November 2, 2011

Seafood Stew with Kale (or Okra)

Oh, how I wish this had a different name!  But I don't have time to look up the definition of "bisque" or "chowder," both of which would sound more appetizing than "stew," right?

Oh, well, this is one recipe that you really should make.  Of course, it's not for "if it's comes from the sea, it's not for me" types (you know who you are), but if you like seafood, you'll like this.  With a mildly spicy tomato broth, it's perfect for a cool fall evening or a wintery night.

Seafood Stew with Kale (or Okra)

This is heavily adapted from a cancer-fighting cookbook I picked up in a library in Kansas City a few years ago.  I don't remember the name of the book, but it's a recipe I've made quite a few times since then, so it may not be very true to the original.  Anyhow, if there's a secret to the flavorful broth, it is in cooking the onions with the balsamic vinegar.   

Choose two or three types of seafood for this stew, and please include medium-sized, raw, peeled and deveined shrimp.  Other seafood that works well here: halibut, red snapper or other white fish, calamari rings and small scallops).  Add that which will cook slower first (thicker fillets require about eight minutes).  That which will cook quickly, add right at the end (2-3 minutes for shrimp or calamari rings).  Don't worry about cutting fish into bite-size pieces, it will flake apart nicely when it is cooked through.   

Don't allow a lack of fish stock to keep you from making this recipe.  I usually use water.  If you'd like to make shrimp stock with your shrimp shells, you certainly can.  Simply simmer the shells with some garlic in salted water for twenty minutes, then strain.

This broth can be made ahead and frozen.  After completing Step 2, let broth cool, then freeze.  To serve, simply bring broth to a simmer and continue with Step 3. 

Lastly, and this is important: Serve with crusty bread and good butter or, if not that, oyster crackers. Serves six.

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large red onion, sliced into thin wedges
3 cloves garlic*
red pepper flakes*
1 teaspoon dried oregano* 
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (28 oz) can good quality crushed tomatoes or a similar amount of homemade tomato sauce

3 cups fish stock, shrimp stock or clam juice (optional, see Notes above)
1 large bunch of kale, ribs removed, leaves cut into 1" by 2" pieces
       or 1 pound of okra, sliced on the diagonal into large bite-size pieces
2 pounds of mixed seafood (see Notes above)

1.  In a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat, saute onion in olive oil.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper.  When onion has softened, add garlic and a generous dash of red pepper flakes.  Saute a minute more.  Pour in balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid has all but evaporated. 

2.  Add crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce and water or stock.  Bring to a simmer and reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

3. Stir in  kale or okra.  Season with salt.  Simmer, covered, another 5-10 minutes until vegetables are almost cooked through.  

4.  Add seafood, keeping in mind that thicker fillets will require a longer cooking time than smaller items. If needed, add more water to cover seafood.  Cover the stew while it simmers.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.  Ladle into big soup bowls as soon as the fish is cooked through.  Serve with crusty bread and softened butter.  

*omit garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano if using a tomato sauce that contains these or similar seasonings.

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