It’s a truly extraordinary day when Giada De Laurentis gives you a cultural lesson that really inspires you. But it happened to me! I was watching her show (Giada at Home) and she was preparing a holiday meal for her family.
As she tells us (ad nauseum), she is Italian, and on Christmas Eve Italian American families celebrate what they call “the Feast of Seven Fishes.” (Apparently this is thought to have originated in southern Italy but is not observed widely in Italy…but is observed among the Italian-American population). The menu consists of…you guessed it…seven seafood dishes (doesn’t that sound like it should be part of the “12 Days of Christmas”?).
Anyway…the dish I’m about to share with you…probably wouldn’t make it onto an upstanding Italian-American dinner table on Christmas Eve, but the uniqueness of the feast did inspire me to remember another global culinary tradition from years ago.
I used to work with a wonderful lady from Liberia and we used to walk down to our local open air market together (think farmer’s market that’s inside that’s open all year round every day). She used to go to the fish monger and buy a big bag of salmon heads for $1.50. It was HUGE. One day I asked her what she did with the salmon heads. She said she made fish soup with them. Come to find out, the head of the fish contains a lot of flavor.
Well…this dish isn’t a replication of that either. Try though I might, I cannot bring myself to extract a fish’s eyeballs.
So how does this dish relate to ANY of what I just told you? Well…it’s a unique fish dish that I tried to make festive for the holidays AND it’s a fish soup (before I met the colleague I’d never heard of fish soup…clams? Yes? Crab? Oh yes. Fish? Not so much).
Nik’s Curried Fish Stew
(Family Style = big pot. You can halve it if it’s too much)
About 5 cups of any combination of veggies of different colors that you like (in mine I used zucchini, yellow squash, onions and a bag of “Sunrise Slaw” mix – basically julienned carrots and cabbage)
Six 4 oz. tilapia filets (just get one of the bags of individually wrapped ones and use them all)
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (Jen just fainted dead away…YES I use olive oil sometimes!)
2-4 tablespoons curry powder (depending on how strong you like your curry flavor)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (if you like a little heat. If not, leave it out!)
Salt and pepper, to taste
NOTE: I did not use curry powder. One of my good friends, Mike, gave me a box of this stuff:
It works basically like a bouillion cube. You throw it in liquid and it melts down into a thick, rich, SPICY curry sauce. I imagine they have it in mild as well. If there is an international or Asian market in your area, look for it!
Put a large pot on medium flame and add oil. Toss your onions in there and get them to sweating.
One thing that made this soup really appealing to me is that I used a lot of cutting methods for my veggies. The carrots and cabbage were julienned, the yellow squash was in long strips, the zucchini was sliced into rounds and the onions were rough chopped. The total effect was very nice…anyhoo…
Add the rest of your veggies once the onions start to yellow a bit. Then throw your tilapia filets on top. It’s ok if they are still frozen. Let that sautee for about 3 minutes or so.
Add enough water to just cover the top piece of fish. Add your curry powder, a bit of salt and pepper (be judicious, you can always add salt, it’s hard as hell to take it away! If you do find the “curry in a box” don’t add any salt. It’s plenty seasoned enough.)
Bring the whole thing to a boil, stir and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 25 minutes or until the fish is cooked all the way through.
Serve hot and celebrate the wonderful inspiration that Giada De Laurentis brings with her everywhere she goes! (Oh yeah…I can feel it!)