The whole family has been feeling a bit under the weather on and off for the past week or two. Hopefully it will all clear up soon, but I still needed something to help chase these colds away. I remembered my sister telling me about a soup she made last weekend and it inspired me to make a soup of my own, a nice light fish soup of some kind with tiny pasta shapes to make it more filling. I went to the fish store earlier in the day to see what looked good and I left with a whole snapper, mussels and squid. By the time I finished the rest of my shopping, it was already 5:00 – time to cook!
In a flurry of kitchen activity I actually managed to get dinner on the table just a little after 6:00. I made the fish stock earlier so that saved me a little time and M helped picked fennel from the stalks, but aside from that I had uncharacteristically not planned ahead at all. I will attempt to recreate my efforts in the following recipe because it actually did turn out well, and M especially liked it. She did, however, think of her own name for the soup – “Pasta and Ocean Creature Soup”.
Springtime Fish Soup (serves 6-8)
1 whole red snapper, scaled and cleaned
3 celery stalks
1 small onion
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
3 fresh bay leaves
1/2 pound cleaned squid, cut into 1-inch squares
2 lbs mussels, cleaned and scrubbed
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup white wine
4 ounces tiny pasta stars
4 slices bacon, roughly chopped
1 small fennel bulb
salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste
1. Fillet the snapper and cut each fillet into large pieces. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Roughly chop the fish bones for stock, and remove the gills and eyes from the head. Soak it all in cold water for 30 minutes to remove the impurities.
3. Make the stock: drain the bones and simmer them gently with the celery, carrots, onion, coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves and 2 quarts of water for 30 minutes. Strain and return to the pot.
4. Bring the stock back to a boil and add the squid and salt to taste. Simmer for 45 minutes on low heat until the squid is tender.
5. Meanwhile, cook the mussels: Heat the olive oil in another pot, add the sliced garlic and cook until just golden. Add the mussels, followed by the white wine. Cover and simmer until all the mussels have opened, about 5 minutes. Pour through a strainer, reserving the juice. When the mussels have cooled, remove them from their shells and set aside. Strain the juice directly into the simmering fish stock.
6. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, drain and set aside.
7. Cook the chopped bacon in a large pot until crisp. Remove and set aside, but leave the grease in the pot.
8. Roughly chop the fennel bulb and add directly to the pot with the simmering stock. Chop and reserve the fennel fronds for garnish – if you are pressed for time just give them to your four-year old daughter to pick from the stalks, as I did.
9. When the squid is finished cooking, begin cooking the snapper pieces in the bacon fat, skin side down. When they are almost done, pour in the stock and squid and simmer for another few minutes. Stir in the mussels and cooked pasta, followed by the fennel fronds. Season with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice, and serve with crusty bread for dipping.