New Year’s Wishes and a Favorite Menu

December 26th, 2008

Many thanks to those of you who came to my cookbook promotion activities in Minneapolis and to friends who have purchased signed cookbooks for holiday gifts. You can contact me through this website for signed cookbooks. Or, you can click through to Amazon from my website or purchase the book at your local bookstore.

One of my passions while traveling is visiting food markets. At the present time, my son Brett (cameraman and film editor extraordinaire) and I are co-producing films about the markets in Spain and Italy. I’ve learned that video editing is a lengthy process, which has left little time for holiday entertaining this year.

Vegetable Stand in Cadiz, Spain

Vegetable Stand in Cadiz, Spain

But I did have one small dinner party. The main course was Mediterranean Seafood Stew, a favorite recipe from my new cookbook, The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet: Creative Cuisine Made Fast and Fresh. This dish was inspired by my travels in the Mediterranean, where fish soups are made from the day’s catch, and each region has its own different and wonderful variation.

In case you’re wondering, my first course of the menu was Mesclun Salad with Grilled Pears, Blue Cheese, and Maple-Walnut Vinaigrette (page 214) and I followed the light meal with a truly decadent dessert, Chocolate-Cherry Bread Pudding with Sherry Cream (found on page 176 in another of my cookbooks, The Spirited Vegetarian: Over 100 Recipes Made Lively with Wine and Spirits.)

Happy New Year!

Mediterranean Seafood Stew

December 25th, 2008

Makes 4 servings (6 cups)

Traditionally, fish heads are simmered in seasoned water to make fish stock, but for quick presentation, I substitute canned chicken broth. Also, to speed things up, I always have the fishmonger remove the fish skin for making this stew.

For easy entertaining, early in the day prepare the recipe up to the point of adding the fish and refrigerate. Then reheat when your guests seated are at the table. Add the fish to the simmering liquid and cook for just a few minutes before ladling out the aromatic stew. (In addition to cod and fresh scallops, to make the stew even more substantial, you can add about 4 ounces medium-sized shrimp.)

The key to the fine flavor and aroma is saffron. Be sure to use whole saffron threads. Powdered saffron loses its flavor more readily and can easily be adulterated with less expensive powders like turmeric.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 3 small red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces firm white fish (such as sea bass, mackerel, or monk fish), remove and discard skin, cut flesh into 1-inch squares
  • 8 ounces sea scallops
  • Coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, mix the saffron with the hot water. Set aside.

Pour the chicken broth and tomatoes into the Dutch oven. When the liquid comes to a boil, stir in the potatoes, red pepper flakes, and the saffron mixture. Reduce the heat to medium; cover and cook for 3 minutes or until the potatoes are nearly tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the fish; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the scallops; continue to cook for 2 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the seafood is thoroughly cooked. (Take care not to overcook.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish the servings with parsley.

Recipe from The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet by Paulette Mitchell.

See December 26, 2008 post for menu idea.

Fast and Fresh Cooking Tip: Saffron

December 25th, 2008

Saffron, the yellow-orange stigma of a small purple crocus, is the world’s most expensive spice. Each flower provides only three stigma, which must be handpicked. It takes 14,000 of these to equal 1 ounce of saffron. A little goes a long way, and there is no substitute for its exquisite flavor and earthy aroma. Store saffron in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to six months.