I made a mental note to cook this dish when I saw a picture of it in Martha Stewart Living several months ago. The intense red color of the broth and the garnishes of scallions and almonds immediately appealed to me. And the recipe appeared to be very easy, which is a consideration when I'm not inclined to cook much of anything. And being in just such a disinclination right now, I knew the time was right to make this dish. May I say, I was so happy with my decision! Quick to make, low in calories, with a wonderful broth laced with saffron and fennel, it's perfect for Weekend Herb Blogging, the splendid event instituted by Kalyn. Don't forget to visit Kalyn's Kitchen to see what the other herb bloggers are making.
Last week I made a dish using saffron, which is also in this dish. Saffron lends a honey flavor to food, and it was quite noticeable here, pleasantly so. That flavor was complemented by the fennel, which has a slight anise flavor. Trust me, it was delightful. Sometimes people are put off by the idea of fennel. The herbs and tomatoes, with sweet currents added to the mix, all worked together to make this an outstanding dish. In total, I estimate that it took no longer than 30 minutes to prepare, and the bulk of that doesn't require your attention, as it cooks merrily away unattended.
To begin, saute garlic, fennel seed, red pepper flakes and saffron in olive oil. Be careful with the saffron. Just the right amount and you have a lovely taste of honey. Too much and it's bitter, bitter, bitter.
The recipe calls for adding canned whole tomatoes, but I used 5 freshly picked skinned tomatoes, which I crushed with a potato masher in the pot. Then you leave this broth to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice (mainly to lick the spoon).
Bingo, it's done. Serve in shallow bowls topped with almonds and scallions, with lots of crusty bread. I swear--this will not serve 4 people, as the recipe states, unless you're serving a huge salad. And even then, I have my doubts. I say 3 people. This is such a lovely recipe, one of the best uses of saffron and fennel that I've ever tasted. The broth would be very good with other types of seafood, such as haddock, snapper, or scallops. And of course, it's very low in calories. But, that's just a side attraction. The main thing is--it's delicious. Bob said the magic words: "Hey, this is really good!"
Black Cod In Tomato-Saffron And Fennel Stew (Martha Stewart Living)
Serves 4 (I think it serves 2-3)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes. Or use 5-6 large, peeled, fresh vine ripened tomatoes, cut in chunks
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds skinless black cod or haddock fillets, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
3 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
Baguette, for serving
1. Heat oil in a heavy medium pot over medium heat. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and saffron. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, and crush with a wooden spoon. (If using fresh tomatoes, crush with a potato masher.) Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened, about 15 minutes.
2. Season cod with salt and pepper. Add cod and currants to tomato mixture. Cover, and cook 5 minutes. Gently stir cod; cover, and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes more. Divide among serving bowls. Sprinkle with almonds and scallions, and serve with baguette.