Leisurely lunches in the sunny afternoon filled with gossip, glasses of wine, and fabulous food. Can you say Mediterranean mindset? That’s my dreamy idea of the perfect spring day. It’s no wonder I was always drawn to the “Mediterranean diet”. Oh, wait, that’s not what that means?
A big part of the real Mediterranean diet is a healthy dose of seafood. This is the perfect time of year to dig into that seafood. It’s warm enough to crave the lightness of seafood while still cool enough to be ideal for shellfish. (Warmer weather is not the best for the quality of clams and mussels)
In addition to the springy seafood, I also kind of love this stew because it’s got bolder flavors that you normally don’t see together with a white fish. Hello red wine and acidic tomatoes! Very Sardinian.
California big red blends are great for this. Generally more affordable than the bold reds we all love from France, CA wines actually add an additional “hotness” which works great for cooking and sipping together. (I know that it’s not a Wine Wednesday post, but I couldn’t resist a little nerdy wine knowledge!)
And guess what? I’ve got a piece over on Edible Long Island all about why fish texture is sooo interesting. Complete with all the deets on that flakiness and difficult reputation. Go check it out and then hop back over here to make this stew!
Looking for more shellfish science? I wrote all about why shellfish open when they’re cooked last year with this incredible pasta.
Mediterranean Seafood Stew
Adapted from Cherry Bombe Issue 8
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, thinly sliced and roughly chopped
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1, 28-oz can crushed tomatoes in juice
2 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 cup dry, bold red wine (I used a merlot, syrah, zinfandel blend from California)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 pound skinless fillets of thick, white fish (I used 1 large filet of cod—halibut and pollock would be great options as well, though more expensive), cut into 2-inch chunks
½ pound mussels, scrubbed and beards removed
10-12 littleneck clams (about 1-1 ½ pounds depending on size), scrubbed and cleaned
Bread, for serving
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot (I used 6 QT) over medium heat. Once very hot, add the fennel, onion, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring every so often, until everything softens and the mixture is fragrant, about 6 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, stock, and wine to the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Heat maintaining the simmer for 25 minutes.
- Add the parsley to the pot, stirring to combine. Add the seafood to the pot, give it a gentle turn to combine everything, and cover the pot again. Turn the heat to high and cook for 6-8 minutes. This should cook the fish through and cause the shellfish to pop open. If you have some shellfish that hasn’t opened yet, continue to heat, covered, another 1-2 minutes. That should take care of it, but discard any shellfish that doesn’t open.
- Serve the stew immediately with hunks of fresh bread, taking care to pick out the sprigs of thyme.