I made this bouillabaisse yesterday night, and am still craving it. It was one of those stellar dishes that will always stay on my mind. I was rushing to get dinner ready before we left for swim lessons at 3:30PM. It was 1:30PM. I had soaked my beans the morning of, so I needed to cook them, which can take up to an hour, do my prep and assemble the stew. Luckily I was able to pull it off; it was well worth the effort, especially for bouillabaisse.
Bouillabaisse is a fish stew that originated in Marseille, a cute port city in the south of France. The fishermen would make a stew with the bony fish they weren’t able to sell to markets or restaurants. There is something wonderfully pleasant about food from that region, with its mediterranean flavor profile and its coastal ingredients. This recipe is from Peter Berley and his fantastic book The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen. The touch of saffron takes this dish exactly where it should be. The flavors are on point and the rouille, a spicy red pepper condiment originating from North Africa, is indispensable. Make sure not to omit it.
- 2 leeks, white parts sliced, green tops reserved for the broth
- 2 fennel bulbs, bulbs sliced, outer tough leaves and stalks reserved for the broth
- Cold water
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons whole fennel seeds
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
- 4-6 baby artichokes (I had two big ones)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Sea salt
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (I had about 5)
- 3/4 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about two potatoes)
- 1 can (14-oz) diced tomatoes
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (from 2/3 cup dried chickpeas) or one 14-oz can
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
In a saucepan over high heat, combine the leek tops, fennel stalks, 4 cups of water, wine, and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes. Strain, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.
While the broth simmers, fill a medium bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. Trim the top third of the artichokes and pull away the tough outer leaves until the tender pale leaves are exposed. With a paring knife, trim away the tough portions of the stem, being careful not to cut into the heart. Slice the artichokes in half lengthwise and scoop out the feathery chokes with a spoon. Cut again lengthwise into quarters and place in the lemon water. (Artichokes are time sensitive and become brown very quickly, so try to do this part quickly)
In a soup kettle, over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the white part of the leeks and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the leeks soften. Add the garlic and cook for two more minutes. Add the fennel, potatoes, tomatoes, chickpeas, and saffron. Pour the broth over the vegetables. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Drain the artichokes and add them to the soup kettle. Simmer for 10 minutes longer, or until the artichokes are tender.
Adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve with the rouille on the side.
- 1 slice sourdough bread, crust removed
- 1 red bell pepper, roasted (I imagine you could always use jarred roasted bell peppers for this, but I roasted mine on the grill, then you let it sit, covered tightly with foil for 10 minutes, and then remove the charred skin)
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole (obviously, I had 3)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 olive oil
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Soak the bread in 1 cup lukewarm water for about 10 minutes. Squeeze dry and set aside.
In a food processor, combine the bread, red pepper, garlic, salt, and cayenne and purée. While puréing, add the oil in a stream until the mixture is emulsified.
Scrape into a serving bowl and stir in lemon juice to taste.