Sometimes I like to see just how little I can get away with.
Protein, that is. It’s often the most important, most sizable part of a meal, but–not being a bodybuilder–I’m never convinced I need to ingest a terribly large amount of it. That may be the carboholic in me talking. But I am intrigued by the idea that, if you supplement your meat, fish, or tofu with pasta, grains, potatoes, or veggies, you can make the protein into an aspect of the meal without it being the focus. This also happens to be a very cheap way to cook, and the only way to cook, when Alex has merely 0.62 pounds of flounder in his freezer and I don’t feel like going out in the rain.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Fragrant Fish Stew
The spices in this stew are added with quite a light hand. You can ramp them up if you like, but I prefer to let the flavors of the vegetables, fish, tomatoes, and wine come through.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 leek, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bulb fennel, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup white wine
1/8 teaspoon saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2/3 pound flounder or other white fish, cut into 2-inch pieces
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
6-8 ounces spaghetti
Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven over low heat. Add the shallot, leek, and fennel, and cook for 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are very soft but not browned. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes, then turn the heat up and add the wine. Let it come to a boil, then return the heat to low, cover, and let the vegetables cook for 5 minutes, until very tender, checking periodically to make sure there’s still plenty of liquid in the pot.
Add the salt, tomatoes, saffron water, smoked paprika, cayenne, and 1 cup of water. Stir to combine, then bring to a boil. Let simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes, partially covered, to let the flavors meld. Taste for salt.
While the stew is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the spaghetti. Put the pasta in about 5 minutes before adding the fish to the stew. Cook according to package directions, then drain and toss with a tiny bit of olive oil.
Add the fish, toss to distribute, then cover the pot and cook 2-4 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Mix in the red wine vinegar.
Scoop a portion of spaghetti onto each plate. Distribute the fish stew evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle with parsley and grind lots of fresh pepper. Serve hot.