Crazy for Fish

Fish SoupThink Naples, think pizza. But I make pizza all the time and it’s usually the same old pizza, because my family likes the same pizza toppings every week. So, when I think Naples, I think fish. Campania’s coast is famous for its seafood creations – everything from stewed baby octopus to salt cod with raisins and pine nuts to Chritmastime fried eel. I love the challenge of cooking tentacles and giant worms and stuff, but, again, people around my house are more comfortable with the familiar.

Once a week, on my way back from robbing a convenience store, I’ll swing by the seafood department for a pound or so of whatever looks good. Never go in with a fixed idea – select what’s available and what’s freshest, and then decide how to cook. This week, the cod was good lookin’. So how to make it? Simple, fresh, healthy – cuz it’s April and lighter meals on the menu. But it’s unseasonably cold and rainy this week so something hot and soupy calls out.

A favorite: fish in crazy water. This is simply fresh fish fillelts gently poached in a garlicky, tomato-y broth. Sparkling water is the “crazy” part here. Just add toasted peasant bread and…mmm. This dish is worth being featured in the weekly Police Blotter.

Pesce all’Acqua Pazza
Fish in “Crazy Water”
(4 servings)

1/3 Cup olive oil
Dash crushed red pepper flakes
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup capers, rinsed and chopped
1 Cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 Cups sparkling mineral water
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1-1/2 pounds white fish fillets, about ½” thick
Fistful of fresh parsley and basil, chopped

Bring olive oil, red pepper, and garlic to a sizzle in a 12” sauté pan over MEDIUM heat.

Add wine and cook for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes, capers, sparkling water, and salt.

Bring liquid to a gentle simmer; cook for 3 minutes, to get the flavors to meld.

Add the fish fillets in a single layer. The fish should be submerged halfway in the liquid. Reduce heat to MEDIUM-LOW.

Without allowing the liquid to return to a boil, cook the fish for 4 minutes.

Distribute the fish among 4 warm bowls.

Taste the  broth for seasonings, and correct if necessary. Ladle the broth over fish, and serve hot, sprinkled with pepper and garnished with the parsley and basil.

Serve with toasted, crusty bread.

Greetings from Liguria!

Beautiful Downtown Moneglia

Or, more specifically, from the charming town of Moneglia, our base here on the Italian Riviera. I won’t bore you with the details of the trip itself, but will provide a blow-by-blow if requested – suffice to say it was too long and too gruesome. We arrived bedraggled and were immediately taken under the comforting wing of Michaela, our guide for the week. She gathered us all at the Genova Aeroporto and whisked us to our digs at the Abbadia San Giorgio. Owner Orietta (and the rest of the smiling staff) got us squared away with refreshments. The trip details began to fade away.

Oh, you want cuisine details? Well, after a short rest and a little unpacking, we gathered downstairs in the courtyard to witness Orietta prepare pesto the traditional way – in a big stone mortar and pestle (her grandmother’s). The mortaio looked like it weighed about 50 pounds. She started by pounding fresh garlic and pine nuts (untoasted!) and then began adding handfuls the tiniest basil leaves you every saw. A generous pinch of the local sea salt helped “cut” the basil and draw some of the moisture out of the leaves. Chuck took over at our urgings and even Mr. Muscle said his arm was ready to fall off after 10 seconds. Read more