Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Acqua Pazza

There’s something about the style of cooking from the ladies of Canal House that’s so inviting. There’s always a sense of simplicity about the dishes, and that seems to allow you to slow down a bit, enjoy the cooking process, and savor the meal even more. I sat and read a review copy I received of their latest, Canal House Cooking Volume No. 8: Pronto, in one afternoon. It’s full of Italian recipes that are as easy to pull together as they are to share along with some wine. The casual but delicious look of the Poached Vegetables with Savory Zabaione has me thinking it would be a great way to start a meal with friends. And, the pasta dishes like Mezzi Rigatoni with Tomatoes, Lots of Herbs, Hot Oil, and Mozzarella make the most of a few ingredients with big flavors. I’d be happy with an entire meal of some of the vegetable dishes like Peppers Roasted with Anchovies and Butter, Eggplant with Smoky Tomato and Harissa Sauce, and White Beans with Spicy Black Olive Vinaigrette. There are also pizzas for the grill or the oven and desserts that I keep flipping back to including Fig Gelato, Almond Cookies, and Zaletti which are made with currants, rum, and cornmeal. There are chicken and meat dishes as well, but I made a stop in the Pesci chapter first. Acqua Pazza has always sounded like a fun dish to make, it’s fun to say too, but I’d never tried it. The name refers to the “crazy water” broth in which fish is poached. There are fresh, plum tomatoes in the broth, and I found some cute, locally-grown ones at the farmers’ market last weekend. 

Those plum tomatoes were quartered lengthwise and seeded. The seeds were placed in a sieve set over a bowl, and the juice that strained from them was added to the tomato segments. The other components that make the water so crazy are sliced garlic, red pepper flakes, wine, fresh oregano, and fresh parsley. Water is also added to the broth before being left to simmer and reduce for a bit. I chose some thick cod fillets, but any firm, white-fleshed fish would work here. I cut the fish into portions and seasoned each before placing the pieces in the broth. The fish cooks quickly, and I spooned some broth over the fillets to help cook the tops which weren’t submerged. When opaque, the fish was removed to a platter, the broth was spooned over top, olive oil was drizzled on the fish, and chopped parsley was added for garnish. 

With wine, garlic, and red pepper flakes, of course this is going to be good. The simple broth takes on a lot of flavor in a short amount of time, and it’s perfect for subtle white fish. Have some crusty bread on hand to swipe through the broth as well. Whether you’re entertaining or just planning weekday meals, you can’t go wrong with recipes from Canal House. 

Acqua Pazza 
Recipe reprinted with permission from Canal House Cooking Volume No. 8: Pronto by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. 

Serves 4 

This classic Neapolitan fish preparation is both delicate and full of flavor. The term acqua pazza (“crazy water” in Italian) refers to both the dish and the poaching broth, which is stained red from tomatoes and aromatic with garlic and herbs. It’s one of those satisfying dishes, like San Francisco’s cioppino, created by fishermen who would make it on board with their catch of the day and a few other simple ingredients. We like to use black sea bass or red snapper, but any non-oily white fish will do nicely. 

1 pound ripe plum tomatoes 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
1/2 cup dry white wine 
3 sprigs fresh oregano 
1 bunch fresh parsley 
Salt and pepper 
4 black sea bass or red snapper filets (about 4 ounces each) 

Quarter the tomatoes lengthwise. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, scoop out the tomato seeds with your fingers. Put the tomatoes in the bowl with any of the strained juice and discard the seeds in the sieve. 

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook until the oil is fragrant and well-flavored yet the garlic remains pale blonde, 3–4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the wine, oregano, half of the parsley, and 4 cups cool water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and simmer the broth until it is slightly reduced, 15–20 minutes. 

Chop the remaining parsley leaves (discarding the stems). Add the parsley, a generous pinch of salt, and some pepper to the broth. Season the fish filets with salt, then place them skin side up in the simmering broth (the fish will not be submerged). Cook until the fish is opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove and discard the sprigs of oregano and parsley. 

Use a fish spatula to arrange the fish flesh side up on a deep serving platter or on 4 deep plates. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings. Spoon the tomatoes and broth over the fish and drizzle with some olive oil. 

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  1. Wow Lisa, this dish looks so pretty, simple, light and very elegant...love the flavors in it....as always great pictures!
    Thank you so much for your kind words, I really appreciate all the support.
    Have a fabulous week my dear :D

  2. A delicious and healthy looking dish!



  3. This sounds delicious! And perfect timing for me. I'm on the search for great fish recipes. We've resolved to make a serious effort at taking advantage of now living near a coast. :)

  4. I love simple dishes like these that actually bring out the flavours of the produce :D

  5. That's a lovely and simple fish dish. I love how Italians have the gift of being able to produce amazing dishes from just a few ingredients xx

  6. Looks so delicious and beautifully presented!

  7. I love everything the Canal House does - great recipes, super photos. This is such a nice recipe - simple yet flavorful. Good stuff - thanks.

  8. Beautifully photographed, Lisa. Makes you want to sit right down at the table and dig in. Flavorful and simple too. Love that.
    Canal House recipes are wonderful...have a Canal House chocolate chip recipe sitting on my desktop right now. This will join it.

  9. First time ever hearing about this dish and I'm in love with it already - it looks beautiful and so inviting!

  10. these are simple and straightforward flavors and i love when they come together...even if it is with fish :)

  11. That cookbook sounds so wonderful, I don't know how you could choose just one recipe. But it sounds like you chose a great one!

  12. Im such a sea bass junkie! This looks and sounds fantastic! :)

  13. A friend of mine told me about your blog and also "Cooking With Mr. C." on Facebook. (also a blog) I just "Liked" his Facebook page and just came to see your blog. I'm so happy that people are sharing blogs. Denise

  14. Un plato saludable y muy bonito en los ingredientes y la cocción lenta está la clave de este plato jugoso,abrazos.

  15. What a simple, yet flavorful entree! It must taste as amazing as it looks!

  16. This recipe sounds wonderful.
    Simple but with a lot of flavor and an elegant Mediterranean touch!

  17. What a simple and fresh dish! Love the flavors, colors and textures! Beautiful dish,Lisa!

  18. Wow, this must be perfect menu for my weight problem....
    low calories ant yet still tasty!

  19. I can't wait to see what you cook up for Halloween!


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