American is both lacking in Omega-3s and out of balance in the Omega 3 – Omega 6 ratio, resulting in a highly inflammatory diet.  I bought this lovely piece of sockeye from Vital Choice because I need a consistent source of high quality fish for my classes, but occasionally I can find what I’m looking for in my local markets, including the farmer’s market.

Although I don’t get too worked up about the presentation of my food (I’m much more concerned with how it tastes and its nutritional benefits), it is always nice to eat something that looks as beautiful as it tastes.

To all my students and readers who celebrate Easter, have a lovely holiday!

 

Seared Wild Salmon with Beet, Blood Orange and Spinach Salad
Author: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch medium beets
  • 5 medium blood oranges (or regular oranges)
  • 2 Tablespoons finely diced shallot
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons raw honey
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces baby spinach leaves or arugula, washed and dried
  • 6 filets wild Alaskan salmon, 5 to 6 ounces each
  • zest of one blood orange (optional)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season the fish
  • 4 Tablespoons cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the greens off the beets, leaving about ½ inch of the stems still attached. Save the greens for another time. Wash the beets well and place them in a roasting pan with a ½-inch layer of water on the bottom. Cover tightly with foil (if the foil touches the beets, cover first with parchment, then with foil.) Roast about 50 minutes (or longer for larger beets). When the beets are done, carefully remove the foil. Allow them to cool, and then peel them by slipping off the skins with your fingers. Cut them into ½-inch wedges.
  3. Slice the stem and bottom ends from the blood oranges. Stand the oranges on one end and, following the contour of the fruit with a very sharp knife, remove the peel and white pith. Work from top to bottom, rotating the fruit as you go. Then hold each orange over a bowl and carefully slice between the membranes and the fruit to release the segments in between. Squeeze any juice left in the remaining membrane into a measuring cup. Add any juice from the bowl of blood orange segments to the measuring cup. (Or if you're pressed for time, just slice the oranges into rounds.)
  4. Combine the diced shallot, lemon juice, ¼ cup blood orange juice (if you didn’t reserve enough, you can add regular freshly squeezed orange juice), honey and ¾ teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil slowly. Add black pepper and additional sea salt to taste.
  5. Remove the salmon from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to bring it to room temperature. Season the salmon with the zest, sea salt, and ground pepper.
  6. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the oil to the pan and allow to heat up for 1 minute, until very warm, but not smoking. Lay the fish in the pan, seasoned side down, and cook 3 to 4 minutes, until it is lightly browned. Turn the fish over, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook a few minutes more, until it is almost cooked through. Do your best not to overcook the salmon. When it is done, the fish will begin to flake and separate a little, and the center will be slightly rare. The salmon will continue to cook a bit more while it sits.
  7. Place the spinach in a bowl and toss lightly with some dressing. Transfer to a serving platter. Place the salmon on top of the spinach.
  8. Place the beets and blood oranges in the bowl and toss lightly with some dressing. Arrange the beets and blood oranges around the perimeter of the platter. Drizzle the salmon with additional dressing, if desired.
Notes
Blood oranges are little more tart than regular oranges, so if you are not using blood orange juice in the dressing, you can balance the acidity with a little extra lemon juice or some rice vinegar.

Do-ahead suggestions: You can prepare your beets, oranges, greens and dressing up to 2 days before.