Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Fishy fishy!

Some of my most content moments are spent in the kitchen. A collection of fresh ingredients, a glass of wine and some good music and I am one happy camper. Just today, I went to the grocery store immediately after school, bought some clams and sea bass fillets and a bottle of wine and went home to make something delicious and brilliant. Well, maybe not brilliant...but it was pretty darn good.

The food I made tonight was definitely not Japanese, but I was able to take advantage of the fresh seafood that plays a large part in the Japanese diet. The seafood part of this post comes in a little later...I began, not with fish, but with a white bean and mushroom dip. It was sort of a play on hummus using cannellini beans (rather than chickpeas) and broiled mushrooms with oregano. Here is the recipe:

White Bean and Mushroom Dip

1 can cannellini beans, strained and rinsed
5 or 6 medium sized mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed (any variety)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt and pepper

Move oven rack to the top of the oven and heat the broiler. Arrange the mushrooms, stem side up, in a baking dish. Drizzle the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with the dried oregano. Place under the broiler for 8-10 minutes or until the mushrooms are soft and cooked through.

In a food processor, combine the rinsed cannellini beans, mushrooms with their oil and oregano, salt, pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Pulse the until the ingredients are combined but still coursely chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Top with freshly chopped flat leaf parsely and serve with crackers, vegetables, or bread.

The flavor of this dip is earthy and satisfying. To add more texture contrast, this dip would be lovely with some chopped walnuts sprinkled on top as well.

After enjoying the white bean and mushroom dip, I made a fish stew with the clams and sea bass I'd purchased earlier. I have read many different recipes for fish stew, so I tried to remember aspects of each that I particularly enjoyed to develop my own version. This stew is warm and comforting, yet light and full of flavor. One of my favorite parts of this recipe is the dill sprinkled on top at the end. It adds a touch of summer to an otherwise winter worthy meal.

Fish Stew

12 little neck clams or mussels
1/2 pound sea bass or other firm fleshed white fish, skin removed and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small/medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bay leaf
1 3/4 cups white wine
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a large pan or dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic and bell peppers. Heat until soft (5-10 minutes). Add the paprika, cumin, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste, and heat until fragrant (2-3 minutes). Add the white wine and cook until simmering. Cook an additional 5 minutes, uncovered. Add the water and saffron and cook for another 5-10 minutes, covered. Add the clams and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the fish and cook until firm (5 minutes). Ladle into 4 individual bowls and garnish with the parsley and dill.

We enjoyed our fish stew with some toasted bread with olive oil and salt and a glass of white wine. Cooking tonight was a much needed break in the middle of a very busy week!

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