Remember a few weeks ago, when I bemoaned my lack of cooking inspiration and placed the blame on a mid-winter funk? Well, I’m about to confess something (yes, again) that may be damaging to our relationship. I feel like I can’t not tell you, though, so…here goes. Dear readers, I was lying through my teeth: I made that bake and saltfish back in October. OCTOBER. (I know. You can barely look me in the eye, can you?)
I’m sure I’ve cooked something in the past four months, but I can’t find the photographic evidence to back it up for the life of me. I was all set to declare this Tuscan seafood stew the first thing I’ve cooked since December; apparently, I’ve lost track of time. The good news is that this was the perfect transitional dish: easily comforting, with just a hint of indulgence.
It helps matters that this isn’t a recipe that has to be followed to the letter and is one with a mercifully short ingredient list. Inspired by the beautiful selection at my new favorite market, I played with both proportion and type of seafood, adding sweet, tiny bay scallops, increasing the amount of mussels, and cutting down on the fish. After another quick stop for a baguette, I headed home to get reacquainted with my kitchen.
Happily, it wasn’t a rigorous process: I pulled a jar of tomatoes from the shelf, chopped an onion and some garlic and parsley, then got to sautéeing, stirring, and boiling. As that classic combination of wine, garlic, and tomatoes began to fill my apartment with bistro-like aromas, I poured myself a glass of wine—something that, I assure you, I do more than three times a year—and marveled that it’d taken me so long to remember that I actually do enjoy cooking.
Tuscan Seafood Stew
By Pino Luongo, via Food & Wine magazine
Four 3/4-inch-thick slices of Tuscan bread
5 garlic cloves, 4 minced, 1 peeled
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 pound cockles or Manila clams, scrubbed
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup drained canned Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 pound thick, firm white-fleshed fish fillets, such as snapper, halibut or sea bass, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup water
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Toast the bread directly on the oven rack, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 8 minutes. Rub the toast with the peeled garlic clove and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Turn off the heat and keep the toast warm in the oven with the door ajar.
2. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and the minced garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add the mussels, cockles and wine and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until most of the shells have opened and the liquid has reduced by half, 4 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of the parsley, cover and bring to a boil.
3. Add the fish and shrimp and season with salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Add the water to slow the cooking. Simmer over moderately low heat until cooked through, 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the seafood to a large, deep platter, cover and keep warm.
4. Boil the broth until reduced by one-fourth, 5 minutes, then pour it over the fish stew. Season the stew with salt and pepper, spoon into bowls and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of parsley. Serve hot, with the garlicky toast.