Warm Stew and Warm Memories
It goes without saying that the holidays are a time for family gatherings. This holiday season is especially dear to my own family. I lost a grandmother in September and a grandfather just two weeks ago. My grandmother held on until I completed a two-day journey home with both of my babies to kiss her goodbye, and my grandfather passed peacefully in his sleep the night after I had been over to visit him with my boys. I don’t mean to be somber, and really I don’t feel that way. I am joyful and eternally grateful for the family they created. Family is the most precious thing we have. It takes effort and intention, but if nurtured and cherished, family can provide support, comfort and a safe place to be your true self.
I was raised in a very close, Sunday-lunching kind of extended family. My cousins are like my siblings and every aunt and uncle had a hand in shaping who I have become. In such a family, grandparents are like the cornerstones. They are our common bond. Our anchors to tradition and to each other. I could wax poetic about each one…
Instead, I will share a memory and a recipe. A few nights before he passed, my family was eating at my aunt and uncle’s house. My aunt fixed a fish stew that I made up several years ago. It reminded my Granddaddy of the Bouillabaisse he used to cook every weekend in his long past days in the kitchen. He was one of the first to get a bowl and was telling everyone how good it was as he sopped up the tomato wine sauce with a hunk of toasted garlic bread. I was so proud that he liked it, as my grandfather was a man with an excellent palate. I loved this soup before for its bold flavor and easy preparation, but now it has a special place in my heart right next to my grandfather.
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup white white
2-4 cups of lobster stock (can subsitute fish, clam or chicken stock), amount of liquid depends on the consistency you prefer
1 cup pasta sauce (I use a homemade family recipe, but store bought will work)
1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp dried basil (or add more fresh if you have it)
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp anise
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
½ lb mussels
½ lb shrimp
2 tilapia fillets (or any white fish), cut in to 1 in pieces
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1. In a large dutch oven or sauce pan, heat oil and butter. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes.
2. Add wine and let reduce for a few minutes.
3. Add stock and next 7 ingredients, through cannellini beans. Let sauce simmer about 10 minutes and taste for seasoning. Add more broth or salt as needed.
4. Add all seafood except the shrimp. Simmer about 6 minutes and then add shrimp. Cook about 4 minutes more, until shrimp are pink and clams have opened. Remove from heat and sprinkle parsley over each serving.
Serve with toasted baguette slices. The soup part can be made ahead of time and left on warm. Or even make it a day ahead and reheat for company. Add seafood when you are about 10-15 minutes out from dinnertime.
This supper is delicious and flavorful. Don’t be intimidated by the seafood; try it out this weekend for yourself, and then impress your friends and family at your next gathering. I guarantee they will be begging to know how you made such a restaurant-worthy dish. (Is that tooting my own horn?)
To quote my grandfather’s favorite farewell: “Bye-cycle!”